European Diary, 12.3.2021: In a specially convened press conference, Austria’s Chancellor Kurz claims to have uncovered a European scandal. According to Kurz, the distribution of vaccines was like a “bazaar,” and individual European countries had secured additional supplies of vaccine doses through secret side agreements. As a result, some European countries were favored and others disadvantaged: “The delivery was not based on a population key.” But apparently as with “the Orientals.” Or what do you think Kurz is trying to say with his choice of words?

The vaccination progress in Malta and Denmark is much faster than in countries like Bulgaria, Latvia or Croatia. This could not only be due to the speed of vaccination. Kurz senses secret contracts for additional supplies and demands “transparency.”
But the accusations made with grandiose gestures have already collapsed within a few hours, like a house of cards. And a lot of porcelain has been smashed in the process.

Perhaps he could have asked the deputy chairman of the responsible “Steering Board” of the EU beforehand how the different delivery speeds to the various EU states come about, namely the Austrian representative on the “Steering Board”: Clemens-Martin Auer?
The answers to the Chancellor’s murmuring questions are staggeringly simple. The EU signed framework agreements with most of the pharmaceutical companies working on vaccines at an early stage, long before it was clear which ones could be approved first. They have had to back different horses in the process, and some of their order volumes have made vaccine research possible in the first place. Since some EU member states were basically on the brakes when it came to spending (we remember the “frugal four”, first and foremost Austria), there was probably also an attempt to push down prices. This is now taking its revenge.
And then the EU gave the member states the opportunity – within the limits of their respective delivery volumes – to opt more for one vaccine or another, for example for the more expensive Biontech-Pfizer or the cheaper AstraZeneca vaccines. Malta, for example, booked as much as possible Biontech-Pfizer and Bulgaria as much as possible AstraZeneca, whose deliveries have just been slowed by massive production and export problems.

But what do such banal realities interest a chancellor who is just dealing with the fact that “message control” is slipping away from him. Hans Rauscher speaks in the Standard of the “biggest smoke grenade since the beginning of the Corona crisis.” That could turn out to be an understatement. For if the incitement of vaccination nationalism spreads, we would be dealing with an even more dangerous pandemic.

So far, however, the Austrian chancellor stands alone with his tall tales. Neither the EU Commission, nor the Austrian Ministry of Health, neither Germany nor allegedly disadvantaged Croatia have hesitated even for a day to distance themselves from this rampage. And have factually and diplomatically clarified the little sensational facts. After all, this is a day on which secret side agreements, the exploitation of illegal workers or the obscure supply chains of “Hygiene Austria” do not make the headlines. That is a “good day” for the chancellor.

Review 12.3.2020: Contrary to the decisions of the video conference of 10.3.2020, Austria surprised its Italian neighbors yesterday with border controls at the Brenner Pass. Apparently without having previously agreed with the Italian government.

The WHO has now declared the rampant Covid-19 disease a pandemic.
U.S. President Donald Trump has it all figured out. He announced a ban on Europeans entering the country: “Because we responded very early, we’re seeing significantly fewer cases of the virus in America than in Europe.”

Boris Johnson and the British government’s chief scientific adviser today publicly announced their strategy for fighting Corona: “It is now impossible to prevent almost everyone from contracting the disease. (…) That is not at all what is wanted. After all, the population is supposed to build up immunity to the virus.” They expect the epidemic to peak in May and June and only then want to take drastic measures. To delay the wave of infection, first of all, starting immediately, any person who gets a cough and/or fever should stay at home for seven days, not go to the doctor and not call the emergency services, which are already overloaded.

Translated with (free version)

About the freedom of the dissenter: Rosa Luxemburg

European Diary, 5.3.2021: 150 years ago today, the socialist Rosa Luxemburg was born in Zamosc, Poland, which was then part of Russia. When she was two years old, her family moved to Warsaw. A hip ailment suffered by the three-year-old was mistakenly diagnosed as tuberculosis and incorrectly treated. She would suffer from limping all her life. Sentenced to nearly a year of bed rest at age five, she learned to read and write self-taught, remained dwarfed, and at age nine began translating German texts into Polish, writing poetry and novellas. She wrote a Polish mocking poem about Kaiser Wilhelm, who visited Warsaw when she was 13, saying, “Tell your cunning rag Bismarck / Do it for Europe, Emperor of the West / Command him not to shame the pants of peace.”

Rosa grew up multilingual, speaking Polish and German at home, Russian and French, reading English, understanding Italian, and learning Latin and ancient Greek. At the age of 15 she joined revolutionary circles, a group called “Proletariat” founded in 1882. In 1888 she fled from the tsarist police to Switzerland.
In Zurich, women are allowed to study on an equal footing with men. The only place in Europe where this is possible. Many young Jewish women from Eastern Europe take advantage of this opportunity. Rosa studies philosophy, mathematics, botany and zoology, then international law and constitutional law, economics, political science and history. Soon she joins the Polish Socialist Party. But contrary to the party line, she advocates a resolute internationalism, founds the Polish exile newspaper Arbeitersache in Paris with her partner Leo Jogiches and other comrades, and opposes Polish nationalism. She is expelled from the party and founds a new Social Democratic Party that advocates democratic reforms in Russia instead of Poland’s independence. An independent Poland, she argues, is a mirage that would only distract the Polish proletariat from the class struggle, just as in other countries. From then on, as a Jew, she became the target of constant anti-Semitic attacks, insulted as a “Jewish spawn” whose “diabolical work of destruction” was aimed at the “murder of Poland”.
Her fight against the growing nationalism also in the labor movement brought her into fierce conflict with many leading Social Democrats, later also with Lenin. As a Jew and as a woman, she was repeatedly confronted with degrading undertones, also in statements by comrades. Nevertheless, living in Germany from 1897, she became one of the spokeswomen for the left wing of the SPD. She rejected reformism as well as Lenin’s authoritarian party centralism. Nevertheless, she succeeded in persuading leading Western European Social Democrats to make a decisive statement against growing anti-Semitism. Of course, she herself did not want to be thrown back on her Jewishness.  “What do you want with the special Jewish pains? Just as close to me are the poor victims of the rubber plantations in Putumayo, the Negroes in Africa, with whose bodies the Europeans play catch ball.” Her internationalism goes beyond Europe. “I don’t have a special corner in my heart for the ghetto. I feel at home in the whole world, where there are clouds and birds and human tears.”
She foresaw the coming world war and all the bestialities it would bring, the catastrophe of Europe, with great clarity. In 1913, in Frankfurt, on September 25, at the “Titania” in the Basaltstrasse (Basaltstreet) – a few steps away from where I am writing these lines – she makes a courageous speech against the war that would land her in jail: “If we are expected to raise the weapons of murder against our French or other foreign brothers, we declare: ‘No, we won’t do it!'” Less than a year later, she was sobered to discover that nationalism had washed away all reason – and all dreams of international class consciousness – in the European workers’ parties as well. In August 1914, together with other opponents of the war in the SPD, she founded the “Gruppe Internationale,” from which the “Spartacus Group” would later emerge.

