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ANTI-SEMITISM

Austrian arrested after shouting Nazi slogans at rabbi

A man has been arrested for shouting Nazi slogans at a rabbi visiting a former concentration camp in Austria, police said on Friday, amid concerns over rising anti-Semitism in the country.

Austrian arrested after shouting Nazi slogans at rabbi
A memorial plaque at the remains of the World War II forced labour camp in Ebensee. File photo: AFP

The 49-year-old suspect is accused of shouting “Heil Hitler” and making a Nazi salute at the rabbi in the town of Ebensee last week.

The rabbi was there with his grandson to visit a memorial commemorating the camp where his own father had been deported.

The police said the man had admitted the charges, which also included shouting “Mein Volk, Mein Reich, mein Fuhrer”, the motto of the Nazi regime.

Offences involving expressions of pro-Nazi sentiment are not uncommon in Austria, despite it having some of the world's strictest laws against such acts.

Concerns over extremism have been brought to the fore by the entry of the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) into the national government in December as a junior coalition partner.

Protests are expected outside a ball for student fraternities organised by the FPÖ in Vienna's former imperial Hofburg palace.

Vice-Chancellor and FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache said he would renounce “all forms of anti-Semitism” in his speech opening the ball.

Earlier this week prosecutors opened an inquiry after the weekly Falter magazine revealed a student fraternity had published a songbook containing virulently anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi lyrics.

The FPÖ's Udo Landbauer came under political pressure over the revelations as he had been deputy chair of the fraternity.

Landbauer, who is the chief candidate in a regional election on Sunday, denied all knowledge of the texts and said he had been a child when they were published.

READ ALSO: Austria far-right candidate under pressure over Nazi songbook

ANTI-SEMITISM

Austrian Jews call for investigation into far-right leader for comparing Covid measures to the Holocaust

Jewish associations have called for a criminal investigation into Austrian far-right leader Herbert Kickl for comments they say grossly trivialise the Holocaust, which is illegal in Austria.

Covid protest
Demonstrators march and light flares during a rally called for by the far right Freedom Party. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

Kickl, who leads the Freedom Party (FPÖ), has supported demonstrations against Covid-19 measures, at which some protestors have carried signs comparing themselves to the victims of the Nazi Holocaust.

Speaking on Austrian TV in December, Kickl was challenged about the anti-Semitic elements of the protests.

He said: “National Socialism did not begin with a world war, not with any extermination camps, but it began with people being systematically excluded. It began by not allowing children to go to school because they were of Jewish descent, for example.”

INTERVIEW: Why one Holocaust descendant chose to become an Austrian citizen

The Austrian Union of Jewish Students, together with the Executive Councilor of the World Jewish Congress, and a board member of the Association of Jewish Victims of the Nazi Regime (BJVN), has asked state prosecutors to investigate whether these comments fall under the Austrian crime of “gross trivialisation of the Holocaust”.

Sashi Turkof, President of the Jewish Austrian University Students, said: “The statements by Herbert Kickl must be understood as a massive danger for us all. The comparison with the Nazi regime and the constant and open trivialization of the Shoah are a conscious tactic and pave the way for the normalization of anti-Semitism and the relativisation of history.”

Only the state can file criminal complaints under this law, which is why the associations have called on Vienna prosecutors to begin an investigation into the comments.

READ ALSO: Vienna Nazi art show seeks to address Austria’s WWII legacy

Signs comparing Covid-19 measures to the Holocaust have been shared by protestors at several Covid rallies, including likening Austrian politicians and health officials to Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor and SS officer who performed deadly and unethical medical experiments on prisoners of the concentration camps. Other protestors have worn yellow stars with the word ungeimpft (not vaccinated), in a nod to the Star of David many Jews were forced to wear during the Nazi era.

Chancellor Karl Nehammer has condemned the anti-Semitic elements of the protests, and warned of extremist groups who he said saw the protests as a “golden opportunity” to exploit tensions.

In a statement given while Interior Minister, Nehammer said these statements “insult the millions of victims of the Nazi dictatorship and their families”.

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