Austrian chancellor breaks with EU protocol, visits Western Wall

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz arrived at the Western Wall on Sunday for a “private visit” that represents a break from standard procedure for European leaders.

By: World Israel News Staff

On Sunday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz visited Jerusalem’s Old City, making a stop at the Western Wall. Kurz’s tour also included the Austrian Hospice on the Via Dolorosa in the Christian Quarter and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

While the tour was not a “formal” visit, Israeli diplomatic officials called Kurz’s presence at the Western Wall “important” because European leaders traditionally avoid the Jewish Quarter site, which the EU claims is in “occupied territory.”

In Kurz’s first trip to Israel as chancellor, the 31-year-old leader also visited Yad Vashem on Sunday, placing a wreath with Victor Klein, who survived the Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria.

“As the Chancellor of Austria I have to state that Austria and the Austrian people carry a heavy burden for their horrific and shameful crimes committed during the Shoah,” he said at Yad Vashem. “But let me assure you that we Austrians know that we are responsible for our history. It is our duty and obligation to ensure that the Shoah will never happen again, and that my generation and succeeding generations will never forget these horrible crimes.”

Around 50,000 Austrian Jews lost their lives in the Holocaust.

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While Kurz is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, he has no plans to visit in locations controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

Currently, Israel does not maintain relations or engage with Kurz’s coalition partner, the far-right Freedom Party (FPO), due to the party’s Nazi-linked past.

The FPO’s role in Kurz’s government is anticipated to be on the agenda on Monday when Kurz meets with Netanyahu.