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NAZI

Austria orders diplomat home from Israel for posing in ‘Nazi’ T-shirt

Austria's foreign ministry has summoned an attaché from its embassy in Israel after he posted a picture of himself on social media wearing a T-shirt bearing the name of a Nazi tank division.

Austria orders diplomat home from Israel for posing in 'Nazi' T-shirt
Austrian foreign minister Karin Kneissl has recalled the diplomat. Photo: AFP

A screenshot of the post on Jürgen-Michael Kleppich's Facebook page shows him in the green shirt with the words “Stand your ground” and “Frundsberg”, the Falter weekly reported.

The last name of Georg von Frundsberg, who was a mercenary in the 15th century, was used by the Nazis during World War II for its 10th SS Panzer division.

The garment is sold by Phalanx Europa, an online shop that sells “patriotic” clothing for followers of the nativist Identitarian movement.

The episode is the latest embarrassment for a member of the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) since it came to power in December in a coalition with the centre-right People's Party.

Kleppich, who is also an FPÖ local councillor in a district of Vienna, had previously posted a photo of his grandfather in a Nazi uniform, complete with swastika, according to Falter.

READ ALSO: Austria's far-right interior minister provokes outrage with call to 'concentrate' migrants

Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl has ordered Kleppich “be summoned to Vienna immediately to submit to a legal probe into the accusations in the media,” her ministry said late on Tuesday.

 

The FPÖ, founded by ex-Nazis in the 1950s, has sought to clean up its image and its leader Heinz-Christian Strache says the party rejects all racism and extremism.

But in January an FPÖ candidate in a state election quit after it emerged that his student fraternity had published a song book with lyrics praising the Holocaust.

They included the words “Step on the gas, old Germanics, we can make it to seven million”. Six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

Interior Minister Herbert Kickl of the FPÖ is also under pressure over police raids on the domestic intelligence agency, which investigates extremist groups, including on the far-right.

Strache has visited Israel several times and supports moving the Austrian embassy to Jerusalem, as US President Donald Trump plans to do with the US mission.

But Israel's government has said it will not have direct contact with FPÖ ministers, a stance mirrored by Austria's Jewish community organisation the IKG.

READ ALSO: Austrian far-right party says criticism of Nazi ties is partly justified and pledges to clean up its act

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.”

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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.

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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