Austria’s far-right Freedom Party and its leader Heinz-Christian Strache were roundly denounced today after Strache reportedly said he and his organization were “the new Jews,” likening anti-fascist protests to Nazi persecutions, The Associated Press reported.
Strache made the remarks during a gathering of far-right students at a ball on Friday night in Vienna and was overheard by a reporter for Der Standard, according to Reuters. The ball had drawn crowds of protesters and Strache said this amounted to persecution.
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The ball fell on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which marks the 67th anniversary of the liberation of the death camp at Auschwitz.
The largest Jewish organization in Austria, the home country of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, who oversaw the Nazi extermination of European Jewry and others during World War II, called Strache’s remarks a “monstrous provocation” and demanded that prosecutors investigate them even though Strache enjoys parliamentary immunity.
Strache, leader of the largest opposition party, hopes to Austria’s next chancellor.
According to the AP, Der Standard said Strache compared the anti-fascist protests outside the ball to the widespread anti-Semitic violence of 1938 known as Kristallnacht and the Austrian newspaper also quoted Klaus Nittmann, a Strache associate, as saying, “whoever works for this ball immediately gets a Jew star pinned on him" — a reference to the yellow stars that German authorities required Jews to wear during World War II.
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Reuters reported that Freedom Party Secretary-General Harald Vlimsky said the Der Standard article had been biased and exaggerated.
"A Standard journalist eavesdropped on this private conversation like a Stasi spy and portrayed the comment in a completely exaggerated and skewed way in his report," Vlimsky was quoted as saying in a statement.
Green Party and governing coalition members were also quick to denounce Strache and the Freedom Party.
Karl Oelligner, a Green, said that Strache’s comments meant the speaker “has either lost his marbles or is trying to trivialize the horrors of Nazi rule,” according the the AP. Reuters quoted Vienna’s Deputy Mayor Maria Vassilakou, also a Green, as saying that "Freedom Party chief Strache is not acceptable for any office in this republic.”