As early as February 1914, Luxemburg was sentenced to fourteen months in prison for her Frankfurt speech on charges of “inciting disobedience to laws and orders of the authorities.” In February 1915 she had to begin her imprisonment in the Berlin “Weibergefängnis”. Her letters from her imprisonment are among the most moving writings she was to leave behind.

Released in 1916, she was arrested again just three months later. She spent more than three years in prison until 1918. In her theses written there under the pseudonym Junius, she drew a fatalistic and at the same time defiant balance in 1917: “The world war has destroyed the results of forty years of work of European socialism.” It was not by a greater power that the socialists had been destroyed; they had “blown themselves up.” The main task in this situation was: “to unite the proletariat of all countries into a living revolutionary power, to make it, through a strong international organization with a unified conception of its interests and tasks, with unified tactics and political capacity for action in peace as in war, the decisive factor in political life to whose role it is called by history.” And at the same time she criticized the totalitarian tendencies of the Russian Revolution: “Freedom is always the freedom of dissent.”
All this remained utopia. In November 1918, the workers’ movement and the short-lived soviet republic in Germany split. In the civil war, the majority of Social Democrats under Ebert allied themselves with right wing Freikorps and imperial troops to suppress the weak revolutionary forces of the Spartacus uprising.

In these days of spiraling events, Rosa Luxemburg also came into sharp opposition to the leadership of the Spartacists around Karl Liebknecht. She warned in vain against the futile attempt at armed revolution and demanded that democratic elections be held. But her admonitions went down. The last weeks of her life must have been marked by helplessness and a desperate will to hold on to the armed revolution publicly in the newspaper Die rote Fahne (The Red Flag), against her own convictions – while calls were made in the streets of Berlin for her and Liebknecht to be murdered.
On January 15, 1919, on the same day as Karl Liebknecht, she was arrested in Berlin by soldiers of the “Guard-Cavalry-Rifle Division” and murdered in a bestial manner. She was tortured in a posh Berlin hotel where the militia had set up their quarters, then dragged to a car. Her killers tried to smash her in the head with a rifle butt, drove the unconscious woman to the Landwehr Canal, shot her in the head on the way, wrapped her body in barbed wire and threw her into the water. At the end of May, her remains were found at a lock. Thousands attended her funeral on June 13, 1919.

Julius Gumbel, a Social Democrat from Heidelberg, later researched political murders in Germany. He arrived at the following figures: From 1918 to 1922, leftists murdered 22 people. There were 38 convictions. Right wing perpetrators committed 354 murders in the same period. There were 24 convictions. In 23 cases, the courts acquitted even confessed perpetrators who openly boasted of their deeds.


On a Tower of Skulls: Gerald Reitlinger

European Diary, 2.3.2021: Gerald Reitlinger was born 121 years ago today. The youngest son of Albert Reitlinger and Emma Brunner – who came from the Hohenems family of the same name – he studied cultural studies at Oxford and art at two academies in London. From 1930 to 1931 he took part in excavations in Iraq, subsequently made several research trips to Iran, Turkey and China, and wrote books about his excursions – in 1932 A Tower of Skulls. A Journey Through Persia and Turkish Armenia. In addition, Reitlinger was an avid collector of both Syrian and Persian ceramics.
During World War II, he served in the British Army in air defense and as an instructor.

Portrait of Gerald Reitlinger by Christopher Wood, 1926 (Source: Wikipedia)

But after 1945 he devoted his life to researching the Holocaust. In 1953, he published his book The Final Solution in London, the first comprehensive account of the Shoah. Affected and skeptical, he questioned the national loss of memory that soon swept the former perpetrator countries. The Munich Institute of Contemporary History refused to publish Reitlinger’s book. It did not want to be disturbed by the “outside” in the process of coming to terms with National Socialism. Nevertheless, the book was published in German under the title Endlösung, as was Reitlinger’s 1956 study The SS. Alibi of a Nation 1922-1945, which was given a less sarcastic title by the publisher in order to make it more palatable to the German audience: The SS – Tragedy of a German Era. A third book on Nazi crimes followed: The House Built on Sand. The Conflicts of German Policy in Russia 1939-1945 was published in London in 1960, and under the title Ein Haus auf Sand gebaut. Hitler’s Violent Policy in Russia 1941-1944 in German.
Reitlinger then returned to art and cultural history. His three-volume work The Economics of Taste (1961-1970) is devoted to the history of the art market from 1760 to the present.
He bequeathed his collection, which was damaged by fire shortly before his death in 1978, to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, where it now forms the Gerald Reitlinger Gallery.

Here some paragraphs from “Final Solution”:
“The inquest is over, but it is not the business of the coroner to find the culprits or to judge them. Nevertheless, the reader, who has had the patience to follow even a fraction of this somber narrative, will have asked himself a dozen questions, and some of these must be discussed even if they cannot be answered.

How much did the man in the street in Germany know and how much did he care? How was it possible that so many hundreds or even thousands of hard-working bureaucrats of all grades went daily to their offices to compose, copy, or pass on the obvious correspondence of race-murder? Why, seeing that every ministry was fighting with every other ministry and that Hitler never knew in the least what was happening, any more than Tolstoi’s generals at the battle of Borodino, did not one of the righteous men, who said their piece at Nuremberg, make a single active Protest? (…)
Is the discarding of selected victims endemic in the overgrown modern ‘democratic’ State? Can it happen again and can it happen here? It may be very long before we know the answers to these questions, which recur throughout this inquest on the Final Solution in the form of a sort of repeat design or chintz.

It is difficult to believe that there existed any fully conscious beings in Germany or German-occupied Europe in the last two years of the war who did not know that most of the Jews had disappeared and who had not heard some story that they had been shot or gassed. Nor do I suppose that there was anybody who did not have a friend who knew somebody else who had seen a massacre. More than a hundred million people must have known such things and whispered about them, and yet they could not make the climate unpleasant for the few thousands who carried them out. (…)

And the higher the Germans rose, the more frightened they became till we reach the case of Heinrich Himmler, who was made head of the Police State almost by chance and whom Hitler retained just because he was a frightened man who could be informed on and intimidated. (…)

But before the July 1944 plot to murder Hitler, not even the obscurest of wartime officials was ever taken away and shot. (…) Were these the me to stand up for the rights of humanity? They were, it is probable, mostly no more cruel and callous than the Germans or, indeed, the human race as a whole. (…)

The German of 1933 was a sort of caricature of European civilization which had grown more frivolous, greedier, and less critical, as material progress undermined some of the older disciplines. (…)

Hiob on his dunghill wished ‘that mine adversary had written a book’ and his prayer has been answered, for indeed there is nothing that this adversary did not commit on paper. I have spent close to four years among these documents and I have found their company neither gloomy nor depressing. For on many pages darts and gleams that thing which prevents all government becoming a living hell – human fallibility. (…) It is possible that murderous racialism is something ineradicable in the nature of ants and men, but the Robot State which will give it full effect cannot exist and never will.”


