By: Vickie J. Rubinson
Far-right Austrian politicians were widely criticized Monday for comparing protests against a fancy ball that attracts extremists to the Nazis' persecution of Jews. Vienna's Jewish community demanded an investigation into the remarks but the Freedom Party insisted no harm was meant.
The comments by Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache and an associate were first reported Sunday on the website of the daily Der Standard, but they drew little attention until Monday. The furor extended the controversy over Friday's far-right ball which attracted guests from the new-Nazi fringe and was held this year the same day the world pays tribute to victims of the Holocaust.
Police recorded only isolated incidents Friday from demonstrators outside the Viennese palace where the ball was being held. But Strache was quoted as saying the violence "was like Kristallnacht," referring to the 1938 anti-Semitic riots across Germany and parts of Austria that left streets strewn with broken glass from the windows of Jewish-owned property and synagogues. Kristallnacht was an ominous sign of the Holocaust to follow.
"We are the new Jews," Strache declared to other ball guests, according to Austrian media.
Strache associate Klaus Nittmann, meanwhile, was quoted as saying, "whoever works for this ball immediately gets a Jewish star pinned on him"--a reference to the yellow stars Jews were forced to wear under Nazi rule.
Austria's Jewish community demanded that the state prosecutor investigate the comments and urged Strache to give up his parliamentary immunity from legal action.