The hate that forced my grand­fa­ther to flee Vi­enna is alive and well in Aus­tria to­day

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - SI­MONE DI­NAH HART­MANN

MY GRAND­FA­THER’S par­ents were taken from their home in Vi­enna by the Gestapo and sent to the Lublin Ghetto. My grand­fa­ther — then a 14-year-old boy — sailed to the shores of the fu­ture Jewish state to take shel­ter.

There, he was spared the hor­rors of the fol­low­ing years that re­sulted in six mil­lion dead Jews, mur­dered by those who made no se­cret of their in­ten­tions.

My grand­fa­ther’s par­ents did not think it could ever hap­pen, and were sent to the gas cham­bers.

Since then, many of us were brought up with the mantra “Never again”.

Aus­tria is a coun­try that du­ti­fully memo­ri­alises the Holo­caust — de­spite the fact that its ide­o­log­i­cal and prac­ti­cal in­volve­ment in the “Fi­nal So­lu­tion” is still talked of by some of its cit­i­zens and po­lit­i­cal lead­ers as if the coun­try was “the first vic­tim” of Na­tional So­cial­ist im­per­al­ism.

When­ever there is a ma­jor Shoah an­niver­sary, con­fer­ences are held, me­mo­ri­als or­gan­ised and TV doc­u­men­taries broad­cast. Talk­ing about dead Jews has be­come busi­ness as usual — if not an ob­ses­sion — in the suc­ces­sor states of the Na­tional So­cial­ist em­pire.

And yet Aus­tria har­bours one of Europe’s most suc­cess­ful far-right po­lit­i­cal group­ings: the Free­dom Party. The party dou­bled its votes to fin­ish a strong sec­ond in a re­gional elec­tion late last month. It has also scored more than 30 per cent in re­cent na­tional opin­ion polls, over­tak­ing the So­cial Democrats and Con­ser­va­tives. There is also con­cern that the anti-im­mi­grant party could win the up­com­ing Vi­enna may­oral elec­tion, hav­ing gained poular­ity in the wake of the refugee cri­sis.

Shock­ingly, the Free­dom Party con­tin­ues to spon­sor the an­nual ball of the in­fa­mous Vi­enna Kor­po­ra­tionsring, an as­so­ci­a­tion of Ger­man-na­tion­al­ist fra­ter­ni­ties that main­tain a gate­way be­tween the ex­treme po­lit­i­cal right and neo-Nazis.

In 2012, the ball took place on Jan­uary 27, the very day Auschwitz was lib­er­ated by the Red Army.

These fra­ter­ni­ties (“Burschen­schaften”) can be traced back to the 19th cen­tury, the birth years of a Ger­man na­tion­al­ism that was based on the an­tisemitic and anti-lib­eral “völkische” ide­ol­ogy. At the found­ing of these fra­ter­ni­ties, the Wart­burgfest of 1817, books by Jewish au­thors and the Code Napoleon were burned by Teu­tonic stu­dents. A wit­ness, Ger­man poet Hein­rich Heine, wrote in 1821: “That was only a pre­lude, where they burn books, they will ul­ti­mately burn peo­ple also.”

It was no sur­prise, there­fore, that the Ger­man­na­tion­al­ist fra­ter­ni­ties played an im­por­tant role in the rise of Na­tional So­cial­ism. Key fig­ures of the Aus­trian and Ger­man ex­ter­mi­na­tion ma­chin­ery were mem­bers of these fra­ter­ni­ties. Even in the present day, most of these Burschen­schaften are proud of be­ing “Ju­den­rein”.

Cen­tral fig­ures in the Aus­trian Free­dom Party, in­clud­ing its leader, Heinz-Chris­tian Stra­che, have con­nec­tions to these fra­ter­ni­ties. The same goes for the for­mer pres­i­dent of the Aus­trian par­lia­ment, Martin Graf.

Graf is linked to the no­to­ri­ous “Olympia” fra­ter­nity, which had been sched­uled to host a lec­ture by well­known Holo­caust de­nier David Irv­ing be­fore he was ar­rested.

Now, what would my grand­fa­ther think about a coun­try where fig­ures like these dance a waltz close to the Helden­platz, where hun­dreds of thou­sands of Aus­tri­ans wel­comed their “Führer” in 1938?

What would he think about a gov­ern­ment that does not put a stop to this? Si­mone Di­nah Hart­mann is founder of the Euro­pean coali­tion Stop The Bomb and has writ­ten ex­ten­sively on mat­ters re­lated to Aus­tria’s far right. A ver­sion of this piece orig­i­nally ap­peared on www. thecom­men­ta­tor. com

A far-right anti-Is­lam pro­tester at a demo in Aus­tria ear­lier this year

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