Austrian far-right faces new Nazi songbook allegations

Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) was hit by fresh allegations of anti-Semitism on Tuesday, just weeks after a similar scandal forced the resignation of a high-ranking party candidate.

Austrian far-right faces new Nazi songbook allegations
File photo from 2012 shows Austrian fraternity members gathered at Heldenplatz in Vienna to mark the anniversary of the end of World War II. Photo: AFP

A songbook from the FPÖ-linked Bruna Sudetia student fraternity contained similar virulently anti-Semitic song lyrics to the previous case, Falter magazine reported.

The weekly said the fraternity is chaired by Herwig Götschober, describing him as a close confidante of transport minister Norbert Hofer, who came close to being elected president in 2016.

Götschober told the magazine via a transport ministry spokesman that he had no knowledge of the songbook and “categorically” rejected its contents.

Earlier this month Udo Landbauer, lead candidate for the FPÖ in elections in Lower Austria state, resigned after similar revelations about his own student fraternity. He denied all wrongdoing.

As in that case, the latest songbook to come to light includes the lyrics: “In their midst comes the Jew Ben Gurion: 'Step on the gas, old Germanics, we can make it to seven million'.”

Six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust during World War II, many of them in gas chambers at Nazi death camps. David Ben-Gurion was the first prime minister of Israel.

The latest book also contains songs by writer Hans Baumann, which were composed for Nazi youth organisations.

Other lyrics in the Bruna Sudetia book celebrate the death of Jews, allude to rules excluding Jews from joining fraternities and refer to Austria as being “separated” from Germany.

The latest revelations emerged just days after the FPÖ appointed a committee of historians to look into its own history.

However, the party said that it has no powers to compel student fraternities to participate in the inquiry as they are private organisations.

Prominent researchers have said that without looking at the influence of the fraternities, many of which have ultra-nationalist leanings and  close links to the FPÖ, the committee risks turning into a whitewashing exercise for the party's image.

The FPÖ leadership insists it rejects all forms of Nazism, anti-Semitism and racism.


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.”

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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.

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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”.