On May 10th, survivors of the concentration camp Ebensee were shot at with pellets and abused as they gathered to remember their liberation. Masked neo-Nazi thugs screamed ‘Heil Hitler!’ and ‘This way to the gas!’ at ten elderly Italian men and women who returned to the site of the concentration camp in Austria…
by Karl Pfeifer, Z Word blog, 18/05/2009
The gang also fired air guns at a group of 15 French survivors, many dressed in the striped pajama-style uniforms they wore as inmates. One suffered a head wound ,while another was injured in the neck. Some of the young neo-Nazi perpetrators are now in custody and wait for their trial.
The immediate reaction in Austria was to downplay the incident as a mere “provocation.” Some of the leaders of the extreme right FPÖ are already worried that the youngsters could be punished “disproportionately”. And this was just one of the incidents which became known this month. A group pf pupils from a Viennese grammar school who were on a trip to Auschwitz had to be sent back because of their antisemitic remarks – what is worse, the teachers leading the group remained silent.
Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger expressed his shock over the incident during the commemorations in Ebensee. “Such provocations are unbearable and must not be tolerated. I unreservedly condemn this.”
The Foreign Minister, who was at the time in New York, was of course worried about the “damage [to] Austria’s international reputation” that “cast a shadow on Austria as a tourist destination.”
The reactions to such aggressive antisemitic incitement are usually very low key in Austria. However, the conservative Vienna daily “Die Presse”, which belongs to a company owned by the Catholic Church, is not sharing this general attitude. The paper published on Sunday May 17 an interview with Dr. Ariel Muzicant, President of the Jewish community in Austria.
According to Muzicant, in Austria right wing extremism is advancing and the leadership of Austrian Freedom party (FPÖ) is “systematically” preparing the ground for it.
“Even under Jörg Haider there was not such a gathering of extreme right wing functionaries as today under Heinz-Christian Strache, Graf and Mölzer. They encourage the right wing extremism in their own ranks and want to make it systematically socially acceptable.”
In his interview Muzicant deplored the election of Martin Graf as third president of Austrian parliament: “That the whole [conservative) ÖVP and parts of the (social-democratic) SPÖ voted for Mr. Graf was one of those breaches in a dyke, for which we now get the bill.” Muzicant believes that without this election the incident would not have happened in Ebensee. “In Austria there is no danger of left wing extremism, I see the danger from right”. Muzicant is in agreement with Michael Häupl, the social-democratic mayor of Vienna, who compared the methods of the FPÖ with the methods used by the Nazis. “When I hear Mr.[Herbert] Kickl (secretary general of FPÖ) this reminds me of the instigation and the language of Joseph Goebbels.”
Today, the left-liberal Vienna Der Standard daily published an interview with Werner Faymann, social-democratic chancellor of Austria, who described HC Strache, leader of the FPÖ, as a “hate-preacher”. His angry reaction came in wake of a whole page ad of HC Strache and Andreas Mölzer in the Vienna daily “Neue Kronenzeitung” opposing Turkish and Israeli membership of the European Union.
Faymann said: “To name Israel is absolutely absurd. Israel is not even a membership candidate. There is not even a procedure for joining. The only reason to name Israel is to satisfy antisemitic prejudices. That is a shame. […] I deplore this instigation sharply.”
Better late than never.