Austria, and its stately capital of Vienna. Sophisticated, strongly focused on the classical arts, intellectual discourse and café culture — and high-end shopping. The country today has become increasingly diverse, though not without some controversial push-back against same, in a backdrop of questions regarding its WWII past.
Vienna is filled with elegant architecture and eager shoppers, no time moreso than December and its Christmas markets. The Old City is centred on luxury brands, while the outer districts include shopping malls and street markets — and ethnic neighborhoods with a diversity of products.
A predominantly Catholic country, unlike its protestant neighbor to the north, Austria’s freedom of religion is constitutionally guaranteed. Religious participation in general is on the decline, however, dropping from 73.6% Catholic in 2001 to only 56.9% in 2018, as reported by the Austrian Catholic Church.
Along with the musical contributions of none other than Mozart and Beethoven, Austria also gave to the world the genius of Dr Sigmund Freud. Though not all of his theories are still supported today, he and those who built upon his ideas forever changed the way we understand human psychology.
One of the ongoing controversies that continues to tarnish Austria’s reputation is the country’s involvement in WWII and the attempted genocide of European Jews. While Austria maintains a claim of victimization by Nazi Germany (‘the Nazis’ first victim’), this stance was not taken until the end of the war; a statement of ‘responsibility’ was issued in 1991, but no adequate admission of guilt has yet been formally given. The nation’s difficult relationship with its past remains.
Today, artists and others continue the effort to encourage Austria to acknowledge its role in WWII, apologize formally for its collaboration with Nazi Germany, and to memorialise the deaths of its 65,000 Jewish citizens. A survey conducted earlier this year revealed a significant lack of knowledge among Austrians regarding the Holocaust — against a backdrop of rising anti-Semitism in this county and throughout Europe.