Austrian politician accused of 'trivialising' Holocaust

By Toby Axelrod, February 2, 2012
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Far-right Freedom Party leader Strache at a rally in Linz

Far-right Freedom Party leader Strache at a rally in Linz

Austria's Jewish community is demanding that a far-right Austrian politician be prosecuted for allegedly trivialising the Holocaust.

According to the Austrian daily Standard, Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of the country's Freedom Party, claimed at a fancy-dress ball, where guests included neo-Nazis, that "we are the new Jews".

Mr Strache, who was referring to violent demonstrations against the event, allegedly also compared the situation to the 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom.

In reaction to the statements, the Austrian President Heinz Fischer said he was withdrawing a prestigious state award due to be made to Mr Strache. Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger told reporters that he was "profoundly disgusted" by Mr Strache's words.

The Freedom Party leader made the comments at the annual Vienna Korporationsring Ball, an event notorious for attracting members of the European extreme right.

The ball was held on January 27, Holocaust Remembrance Day, at Vienna's Hofburg Palace, the official residence of the Austrian president.

The Freedom Party leader later denied the reports, writing on his Facebook profile that his words had been deliberately manipulated and taken out of context.

Raimund Fastenbauer, general secretary of Austria's Jewish community, told the online daily DiePresse that Mr Strache's alleged remarks were forbidden by Austria's Verbotsgesetz, a post-war law that bans denial and trivialisation of Nazi crimes. According to DiePresse, the Jewish community has demanded that Mr Strache give up his immunity as a member of Parliament so that he may be tried.

The leader of France's far-right Front National, Marine Le Pen, has come in for criticism at home for attending the ball. According to RFI French radio, Ms Le Pen was invited by Mr Strache.

Last updated: 1:26pm, February 2 2012