Supply Chaines

European Diary, 3.3.2021: Austria’s Chancellor Kurz says he no longer wants to be dependent on the EU and wants to look into producing his own vaccines together with Denmark and Israel. The science editor of the ORF (Austrian Broadcast), Günter Mayer, comments dryly on this move, saying that this is “not a matter of squeezing an apple”. Such complex production could not be ramped up in a short time by decree, and here Austria would have to deal with pharmaceutical companies whose sales are higher than the Austrian national budget. Not to go into further painful detail: the Chancellor’s grandiose announcements are obviously hot air intended to distract from other problems. E.g. from the following: On the same day it became known that in an Austrian showpiece enterprise, the company “Hygiene Austria”, which manufactures mouth nose protective masks, a house search took place. This is actually the company about which Sebastian Kurz proudly tweeted in May 2020: “The Corona crisis has shown that we must not rely entirely on international supply chains for the production of important protective equipment.”

The raid was carried out on suspicion that masks supplied from China had been relabeled in Austria by workers employed illegally without social security contributions and sold at a higher price than Chinese masks. Hygiene Austria’ has firmly denied this and of course the presumption of innocence applies. Piquantly, there is a close relationship of the company to a close associate of the chancellor, as already reported on August 4, 2020, the research platform Addendum: the husband of Sebastian Kurz’ head of office has a 25% stake in one of the two companies to which “Hygiene Austria” belongs, and which is now to ensure Austria’s mask self-sufficiency with large government contracts. And managing director Tino Wieser of “Hygiene Austria” is their brother-in-law. (

The vaunted autarky seems to be faltering. But as a slogan for national awakening – and for distraction from the slowly accumulating investigations and house searches in the closer political circle of confidants of the chancellor – relabeled Chinese masks are probably also suitable. Or perhaps in the future also relabeled vaccines?

The number of corona deaths continues to grow. In the U.S., more than 500,000 people have long since died from the pandemic. New reports of irregularities in the disclosure of deaths in shelters, such as those just shaking the hitherto heroic reputation of New York State’s Democratic governor, Mario Cuomo, suggest an unknown dark figure of dead. Which are likely to exist in other states as well. These dark figures appear to be particularly high in Russia and Mexico when excess mortality is considered as a factor. Even the Russian government does not trust their own official figures. it is said that only 57,000 people in Russia had died from covid-19 by the end of 2020 and about 81,000 by mid-February, whereas excess mortality in Russia in 2020 claimed 323,000 lives. Shortly before the turn of the year, even Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova declared that 81 percent of excess mortality was due to Covid-19. This would correspond to almost 261,000 deaths from Covid-19 by the end of 2020, while other calculations put the number of deaths at well over 300,000.
Russia, which is proud of having introduced the first vaccine, “Sputnik V,” is using the apparently highly effective vaccine primarily as an export hit, for example to Mexico and Serbia, Paraguay and Egypt, while vaccinating its own population is taking a back seat. This leads to the paradoxical result that Sputnik V will possibly help to combat Covid-19 in poorer countries. At least, if it succeeds in ramping up planned production in Brazil and India. In Russia itself, especially beyond the metropolis of Moscow, it appears that herd immunity by infection continues to be the most common prescription for acquiring antibodies.

Addendum on March 9, 2021: In the meantime, the allegations against “Hygiene Austria” and the two parent companies Lenzing and Palmers have been substantiated. While “Hygiene Austria” CEO Tino Wieser still talks about how “proud” he is to have created 200 jobs in Austria, it has become known that these are mainly in dummy companies. Bogus companies that either employ workers officially on a “marginal” basis, but actually have them work full time on the black market, or that get rid of social security contributions by going bankrupt in time. Also subsidies for not effected short-time work had been raked in. Also the suspicion that the “domestic” production partly took place in China, but that the masks were then repacked by illegal workers in “Hygiene Austria” cartons, now seems to be confirmed.

Flashback, early March, 2020: the EU is co-financing the delivery of 25 tons of protective equipment to China. The European Commission reminds national governments in Europe to report their needs for protective masks, test kits and respirators. But it will be weeks before the first requirements come through.
The first cases of Covid-19 are being reported in the United Kingdom. Dominic Cummings, advisor to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, summarizes the British government’s strategy as “herd immunity, protect the economy and if that means some pensioners die, too bad.” No. 10 Downing Street denies.

Donald Trump has also spoken out again on Covid-19: “It’s a flu, like a flu.”

Somewhere Between Europe and Israel – A Conversation with Avraham Burg

European Diary, 25.2.2021: Yesterday Avraham Burg was our guest – online – in a joint event with the Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue (Vienna).

Conflicts about the future of Europe have always been linked to disputes about the role of European Jews. Their emancipation was seen as a test case of the liberal hopes of the 19th century, and their cross-border cosmopolitanism as a precursor of European unification – or as a scapegoat for nationalist ideologies. Today, the state of Israel seems to symbolically take its place – admittedly under the opposite sign, as the favorite child of right-wing populist and nationalist politicians. Avraham Burg has already crossed many borders in his life. After his political career, Avraham Burg is engaged in publishing and in various political initiatives for an ethnically and religiously neutral state of its citizens, a state that would follow the ideals of the European Union. While these ideals are admittedly coming under increasing pressure in contemporary Europe. In a recent interview with the newspaper Haaretz, he explained why he no longer wants to carry the entry “Jewish” as a “nationality” in the Israeli civil registry.

Avraham Burg was born in Jerusalem in 1955. His Dresden-born father, Josef Burg, was a rabbi, leader of the National Religious Party, and minister in twenty-one Israeli governments. Avraham Burg, on the other hand, linked his political involvement with the Peace Now movement and the Labor Party. Between 1995 and 1999, he was chairman of the World Zionist Organization, then president of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, for four years. In 2004, he left politics after publicly calling for Israel to choose between democracy and discrimination against the Arab minority.

„The patriarch Abraham discovered God outside the boundaries of the Land of Israel, the tribes became a people outside the Land of Israel, the Torah was given outside the Land of Israel, and the Babylonian Talmud, which is more important than the Jerusalem Talmud, was written outside the Land of Israel, the past 2,000 years, which shaped the Judaism of this generation, happened outside Israel. The present Jewish people was not born in Israel.”

