Freedom Party expels local official over Nazi memorabilia

Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) said on Wednesday it has expelled a local party official for hoarding Nazi memorabilia, in embarrassing revelations less than three weeks before national elections.

Freedom Party expels local official over Nazi memorabilia
The revelations are a headache for party leader Heinz-Christian Strache

A local activist revealed that Martin Hochstöger had hung a plaque commemorating Hitler's 1938 annexation of Austria in a back room of his pharmacy in the town of Landeck, in Tyrol state.

Hochstöger, ex-president of the local pharmacists' association, also kept in a display case pieces of cloth with insignia including the SS Death's Head and the Nazi eagle, photos on the activist's blog showed.

Markus Abzwerger, head of the FPÖ in Tyrol, announced on Facebook on Wednesday that Hochstöger has been expelled from the party, saying that a “red line had clearly been crossed”.

Hochstöger's plaque, complete with a quote from Hitler, commemorated a 1938 plebiscite when all but 20 of Landeck's 2,766

The anti-immigration FPOe, a party founded by ex-Nazis after World War II and formerly headed by Jörg Haider, has long sought to clean up its image but this latest incident is by no means isolated.

Last month the Mauthausen Committee, a group commemorating concentration camp victims, published a list of what it said were at least 60 anti-Semitic and racist incidents involving FPÖ figures since 2013.

The party, now headed by Heinz-Christian Strache, is forecast to come second or third in the parliamentary elections on October 15th and could enter the government as coalition partners.

READ ALSO: Leader of Austria's far-right Freedom Party calls for 'zero immigration'


Austrian far right says nein danke to Steve Bannon’s advances

The Austrian far right has said it is not eager to collaborate politically with Donald Trump's former adviser Steve Bannon over forming a pan-European right-wing movement.

Austrian far right says nein danke to Steve Bannon's advances
France's far-right Front National (FN) president Marine Le Pen applauds Bannon after his speech at the FN's annual congress, on March 10, 2018. Photo: AFP

The secretary-general of the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), Harald Vilimsky, told ORF public television late on Tuesday that his party was not keen working with Bannon.

“We want to forge alliances in Europe but we do it independently of the US, Russia or anyone else,” Vilimsky said.

“We want to grow, expand on our own and develop our programme and ideas on our own, but surely not under the leadership of someone active in the United States,” he added.

Bannon, Trump's former strategist who has said being called racist is a “badge of honour”, hopes to build a right-wing populist revolt across the continent ahead of European Parliament elections in 2019.

The FPÖ has governed as part of Austria's ruling coalition since late last year. The country is the only Western European nation to have a far-right party in power.

The party however said it would consider working with Bannon in some areas, such as a think tank or digital media.

Bannon has been increasingly visible in Europe in recent months after he was pushed out of the White House and departed the right-wing Breitbart media empire, condemned by some commentators as spreading racist and misogynist views.

He has focused on touting plans for a Brussels-based foundation called “The Movement” to change the dynamics of European politics and has met various politicians including Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Italy's anti-immigration Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.

Salvini, who recently blocked rescue ships carrying migrants from docking at Italian ports, on Saturday said he wanted to be at the forefront of a movement to “save Europe”, a day after meeting Bannon in Rome.

Questioned on Tuesday about a possible collaboration with Bannon, Orban told a press conference in Brussels he was not “interested in things that do not affect Hungary”.