Don’t Mess With Omas

By Barbara Baum Levine

Editors’ Note: This article first appeared in the Democratic Women of Clifton & NOVA e-News, November 2019.

OMAS GEGEN RECHTS (Grannies Against the Right Wing)

Image result for omas gegen rechts in englishJust when the world looked as though it was going to you-know-where in a handbasket, when the right wing vitriol of Donald Trump seemed to be echoed in countries all over Europe, along came OMAS GEGEN RECHTS!

This organization began in 2017 in Vienna, Austria. Oma is the German word for “grandmother.” Austria has had a long history of fascist leanings. They actually voted, in 1938, to invite Hitler to take over their country! I am very familiar with this because my father was born in Vienna. In 1938, after Hitler had already closed the Austrian borders, my 17-year-old father and his parents were incredibly fortunate in that they were able to escape to the United States with the help of Robert Wagner, Sr., then a U.S. senator from New York. They survived the Holocaust but still suffered the pain of losing home, family, livelihood, and education, as well as the unspeakable treatment they experienced before being able to seek refuge in the United States.

The original members of Omas Gegen Rechts are women in their seventies. They, like myself, are children of parents who lived through World War II–except these women heard about and experienced firsthand the ravages of that war and the effects of Hitler’s torture and extermination of millions…. Now, horrified at seeing Austria again electing extreme right wing candidates, these ladies created an incredible organization dedicated to … commitment to democracy in Europe and worldwide; awareness of the dangers of totalitarian structures and illiberal democracies; and the rejection of racism and anti-Semitism on all fronts….

The original members of Omas Gegen Rechts are women in their seventies. They, like myself, are children of parents who lived through World War II–except these women heard about and experienced firsthand the ravages of that war and the effects of Hitler’s torture and extermination of millions. Now, horrified at seeing Austria again electing extreme right wing candidates and having raised their families, retired from employment, and finding that they had a bit more time to devote to matters that they care about, these ladies created an incredible organization dedicated to a fair social balance between rich and poor countries; commitment to democracy in Europe and worldwide; awareness of the dangers of totalitarian structures and illiberal democracies; the rejection of racism and anti-Semitism on all fronts; demand for a humane, good life for ALL; and fighting the influence of the ruthless interests of capitalism.

They ARE grannies, so they took a page from the US Women’s March and knitted “pussy hats” and took to the streets in mid-December 2017. Their first demonstration, in the freezing cold, attracted 10 people. Six weeks later, they had 250, a few months after that, 3,000. They are now international! They have a website, www.omasgegenrechts.at, and a Facebook group: GRANNIES AGAINST THE RIGHT-WING PARTIES IN EUROPE. The group is working to become worldwide. Their protests now include thousands and thousands of participants across Europe. You do not have to be a grandmother to join; even Opas (grandfathers) are welcome.

The moral of this story: we cannot ever feel helpless. We ALL have the ability to make a difference. We ALL have an obligation to stand up and raise a voice against injustice, intolerance, and inhuman acts. My grandchildren call me Oma. I will do my best to live up to that name.



Categories: Issues, Local, National

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