Pigeons, Telegraphy and World News: Paul Julius Reuters

European Diary, 25.2.2021: 122 years ago today, Paul Julius Reuter, the founder of the “Reuters Telegraphic Company” news agency, died in Nice. Paul Julius Reuter was born under the name Israel Beer Josaphat on July 21, 1816 in Kassel, where he grew up as the son of Samuel Levi Josaphat, a merchant and rabbi from Witzenhausen. However, he was drawn to science and journalism. In Göttingen, he met the mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss, who was involved in the experiments that led to the invention of the electric telegraph.
In 1845 he converted to Lutheran Protestantism in London, took the name Paul Julius Reuter and married the banker’s daughter Ida Maria Magnus in Berlin. A short time later, he became a partner in a new publishing house with a bookshop, which published not least democratic writings under the name “Reuters und Stargardt” in 1848. After the failure of the revolution, Reuters had to flee to Paris. “Reuters and Stargardt” became “Stargardt,” still a leading antiquarian bookstore in Germany today.
But Reuters remained true to his convictions and now became involved in the field of press freedom and transnational communication. In 1850, he founded a news agency in Aachen, which initially closed the gap between Brussels and Aachen in the connection Paris – Berlin with carrier pigeons that traveled much faster than the stagecoach. In 1851, telegraphy replaced this link as well, eventually connecting Great Britain to the continent.
Messages arriving by ship from the U.S. were soon expedited from Cork in Ireland to London faster than the ship itself could get there. Reuters news transmission secured the decisive time advantage. Not least, the stock market reports were worth their weight in gold in the truest sense of the word. Soon he was able to deploy correspondents in all the world’s major cities, and his joint-stock company Reuters Telegraphic Comp. Incorporated had a news monopoly.
In 1872, Reuters, who had by then been ennobled a baron, also received a concession from Persian Shah Naser al-Din to develop Persia economically. This included exclusive rights to build railroads and dams, to regulate rivers and to exploit mineral resources, with the exception of gold and silver mines. But his ambitious plans soon failed for lack of capital, and just a year later the Shah revoked the concession after Russia protested. Reuters was compensated with the concession for establishing the Imperial Bank of Persia, which also served as Persia’s central bank until the establishment of the Central Bank of Iran. Reuters adventurous life was filmed in 1940 by William Dieterle starring Edward G. Robinson, “A Dispatch from Reuters.” The German version, which was broadcast on television in 1963, was given the title “Ein Mann mit Phantasie” (“A Man of Imagination”).

Translated with (free version)

“Allah will help”. The Arabist Hedwig Klein

European Diary 19.2.2021: 110 years ago today, Hedwig Klein was born in Antwerp. Soon after, the family moved to Hamburg.
She loses her father, the merchant Abraham Wolf Klein, when she is not even five years old. He dies as a soldier on the Eastern Front for the German Reich. Hedwig Klein enrolled at the university to study in 1931. Her choices: Islamic Studies, Semitistisk and English Philology. In 1937, her doctoral thesis is written: the critical edition of an Arabic manuscript on early Islamic history. But Jews are no longer allowed to sit for the doctoral examination from the spring of 1937.
Hedwig Klein is persistent, she convinces the university administration to allow an exception. Her thesis is given the top grade of “Excellent,” and her supervisor Arthur Schaade attests to her “a degree of diligence and perspicacity that one would wish on many an older Arabist.”

Hedwig Klein

In 1938, the thesis is to be printed, and the doctoral certificate is also already drawn up, but then the imprimatur is withdrawn. The ban on Jews earning doctorates is now enforced with all thoroughness.
Now Hedwig Klein plans her emigration. But she does not succeed in obtaining a visa, neither in France nor in the USA. With the help of the Hamburg economic geographer Carl August Rathjens, she finally receives an invitation from an Arabic professor in Bombay. And on August 19, her steamer sets sail from Hamburg. Two days later, she writes Rathjen a hopeful postcard. “Allah will help already…”
But in Antwerp, the ship receives orders to return and call at a German port. By then the German invasion of Poland is already in preparation, and with it the next world war.

Once again, Arthur Schaade helps her. Klein is recommended to Hans Wehr, an Arabist who has just joined the NSDAP. The Reich government, Wehr demands, should make “the Arabs” its allies, against France and England, and against the Jews in Palestine. And the Foreign Office, in turn, sees in Hans Wehr the right man to compile a German-Arabic dictionary. For this is now urgently needed, not least for a successful translation of “Mein Kampf” into Arabic.
Her collaboration on the German-Arabic dictionary initially saves Hedwig Klein from deportation to Riga in December 1941, which Schaade is just able to prevent with an intervention. Klein was irreplaceable.
But on July 11, 1942, the time had come. The first deportation train leading from Hamburg directly to the Auschwitz extermination camp also takes Hedwig Klein to her murderers. Just as her sister, her mother and her grandmother are murdered.
In 1947, Carl August Rathjen succeeds in getting Hedwig Klein’s dissertation printed after all, and she is declared a doctor of philosophy in “absentia”.
After the war, Hans Wehr was classified as a mitläufer and used Klein’s collaboration to exonerate himself. The German-Arabic dictionary appears in 1952, and in the preface Wehr thanks a “Fräulein Dr. H. Klein” for her cooperation. Without a word about her fate.
“Der Wehr” is still the most widely used German-Arabic dictionary, with the 5th edition last published in 2011.

Thanks to Stefan Buchen, who vividly describes Hedwig Klein’s story in his essay on the website.

Flashback, 19.2.2020: In Hanau, Hesse, a 43-year-old German shoots nine people of “foreign origin,” in two shisha bars and on the open street, and injures six others, some seriously. Finally, he shoots his mother and himself at home. Before the attack, the perpetrator had spread a right-wing extremist appeal on the Internet, characterized by anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, misogynistic and racist conspiracy theories: a “message to the entire German people.”

The perpetrator apparently also had psychological problems, which later prompted representatives of the right-wing AFD to deny that the crime was politically motivated. Josef Schuster, the representative of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, on the other hand, states that it can be “assumed that the perpetrator deliberately wanted to hit people with an immigrant background” and accuses the police and judiciary of having “poor eyesight” in the “right eye. Among the victims of the attack are Germans with Turkish, Kurdish, Bosnian and Afghan background, German and Romanian Roma. The perpetrator attacked them all deliberately, or shot them blindly through the door of a shisha bar.

Dusseldorf. Regina Spector

European Diary, 18.2.2021: Regina Spector was born in Moscow 41 years ago today. When she was nine years old, her family emigrated to the United States via Austria and Italy. Spector grew up in the Bronx, was trained in classical music, and recorded her first self-produced album in 2001, with enchanting, absurd, idiosyncratic songs. Her third album, “Soviet Kitsch,” brought her together with the band “The Strokes.” But she continued to go her own way. Here’s a foray through Europe: “Düsseldorf”.

