Austrian far-right figure resigns over ‘Nazi songbook’ scandal

An Austrian far-right figure at the centre of a scandal over a songbook praising the Holocaust has stepped down, blaming a "media witch-hunt".

Austrian far-right figure resigns over 'Nazi songbook' scandal
Udo Landbauer. Photo: AFP Photo/Dieter Nagl

Udo Landbauer, lead candidate for the Freedom Party (FPÖ) in elections in Lower Austrian state last Sunday, said he was giving up all political functions including as a local deputy.

Landbauer, 31, who was also head of the FPÖ's youth wing the RFJ, said he had been trying for days to refute all accusations against him.

But with his local party branch “under siege”, Landbauer he said he was giving in to a “media witch-hunt” in order to “take my family out of the firing line”.

He also suspended his membership of the FPÖ, which since December has been part of Austria's ruling coalition, and said he was going on holiday, the Austria Press Agency reported.

Last week the Falter weekly reported theat Landbauer's student fraternity had produced a song book in 1997 that included lyrics such as “Step on the gas… we can make it to seven million”.

Six million Jews were killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust during World War Two, many of them in gas chambers at industrial-scale extermination camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Several leading members of the FPÖ – a party created by former Nazis in the 1950s – belong to student fraternities, some of which believe in a “Greater Germany” to include Austria.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, under pressure over the furore, said on Wednesday that his government would initiate proceedings to dissolve the fraternity Germania zu Wiener Neustadt.

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

Landbauer, who was 11 years old when the book was printed, has said that he was unaware of the offending text until last week. He suspended his membership after the Falter report.

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

Harald Vilimsky, FPÖ general secretary, said that the “irreproachable and upstanding” Landbauer was the “innocent” victim of a “political and media frenzy”.


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.