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ANTI-SEMITISM

Austria to dissolve ‘Nazi songbook’ fraternity

Austria's chancellor said Wednesday that one of the country's controversial nationalist fraternities would be disbanded after it emerged that it had printed song texts celebrating the Holocaust and other Nazi atrocities.

Austria to dissolve 'Nazi songbook' fraternity
Udo Landbauer. Photo: AFP

The lyrics in the book produced in 1997 by the Germania zu Wiener Neustadt organisation included “Step on the gas, old Germanics, we can make it to seven million”, according to media reports.

Six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust during World War II, many of them in gas chambers. Other songs in the book praised the Waffen SS and Nazi paratroopers behind war crimes committed in Greece.

The scandal took on a political dimension because until recently the vice-chairman of the fraternity was Udo Landbauer, a candidate for the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) in local elections in Lower Austria state last Sunday.

It also put Chancellor Sebastian Kurz under pressure since he had formed a coalition at the federal level in December with the anti-immigration, Islamophobic FPÖ, giving the party the interior, foreign and defence ministries.

Many members of the FPÖ, a party created by former Nazis in the 1950s, are members of student fraternities, some of which are pan-German and engage in duels with swords and torch-lit processions.

The FPÖ says the fraternities as harmless, with its leader Heinz-Christian Strache saying on Friday that “anti-Semitism, totalitarianism (and) racism are the opposite of fraternity thinking”.

The affair has also caused embarrassment for the centre-left Social Democrats (SPÖ) after it emerged that a member of the party – one of four people under investigation by prosecutors – had illustrated the song book.

The party expelled him on Tuesday. The FPÖ has not ejected Landbauer, however. The 31-year-old has said he was 11 years old when the book was printed and only found out about it last week.

AUSTRIAN CITIZENSHIP

Austria improves nationality law for descendants of Nazi victims

An amendment had to be passed to remedy "unacceptable differences in treatment" of the descendants of Holocaust victims.

Austria improves nationality law for descendants of Nazi victims

The Austrian parliament has amended the 2019 Citizenship Act to correct “inequalities” faced by descendants of Nazi victims who fled the country under Hitler’s Third Reich.

The legislation came into effect last September allowing descendants of up to three generations of victims of Nazi persecution to reclaim an Austrian passport in a simplified process.

However, the amendment passed unanimously Thursday night had to be brought in to remedy “unacceptable differences in the treatment” of the descendants under the 2019 act, member of parliament Sabine Schatz said in a statement.

“When the act came into force, inequalities were noted that have been corrected,” she added.

Political expert Barbara Serloth, who was involved in the amendment project, told AFP that descendants of people “killed by the Nazis”, for example in Mauthausen concentration camp, were not eligible.

Nor were descendants of those who committed suicide or had citizenship of a country other than the nations of the former Austro-Hungarian empire.

MP Martin Engelberg cited cases of people who could not meet the requirements because their grandmothers had lost their Austrian nationality when they married and moved to a different country.

READ ALSO: How descendants of victims of Nazism can apply for Austrian citizenship

The women may have lost their nationality “deliberately”, he said, but that was “to escape persecution”.

The amendment also takes into account descendants of survivors who decided not to return to Austria after Hitler took power in 1933, for fear of persecution.

The 2019 act saw 16,200 people take Austrian nationality in 2021, an 80 percent increase in the numbers compared to the previous year — and half of them were descendants of victims of the Nazis.

Some 16 percent of the naturalisations were Israelis, 10 percent Americans, and seven percent British.

Until 2019, only Holocaust survivors themselves could obtain Austrian nationality.

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