Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

As Austria marks Holocaust anniversary, Jews fear the return of the far-right

Members of the Freedom Party excluded from Mauthausen concentration camp event on Sunday

    Former prisoners, visitors and liberators attended the ceremonies the former concentration camp of Mauthausen in Austria
    Former prisoners, visitors and liberators attended the ceremonies the former concentration camp of Mauthausen in Austria (Photo: Getty Images)

    The head of Austria’s Jewish community Oskar Deutsch sharply criticised the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) at official Holocaust commemorations on Sunday.

    He said at an event to mark the anniversary of the liberation of the Mauthausen concentration camp that members of greater German nationalist fraternities were “the successors to the precursors of the Nazis — and their political arm is the FPÖ.”

    “If we do not protest against them, here and now then what have we learnt from history?” asked Mr Deutsch, who is the president of the Vienna Jewish Community.

    Not to speak out would be “to dishonour the dead”, he added.

    Members of Austria’s ruling People’s Party including parliament speaker Wolfgang Sobotka attended the Jewish community’s commemorations, but an invitation was pointedly not extended to the FPÖ — their coalition partner.

    Parliament speaker Wolfgang Sobotka was among those to deliver a speech at Mauthausen
    Parliament speaker Wolfgang Sobotka was among those to deliver a speech at Mauthausen (Photo: Getty Images)

    Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and President Alexander Van der Bellen attended a larger separate commemoration at the former concentration camp, where at least 90,000 people died.

    Willi Mernyi, the chair of the Mauthausen Committee, said the presence of FPÖ ministers would have been another “humiliation” for Holocaust survivors.

    Mr Deutsch said the Jewish community could not in good conscience invite the FPÖ and provide the far-right with “a stage for a masquerade, simply because they are seeking validation.”

    He said that while FPÖ leader and Austria’s vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache had “distanced himself” from antisemitism, words were not enough.

    There have been at least 23 antisemitic or neo-Nazi incidents within the ranks of the FPÖ since it joined Austria’s government last December.

    They included the party’s chief whip Johann Gudenus, who appeared to speak in support of the campaign against George Soros in neighbouring Hungary.

    FPÖ chief whip Johann Gudenus
    FPÖ chief whip Johann Gudenus (Photo: Getty Images)

    Mr Gudenus told Die Presse that there are “sound rumours” that the Hungarian-born American billionaire has been involved in “supporting migrant flows into Europe.”

    He earned the support of Mr Strache, who argued: “Yes, this valid critique has been voiced also by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Jerusalem Post.”

    Members of German nationalist fraternities, or Burschenschaften, still make up close to 40 per cent of the FPÖ parliamentary party but only 0.04% of the Austrian population in total.

    Earlier this year, senior FPÖ figure Udo Landbauer resigned when it emerged his fraternity, Germania, used a songbook containing racist, antisemitic, and Nazi-sympathetic lyrics.

    The FPÖ has launched a historical inquiry into its relationship with the Burschenschaften — but for Austria’s Jewish community, this gesture remains far from enough.

Books

Spilling secrets: Novelist Eshkol Nevo

Liam Hoare

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Spilling secrets: Novelist Eshkol Nevo
World

Poland gives WWII museum a nationalist rebrand

Liam Hoare

Friday, February 2, 2018

Poland gives WWII museum a nationalist rebrand
World

German court rules against Israeli passenger

Liam Hoare

Thursday, November 16, 2017

German court rules against Israeli passenger
World

Hungary Chief Rabbi resigns after Orbán victory

Liam Hoare

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Hungary Chief Rabbi resigns after Orbán victory
World

Austrian far-right 'nothing like' Ukip, MP says

Liam Hoare

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Austrian far-right 'nothing like' Ukip, MP says
Israel

Show on Israel harbours its own bunker mentality

Liam Hoare

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Show on Israel harbours its own bunker mentality
World

Viktor Orban claims election victory

Liam Hoare

Monday, April 9, 2018

Viktor Orban claims election victory
World

Austrian Jews to boycott far-right ministers

Liam Hoare

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Austrian Jews to boycott far-right ministers
Comment

Where are the great leaders?

Liam Hoare

Friday, December 16, 2016

Where are the great leaders?