And the text:


In Dusseldorf I met a clown
His nose, it was red
In Gelterkinden I forgot to frown
Then remembered again
In Paris I saw a big fish
Swimming slow in the Seine
It made me hopeful that someday our
Water will be breathable again
In Frankfurt I heard ein zwei drei
Counting cookies and no one was shot
In Berlin stopped by the polizei
For drunk driving and everyone smiled
In Prague I knew I’d been a witch
Burnt alive, a pyre of Soviet kitsch
It made me miss my Moscow mother
It made me miss my New York nothing
In Montpellier I stayed in a chateau
A boy climbed into my bed and he knew no boundaries
And in Amsterdam I got quite crazy
Might have been all the tulips and canals
Or it might have been all that hash, and in
Barcelona, buenos dias, chocolato, le Picasso
And in Brussels, clean-cut hostel
And in London, me and the French existentialistâ?
In Corsica I floated away
All the way to Marseilles
I should have held an afterparty
For all the thoughts I didn’t say
In Dusseldorf I met a dwarf
With bad breath and a really good tan
In Gelterkinden I remembered how to laugh
And I never ever forgot it again?


Many answers to many European questions – and some new questions

European Diary, 17.2.2021: The Jewish Museum Hohenems has been open again for a week. Time to document which traces and comments our visitors have left behind so far in our exhibition The Last Europeans. For this purpose, we have created space on two large maps under the questions: “Which states should belong to the European Union in the future?” and “What is Europe for you?”.
This is the place for your answers and reactions to many European questions and, of course, also for new questions. Now the maps are full and we now make room for new answers and questions – and the game starts all over again.

Here a few insights: traces of visitors on our maps in the exhibition.

The Limits of Tirol

European diary, 11.2.2021: The mind shift came as a surprise. And one does not quite believe in it yet. Even on the weekend, one heard from Innsbruck mainly strong language and threats against Vienna. More precisely, against the (Green) Ministry of Health. And manifold attempts to somehow resist with embellished figures the recognition of the fact that in the Tyrolean district of Schwaz and especially in the Zillertal a South African and apparently particularly vicious mutation of the Corona virus is rampant, with the highest numbers in Europe.

Once again, the Austrian chancellor seemed to be ripping off his coalition “partner” and kept nobly silent about the Tyrolean rides. There was talk of an unsuccessful call in Innsbruck. That was it for now.

“Then you will get to know us” was what Tyrol’s Chamber of Commerce President Walser told those evil Viennese who demanded quarantine measures – and on the Austrian TV news ZIB 2 on Monday, as a bonus, so to speak, to the rantings of the weekend, he also presented his epidemiological “expertise” on the events of Ischgl.

It will soon be a year since the small town in Paznaun became the super-spreader of the new virus. How this happened has now been clarified to some extent. It was covered up and lied about as long as it somehow worked out. Until thousands of Corona-infected people from Bavaria to Iceland were detected as a result of careless après-ski. And then it was silent.
But that is, so Walser nevertheless not at all the crucial question. It was not yet known “from where” the virus had been brought to Ischgl. Had anyone claimed that the Tyroleans had bred the virus in a snow cannon?

Walser’s complaint about Tyrol bashing somehow sounded disturbingly familiar. As if politicians and business officials had learned nothing from the disaster, even a year later, other than that someone else always has to be to blame.

Meanwhile, borders are now being controlled again. Bavaria is planning to close the borders to Tyrol. Austria did not want to stand back there and controlled already on Monday with demonstrative stringency incoming and above all commuters at the border between Lindau and Bregenz, even if the so-called “incidence” in Lindau is only half as high as in the neighboring Vorarlberg. But even so, one can give the impression that everything dangerous basically comes from the outside.

It is clear that the Tyrolean hospitality industry and even more so the cable car industry are facing an existential crisis in the wake of the pandemic. In this situation, taking a golf vacation in South Africa, as one Zillertal hotelier did, is not really confidence-building. News about illegal lodgings and parties, ski instructor courses with clusters of mutations and tricky registrations of second residences are equally untrustworthy. And then the powerful chairman of the Economic Association and ÖVP National Councilor Franz Hörl, the head of the legendary “Adlerrunde” that calls the shots in Tyrol – himself infected by the British mutation – goes into quarantine without having a clue where he got it. Shouldn’t one worry about whether dangerous recklessness is still at work in Tyrol? Above all, self-pity. According to Governor Platter, one should finally stop pointing the finger at Tyrol.
As it says on Franz Hörl’s website? “Tyrol goes first.” Classic populism sounds like that. You always go first yourself.
But today it sounds somehow misleading. It goes on to say: “When Franz Hörl steps onto the scene, speed is the order of the day. At times he seems to double up, appearing in parallel” … “Franz is on the spot. Especially when there’s a fire. (…) That’s the only way to do politics that helps.” And: “Hörl talks Tyrol”. That sounds like this: The travel warning issued on Monday against Tyrol, was – so Hörl on Monday – a “burp from Vienna”.

A megalomaniac is speaking, a “macher” who wants to embody the balancing act between “host” and cable car industrialist, between a “mensch” and a functionary, and who can do this as long as he is successful. And he can’t do one thing that is particularly needed at the moment. To question himself and his actions once in a while.
Someone has now finally stepped on the emergency brake. Anyone leaving Tyrol as of Friday will now need an up-to-date Corona test.

Perhaps the chancellor has called his party colleague Platter once again. The instinct to know when a story is about to fall on his feet has apparently not yet completely left Mr. Kurz. But at that point the “speed” may already have been a bit lacking.

Party, Politics and Commemoration (Sex, Lies and Videotapes)

European Diary, 27.1.2020: Today marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Primo Levi, who survived the camp, has never been able to describe this “liberation” except in quotation marks. Four soldiers of the Red Army were the first people from the world “outside” who encountered him on January 27, 1945.

“They appeared to us as if the nothingness filled with death, in which we had been circling like extinguished stars for ten days, had acquired a solid center, a condensation nucleus, and so it probably was: four armed men, but not armed against us: four messengers of peace with peasant, childlike faces under their heavy fur hats.” At the sight of the camp survivors, they froze. “It was the same well-known shame that overcame us after the selections and whenever we had to witness an ill-treatment or endure it ourselves: that shame that the Germans did not know, that the righteous feels before a guilt that someone else brings upon himself and that torments him because it exists, because it is irrevocably brought into the world of existing things, and because his good will counts for nothing or not much and is powerless to prevent it.” This shame has also accompanied Primo Levi for the rest of his life.

