The Jewish community of Vienna has let it be known that they will not attend Austria’s official Holocaust commemoration ceremony if the far-right Freedom Party (the Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs in German, commonly abbreviated as the FPÖ) is also present. “If there will be ministers there for the Freedom Party, and I’m sure there will be, I will not be able to shake their hands, so the Jewish community will not attend,” said Oskar Deutsch, president of the Jewish Community in Vienna.
FPÖ’s list of offenses is damning enough on its own (FPÖ lawmakers pointedly refused to stand for last year’s Kristallnacht commemoration, for one), but of course, the original sin of the FPÖ is its founder, an S.S. officer. The party’s current leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, once said that the persecution of the far-right in Austria was comparable to that faced by Jews during the Nazi era; Die Aula, a far-right magazine with strong links to the FPÖ, recently published an article that asserted that the survivors of the Mauthausen concentration camp were a “national plague” and “criminals.” Twenty out of 51 FPÖ representatives in the National Assembly have been members of part of nationalistic fraternities (Burschenschaften) that ban Jews.
The FPÖ’s vocal support for Israel (even as Israel has refused to deal with the party) and their hardline stance on Muslim immigration is enticing for some; just as Viktor Orban and Marine Le Pen portray themselves as the protectors of the Jewish community from future Muslim violence, FPÖ’s leaders do the same. Also like Orban and Le Pen, they seem to have little intention of owning up to their party’s fundamental anti-Semitism, and Strache himself “used blatantly antisemitic caricatures only a couple of years ago,” according to former Labor Party leader Amir Peretz.
Deutsch did make the point recently that there is a legitimate need for European Jews to seek protection from the anti-Semitic attacks of recently arrived Muslim immigrants. But as he said, to entrust the enforcement of such a necessity to those whose only reason for not being Nazis is that they were born a few generations too late would a betrayal of European Jewry.
Jesse Bernstein is a former Intern at Tablet.