Praise for Hitler and calling refugees 'untermenschen' — the members of Austria's governing Freedom Party

Report documents 38 'extreme-right' incidents since the FPÖ joined the Austrian government last year


There have been 38 incidents of “extreme-right activity” inside Austria’s Freedom Party (FPÖ) since it joined the country’s coalition government nine months ago, a report has found.

The Mauthausen Committee said the incidents had occurred at all levels of the party and included antisemitism, flirtation with neo-Nazism and incitement against refugees and other minorities.

The committee, which is is named after a former wartime concentration camp, organises Holocaust commemorations and educational events in Austria.

A number of cases of far-right activity highlighted by the report have already been widely reported — such as a call by the FPÖ’s Interior Minister Herbert Kickl to “concentrate” asylum seekers in mass quarters, triggering memories of wartime ghettos.

Leader Heinz-Christian Strache has publicly supported conspiracy theories concerning the billionaire Holocaust survivor George Soros, while many FPÖ officials are members of greater German national fraternities whose songbooks contain racist and antisemitic lyrics.

But other incidents recorded by the Mauthausen Committee have involved less prominent FPÖ politicians at the state and local level.

They include:

  • WhatsApp photographs of Adolf Hitler sent to FPÖ members by Wolfgang Neururer, a local party chairman in the western Austrian state of Tyrol. One picture was captioned: “Adolf, get in touch! Germany needs you!”;
  • A district councillor in Vienna, Jürgen-Michael Kleppich, who posted a picture of his grandfather in a Nazi uniform and himself in a T-shirt carrying slogans linked to the far-right “identitarian” movement;
  • Miriam Rydl, a local party official in Lower Austria, who described refugees who left family members behind in their countries of origin as untermenschen (“sub-humans”), a term popularised by the Nazis. Ms Rydl claimed not to know the wartime origins of the term.

The Mauthausen report said the number of extremist incidents had increased sharply since the election. Austria’s government, it said, had not moderated the FPÖ but had quite the opposite effect.

“The contradiction between how the FPÖ presents itself and the facts themselves could not be greater,” Mauthausen Committee chair Willi Mernyi said. The party’s extreme-right activities were “incompatible with democracy and human rights” and brought shame upon Austria, he continued.

The Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) said the FPÖ’s right-wing extremism was now undeniable. One MP, Sabine Schatz, called on Chancellor Sebastian Kurz to take a clearer stand, arguing “silence is not the answer” to far-right extremism.

But the FPÖ accused Mr Mernyi of using the Mauthausen Committee for party-political ends.

He “does not act independently but as an SPÖ functionary, polemicising in the name of [Mauthausen] in order to harm the FPÖ,” said Harald Vilimsky, one of the party’s MEPs.

Mr Vilimsky is himself listed in the Mauthausen report as having spoken at a gathering of far-right parties in Nice in 2015 at the invitation of the Front National, the French far-right party.

The Mauthausen Committee successfully sued FPÖ politician Gerhard Deimak who described one of its earlier reports on extreme-right activity as as “fake” and “lies”.

Mr Deimak was unable to substantiate his claims and ordered to pay €1,200 (£1,062) and publicly retract his remarks in August 2017.

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