When – four days ago – 50 heads of state met in Jerusalem at the Yad Vashem memorial, a day after a cocktail party organized for the guests by the mayor of Jerusalem, there was nothing, but absolutely nothing, of this shame. Only political calculation.
The Israeli prime minister and the American vice president used the “World Holocaust Forum” to declare Iran the greatest enemy of mankind. The Russian president, friend of the Iranian regime and at the same time of the Israeli hosts, used the day to declare his superpower the savior of mankind. The Polish president took the opportunity to stay at home offended, after the Poles had previously been told from Moscow that they were to blame for the Second World War.
Hardly anyone was interested in the last survivors of the Holocaust. Video recordings of them is what will remain in the archives.

PS: In the Jewish Museum Hohenems one can watch some of them and reflect on what remains of this legacy. The exhibition “End of Testimony?” will travel even further, to Flossenbürg and Munich, Augsburg, Berlin, Vienna and Frankfurt.

Photo: Dietmar Walser

Bruno Kreisky: or the courage of the unfinished

European Diary, 22.1.2021: 110 years ago today, Bruno Kreisky was born in Vienna. To this day, the memory of the probably most popular chancellor of the republic is polarizing., a chancellor who was at the same time anything but a typical Austrian politician. His political opponents in particular left no doubt about this. In 1970, ÖVP Chancellor Josef Klaus ran for office with the slogan “A real Austrian. This, according to the party’s calculations, said everything there was to say about Kreisky, a Jew and emigrant. But Bruno Kreisky led the SPÖ to a relative majority of 48.5 %. And after an interlude of a cabinet tolerated by the FPÖ, which was highly controversial even among his friends, the SPÖ achieved an absolute majority three times in a row with Kreisky. It’s been a long time, one might say.

Bruno Kreisky
Photo: Konrad Rufus Müller / Source: Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue

Kreisky had no qualms about working with former National Socialists. Precisely because he did not want to be told that he was doing politics as a Jew. Kreisky was above all a European politician, and his own experience of persecution and exile had taught him his own Austrian patriotism: which consisted of not wanting to be a nationalist. And certainly not a Jewish nationalist.
This was eventually to drive him into a dispute in which neither his opponent nor he himself could reap any glory. His bitter feud with the arch-conservative Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal stands to this day like an erratic block in the Austrian memory landscape.
Simon Wiesenthal, whose good relations with the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) were not a bit clouded by the traditional anti-Semitism of the Christian Socialists, gleefully scandalized Kreisky’s lack of inhibitions about cooperating with former Nazis, whether such in the FPÖ or those in the SPÖ. Four of the thirteen ministers in Kreisky’s Social Democratic cabinet in 1970 had belonged to the NSDAP. And FPÖ leader Friedrich Peter, with whom Kreisky was considering a coalition in 1975, had been active in an SS terror unit, which Wiesenthal also deliberately brought to public attention.
Kreisky’s subsequent insults against Wiesenthal (“Nazi collaborator”) are legendary. Austria was able to watch two Jews at each other’s throats in public. But behind the dispute was by no means only Kreisky’s political calculation to curry favor with parts of the electorate. Behind it was – more or less unspoken – the dispute about Jewish experiences from which Wiesenthal and Kreisky had drawn diametrically opposed conclusions.
Kreisky’s traumatic experiences did not begin in 1938 with National Socialism, but in the Austrian fascism of the Ständestaat. In 1936, the young socialist Kreisky was sentenced to imprisonment. He had every reason to distrust the political descendants of the Austrofascists as much as the National Socialists, who drove him into exile in 1938. Kreisky survived in Sweden, where he also met Willy Brandt, who had emigrated from Germany – the beginning of a lifelong friendship.

Kreisky remained a passionate European, but he did not like Zionism. For him, there was no question of helping to build a democratic Austria after 1945. His four chancellorships were marked by reform initiatives in social policy and education policy, as well as in family and criminal law – and, as with so many Social Democrats, by a confidence in technical progress that also made him blind to the new issues that came onto the agenda with the dispute over the Zwentendorf nuclear power plant. Even defeat in the referendum, however, did not prevent him from winning the 1979 elections for the fourth time.

While Wiesenthal made Israel as a “Jewish state” the core of his own identity in Austria, Kreisky tried to mediate in the Middle East conflict. Which entangled him in contradictions. He cultivated relations with Arab politicians such as Sadat and Gaddafi, and discreetly negotiated with Moscow for the release of Jewish Soviet citizens who wanted to emigrate to Israel.
What Kreisky mastered best was the art of playing with the public. His press conferences are unforgotten. Not necessarily what they were about in each case. But the style was new. Instead of pronouncements, there was communication.
“I don’t value wreaths that posterity will weave for me. I don’t value monuments. What I would like, however, is for the period in which I was able to influence political conditions in Austria to be regarded as a period in which great reforms were introduced, which left their mark on society and brought about an improvement in social conditions. Nothing would be more gruesome than the thought of having merely administered.”

Much of what Kreisky wanted to set in motion is still waiting to happen.
Willy Brandt, Kreisky’s companion for over fifty years, delivered the eulogy for him at Vienna’s Central Cemetery. “Farewell, my dear, my difficult friend.”


The “Paneuropean University” of Dr. Hocus Pocus

European Diary, Jan. 17, 2021: The resignation of Austrian Labor Minister Christine Aschbacher came after less than a week. In early January, it was revealed that her diploma thesis at the University of Applied Sciences in Wiener Neustadt in 2006 consisted largely of plagiarism – and where she had written something herself, not infrequently of nonsense. Also her dissertation “Draft of a Leadership Style for Innovative Companies”, submitted to the Technical University of Bratislava in the subject “Mechanical Engineering” – already being part of the Austrian government in 2020 – contains, as the “plagiarism hunter” Stefan Weber ascertains with the usual software of the University of Vienna, more than 20 % copied material. And lots of real satire, which comes by itself when English quotations were translated years ago with the then rather clumsy “Google Translate” and have not been corrected since.

The university in Bratislava and its reviewers, who have so far not been conspicuous for their knowledge of German, feel quite unjustly exposed. After all, the official plagiarism software of the Slovak universities was only able to detect 1.15% plagiarism. This software hardly knows any German-language sources. Thus the Dr. Bratislava is meanwhile a winged word.

Ms. Aschbacher was of course not aware of any culpability, complained about the “prejudices” and declared that she had acted to the “best of her knowledge and belief”. And then nevertheless her resignation followed quite quickly. “Her family should not suffer…”, she said. But it is probably more likely that Chancellor Kurz had to take her out of the line of fire before even more unpleasant questions would be asked. For example, who actually brokered the deal with the Slovak faculty of “mechanical engineering” for the Austrian labor minister. And in general: questions about how Austrians from politics and business get their academic titles, and their promoters get honors from politics and business. Nobody knows who advised Ms. Aschbacher.

