Vandalism at the Jewish school
Austrian police on Sunday detained a man suspected of breaking into a Jewish community school overnight and systematically smashing windows and porcelain with a crowbar, officials said.
Jewish community leaders denounced the incident as the worst anti-Semitic outburst in Austria for two decades and showed reporters a trail of destruction on all three floors of the Lauder Chabad School in the capital Vienna.
The school, which has 360 pupils from kindergarten to high school-age, was unoccupied and unguarded in the early hours of Sunday. A police spokesman said a man was detained at the scene after residents nearby called in noise complaints to police.
According to report by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry 442 incidents were logged from October 2005-September 2006
Austrian news agency APA said initial questioning of the suspect indicated he was a Croat aged about 30, but this was not confirmed. The man did not try to flee or resist arrest and did not discuss his motives, APA said.
Jewish community leader Ariel Muzicant warned against making generalizations about the assault, something that has been rare in Austria.
"I don't want to create the impression that Jews face once again being beaten on the streets of Austria," he said amidst heaps of glass shards including from a display case whose sports trophies lay on the floor, misshapen from heavy blows.
"This is an act of vandalism, it's not a tragedy. Nothing was burned down, no one was hurt. We don't know whether this was the act of a mentally ill person or an (organized) political act," he told reporters.
"However, it is no doubt an anti-Semitic act, done out of rage and hatred. It's very disturbing. But we will definitely not be intimidated by something like this," Muzicant added.
Well integrated communityAustria's small Jewish community leads a generally well integrated life. Its schools have police guards when classes are in session. But Muzicant said the community could not afford to protect its 40 buildings in Vienna around the clock.
Muzicant said the last serious anti-Semitic attack in Austria was in the mid-1980s when a number of gravestones were desecrated by neo-Nazis.
School board member Jacob Biberman said that while classes would resume on time on Monday after a cleanup, there was concern that schoolchildren could be left with some "emotional damage" from the assault.
He said he hoped the incident would spur efforts to improve public education against all forms of bigotry and intolerance.
Paintings and crayon drawings hung on school walls were left untouched, and no swastikas or anti-Semitic graffiti were found.
There are two small, far-right parties in Austria's parliament who deny periodic accusations that some members harbor neo-Nazi sympathies.
Former Freedom Party leader Joerg Haider drew international condemnation for praising Nazi Germany's employment policies and Hitler's Waffen SS elite force, but later apologized.