11 Jul 2013

Ancient Jewish gravestones unearthed in Vienna

6:31 am on 11 July 2013

Jewish gravestones unearthed at a small cemetery in Vienna were hailed on Wednesday as historically important cultural treasures.

Restoration work at the 16th century Seegasse cemetery has discovered 20 gravestones that are centuries old and were buried by Viennese Jews in 1943 to hide them from the Nazis.

Many Jewish cemeteries were destroyed during World War II by the Nazis who stole headstones and desecrated graves.

IKG, a Jewish community organisation, said the gravestones were buried in two to three layers separated by earth and could be just the first of many others to be found there.

Their location was previously unknown as many of the people who hid the gravestones did not survive the war.

IKG president Oskar Deutsch praised the city for confronting its past and helping to restore the cemetery, which is now located in the inner courtyard of an old people's home.

Dozens of headstones have already been refurbished in a project that Vienna and the Austrian government started in 2004.

The project will make Seegasse the only Jewish cemetery in the world to have been restored to its pre-war state, an IKG statement said.