A few days ago, the voice of an expert well known in such circles was heard on ORF: “Univ.-Prof. Dr.h.c.. Dr.” Peter Linnert, who at the end of 2015 was awarded the Cross of Honor for Science and Art 1st Class by ÖVP State Secretary Harald Mahrer (now President of the Economic Chamber). And this in his capacity as rector of the “Goethe University Bratislava”.
The private university founded by Linnert has long been history. Just one day before the award ceremony in Vienna on December 16, 2015, it was closed by the Slovakian government – after long public discussions about glaring abuses – due to considerable “deficiencies in the study program”.

Harald Mahrer, Peter Linnert and the Cross of Honor, Photo: Willibald Haslinger

But this did not diminish the successful activities of the now honorary cross recipient in Vienna. Linnert still heads the “Hohe Warte Study Center” in Vienna, founded in 2003, and the associated “Sales Manager Academy”. The program consists of awarding academic degrees at currently four Eastern European private universities in Bratislava, Warsaw and Belgrade, which solicit customers with illustrious names and adorn themselves with “Europe”.
For €30,000, you can choose whether you want to do your doctorate at the “Pan-European University Bratislava” or at the “European University Belgrade”, in “International Management”, “Economics” or “Mass Media”, for example.
The doctorates bought in this way may not count in the academic world. But they are helpful in business and politics. The required “scientific achievements”, such as participation in a total of ten days of seminars, lectures in “scientific conferences” and publications (in the in-house “journal”), are to be completed in the “study center” Hohe Warte itself – as social occasions. And also the graduation ceremonies in the Viennese city hall are impressive. Emeritus professors in Austria act as “second reviewers” who are basically fluent in German and, according to Linnert, earn extra money with it.

Belgrade’s “European University” is privately owned by its rector, Milija Zečević, who (apart from boasting with numerous venal honorary titles) is also president of the “European Academy of Science,” which resides at the same address as Linnert’s “study center,” Geweygasse 4 in Vienna’s elegant 19th district. But for “academic celebrations” with partner organizations such as the “Albert Schweitzer International University” from Geneva (and such beautiful topics as “Global Business and Management in the Function of Peace”) or the appointment of new members, they prefer to meet at the Hotel Imperial.

The reason why it takes such complicated detours for graduates of the Hohe Warte Study Center is that, despite his efforts to attract the younger generation of politicians and entrepreneurs, Linnert has not yet succeeded in transforming his institution into a private “university for business and ethics”. This requires formal accreditation, which the relevant commission in Austria has already refused for the fifth time. To Linnert’s chagrin, it’s not just politicians and entrepreneurs who have a say in this matter.

In 2013, for example, his daughter Julia also had to submit her “communication science” dissertation to the Pan-European University in Bratislava. Second examiner: Peter Linnert. In 2018, this “dissertation” was also chased through the plagiarism program of the University of Vienna. And put all records in the shade. The text contained exactly 18 sentences that were not copied. A plagiarism score of more than 98%. Linnert’s son Michael, meanwhile employed in the Linnerts’ empire of various “Sales Management Academies,” also got his doctorate this way – which is not revoked in Bratislava even if plagiarism is proven.

Linnert is by no means the only provider on the market. One can also employ ghostwriters, or try it with a windy thesis at a “proper” Austrian university, like the Styrian ÖVP state representative (Landesrat) Christian Buchmann, whose dissertation in Graz was positively reviewed by two party colleagues in 2000, despite 30% plagiarism. At that time, of course, there was no effective software. In 2017, Buchmann had to give up his title of PhD again, but this did not harm his political career. He is currently president of the Austrian Federal Council.

Linnert’s “pan-European” title business continues to flourish. And only rarely is there any public talk about it. In 2014, for example, the Steyr ÖVP city councilor Markus Spöck acquired his doctorate in “International Management” via the “Hohe Warte” at the “European University Belgrade”. And at the same time, Christa Kranzl also acquired her doctorate in this way, having already obtained her master’s degree in “Executive Sales Management” at Hohe Warte. The former Lower Austrian state representative (responsible for education, among other things) and brief SPÖ federal state secretary (for “innovation”) under Chancellor Gusenbauer had been expelled from the SPÖ in 2011 because she had run against the SPÖ in her hometown with her own list.
As a management consultant (specializing in “subsidy consulting”), she was now active in further education for entrepreneurs.

In 2016, for example, “Dr. Christa Kranzl” taught “Government Policy and Parliamentarianism” at the “Middlesex University/KMU Akademie & Management AG” in Linz, which apparently employed other illustrious figures from the gray area of charlatanry and business. Thus, “Dr.” Hubert Dollack, mastermind of another European and non-European network selling successfully shady academic titles, also taught there.

From 2011 Dollack called himself president of the “University of Northwest-Europe” in a former abbey in Kerkrade, the Netherlands, even though this “university” was not formally recognized at all. After all, it bore the “seal of approval” of the “Universidad Azteca International Network System,” which is the distribution system for Mexican doctoral degrees. The “Universidad Azteca European Programme” operates its virtual campus in Innsbruck, where the busy title sellers even managed to enter into a brief cooperation with MedUni Innsbruck ten years ago, before the latter smelled a rat. The dean of the Aztecs, a certain “Prof. Dr. Dr.” Gerhard Berchtold, former club director of the FPÖ in the Innsbruck state parliament and chamber of commerce official (waste disposal, waste management), also represents the “Universidad Central de Nicaragua”.

Hubert Dollack, who holds a doctorate from the Technical University of Ostrava, on the other hand also headed the now defunct “Steinbeis Institute of Operations Management” in Stuttgart, the “IMC Institute for Management & Consulting” and the “UNIDI Career College”, a branch of the non-existent “University” in Kerkrade. In 2015, an obscure “Martin Buber University” (which also waited in vain for recognition) and an even more obscure “European New University,” the branch of the “International Teaching University” in Tbilisi, Georgia, also resided in the corridors of the former abbey. Their diplomas, in turn, are issued primarily by the “European University” in Belgrade.

This closes many circles. “Consul Univ.-Prof. Dr. rer. pol. Dr. habil. Dr. h.c. mult.” Peter Linnert will probably retire soon. At the age of 84, he can now look back on a long successful and sometimes less successful life.

He actually received his doctorate from the University of Hamburg in 1964, and began his career as an assistant at the Chair of Business Administration. In 1969, he moved to Vienna to the University of Economics. And then his “academic” biography is lost in obscurity for a while. It was not until the 1990s that the picture cleared up again, and soon Linnert was once more to be seen at the University of Economics in Vienna, now as a freshly minted honorary doctor of the University of Vilnius, and as the person responsible for the Service Management seminar, an advanced training program for managers – with which he set up his own business in 1996. The “Sales Manager Academy” is born. And an expensive but convenient access to the diploma of “Master of Business Administration”, delivered by the University of Staffordshire in England, the whole for 20.440,- €.

Linnert also regularly draws with his name as the author of books on management and business. As early as 1971 he published his “Clausewitz for Managers. Strategy and Tactics of Corporate Management.” A dozen other titles followed, including “Alles Event? Success through Experience Marketing,” “Greater Market Success through Total Quality Management,” or “The Financing of Ventures in the Lecture and Performance Business.” His latest book, just published in 2019, is “highly recommended” on his study center’s website: it is succinctly titled “White-Collar Crime.”

Why Linnert’s curriculum vitae contains twenty years that are so little documented can be seen from a report in the weekly magazine Der Spiegel from 1976: “Papiere von St. Pauli”. At that time, the last of Linnert’s windy deals for the time being had burst when Deutsche Bank found rather sloppily forged shares allegedly worth DM 2 million in Linnert’s depot in Frankfurt. He had tried to borrow the fake shares in his depot in order to use the money to save his company empire, which consisted mainly of air numbers. His “Vereinigte Zünder- und Kabelwerke AG” had not produced anything for a long time, but was engaged in asset transactions. In Guatemala, he planned the purchase of a large forest area for the establishment of a “free trade zone”.

There was talk of setting up a marble factory and a shipping company for the purpose of transporting the marble to Japan. His “Marketing Institute Peter Linnert and Co” established networks and distributed a “practical, up-to-date consulting letter”. With his partner Ekkehard Zahn (who was still involved in Linnert’s “Sales Management Academies” 50 years later), he organized exclusive seminars for managers or those who wanted to become managers. But then he also bought Germany’s second-largest furniture mail-order company, Steinheimer Möbel-Becker GmbH, which had to file for bankruptcy in May 1976. In search of capital, Linnert had his windy Zünder- und Kabelwerke issue new shares, which were soon no longer worth the paper they were printed on. When the fake shares in the Frankfurt depot were also exposed, Linnert was arrested in his Hamburg villa at Elbchaussee 359.

He had bought the shares in Hamburg-St. Pauli, he claimed. But by then, nobody in Germany believed anything he said anymore. In the community, Peter Linnert had long since acquired his nickname: Dr. Hocus Pocus. That’s even better than Dr. Bratislava.



Olaf vs. Frontex

European Diary, 13.1.2021: The news has hit home. The EU’s anti-fraud agency (Olaf) is investigating the EU border agency Frontex.

For many months, Croatian border guards have been trampling EU law and forcibly driving refugees back to Bosnia at the EU’s external border. They do this with the applause of some governments in Europe. Hungary and Austria are at the forefront of covering up this open violation of the law, or approving it when covering it up no longer works in the face of so much evidence. Finally, Austrian border officials are not squeamish when it comes to covering their ears at the Slovenian border when refugees ask for asylum – and instead forcibly push them back into Slovenia, from where they are deported to the Croats, who then dump them at the Bosnian border. In return, the EU then pays Bosnia money to take care of these illegally deported refugees. In Bosnia, this money ends up in invisible channels – but obviously not in refugee care. For example, hundreds of refugees were allowed to spend the end of the year outside in the freezing cold because the improvised Lipa tent camp still had no electricity, no water and no heating and was therefore closed down by the International Organization for Migration. Since then, not much has happened. Except what is now called “on-site assistance”: a few new, unheated tents, with no water and no electricity. 2000 refugees are now squatting in the forest, mostly under plastic sheets. In sub-zero temperatures. Many of the cases are well documented.
To this day, the European Court of Human Rights does not dare to address this ongoing breach of law by EU member states and aspirants. But at least Frontex, the border protection agency run by the EU itself, is now under investigation. For a long time, countries like Hungary, Poland and Austria placed high hopes in Frontex. Then Orban and Kurz realized that Frontex, too, must abide by laws. And Frontex fell out of favor.
But Frontex Director Fabrice Leggeri apparently wanted to save his reputation in Budapest, Warsaw and Vienna in 2020. So Frontex is now, as has been known for months, in the eastern Mediterranean involved in illegal refoulements off the Greek coast. And there are other things that seem to be going wrong at the agency, from intimidation of employees who have concerns to irregularities in tenders. Whether the ongoing investigations will have any consequences remains to be seen.

Translated with (free version)

Bosnian New Year

European Diary, 2.1.2021: The European crimes against refugees are richer by one facet. For many months, Croatia in particular has been protecting “our” external borders in an illegal but effective manner. Refugees who manage to get to – and across – the Croatian border via Bosnia, for example, are forcibly pushed back again before they can exercise their right to apply for asylum. While this violates European and international law, even the European Court of Human Rights now looks resignedly (or cynically?) under the table when it comes to European “border protection.” Many of the refugees were initially accommodated in the Bira camp in the town of Bihac, then after “protests from the population”, which are now cheaper to buy in Bosnia than bread rolls, they were shipped in September to a tent camp provisionally set up by the army in “the middle of nowhere”, in Lipa. There, international aid organizations were allowed to take care of the stranded people. The Bosnian authorities promised to connect the improvised camp to electricity and water supplies to make it “winter-proof.” But nothing of the sort happened. Out of sight out of mind.
At the end of December, the frost came. But still no possibility to heat the camp, still no electricity, no water. Nothing at all. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) decided to close the camp, where people would otherwise have frozen to death in the onset of winter. And during the evacuation, some refugees set fire to the ramshackle tents they thought they were finally leaving behind.
Negotiations were made with Bosnian authorities to return the refugees to the Bira camp in Bihac or to barracks in other parts of the country. But local politicians announced that there were “protests from the population.” So 900 people spent the Christmas days in the open. Then, however, the evacuation of the homeless camped refugees was on the agenda. 500 of them were loaded onto buses at the end of the year. And they were stuck there. Because the buses did not run. Local and regional politicians bow to the “protests from the population,” which they themselves have done their best to stir up. And the Republika Srpska is not accepting anyone anyway. After all,”it is the Bosniak Muslims who have brought the migrants into the country”. Whatever is meant by this, this populist slogan always gets through. Any attempt by the central government in Sarajevo to enforce law and order (and in this case that means humane accommodation for the refugees) is thus doomed to failure.

So 500 people spent the last two days of the year in unheated buses. For 24 hours. Then they were let off again. They spent New Year’s Eve in the open air. On New Year’s Day, the Red Cross took care of them. Austria promises “help on the spot”. The Bosnian army puts up tents again. There are plenty of tents. Unheatable, like the ones before. The cynical game continues. The winter too.

Translated with (free version)