Secretive Fraternities Are Feeding Anti-Semitism in Austria – The Atlantic

Good long but disturbing read:
Like many Austrian fraternities, Germania zu Wiener Neustadt sometimes uses a songbook at its get-togethers. It looks ordinary enough, with its red cover, gold crest, and curling script. The cover is studded with metal nails called “Biernagel” that keep the book slightly elevated so it doesn’t get wet when lying in beer.Unlike most other songbooks, however, it contains lyrics about killing Jews. “Step on the gas,” one line reads. “We’ll manage the seventh million.”

When the Vienna-based newspaper Falter (for which I am a frequent contributor) wrote about the book in January, it promptly derailed the political career of one of the fraternity’s most notable members: Udo Landbauer, who was running as a candidate for Austria’s right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) in state elections on January 28. One day before the vote, the Austrian president suggested he step down. On February 1, Landbauer resigned from all political positions. He had been a city councillor in Wiener Neustadt and the head of the FPÖ’s district office in that city.

Landbauer, 31, who was also the deputy chairman of the fraternity for a couple of years, claimed he hadn’t known about such lines: “Not being a gifted singer, I didn’t go through all the pages,” he said in a television interview. The songbook outraged the nation anyway. The prime minister of Lower Austria, Johanna Mikl-Leitner of the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP), said she wouldn’t work with Landbauer. Bad international press followed, causing embarrassment the FPÖ could ill afford. In the six weeks since it had become the junior partner in a coalition government with the ÖVP at the federal level, it had struggled to appear respectable. The party had gotten negative press just two weeks earlier, when its minister of the interior proposed “concentrating refugees into camps.” The Jewish community of Vienna, where the majority of the country’s 12,000 to 15,000 Jews live, has been boycotting the FPÖ; it refused to participate in the government’s official Holocaust memorial ceremony last month.Heinz-Christian Strache, Austria’s vice chancellor and head of the FPÖ, announced that he would install a committee of historians to examine the party’s ties to anti-Semitic groups. The party revealed last week that former FPÖ parliamentarian Wilhelm Brauneder will head the commission. Brauneder, who during his tenure as the dean of Vienna University’s law faculty in the late 1980s permitted an event organized by a German right-wing extremist, gets to choose the members of the commission, which is set to issue its first report this October. Whether or not the historians will also study the fraternities’ history depends on whether the fraternities, which are private organizations, voluntarily grant them access to their archives.

Then, this week, the FPÖ suffered another blow. Falter published a new story, this one reporting that the Viennese fraternity Bruna Sudetia also used a songbook containing the same anti-Semitic song. Its head, Herwig Götschober, works on social media for the cabinet of Norbert Hofer, the FPÖ’s minister of infrastructure, and is a district councillor for the FPÖ in Vienna. Götschober reacted by saying that he rejects these lyrics, and added that he had never seen this songbook before. The fraternity is now under investigation, as the circulation of Nazi content is prohibited by Austrian constitutional law; Götschober went on leave from his post.On its homepage, Götschober’s fraternity has a section about its history: World War II is only mentioned when the bombing of its Vienna headquarters in 1944 is described. This silence about the Nazi era has been typical of Austria for much of the 20th century, when the nation saw itself as the first victim of Hitler’s expansionist politics. In 1986, the Nazi past of former UN general secretary and presidential candidate Kurt Waldheim resulted in international pressure. Consequently, then-chancellor Franz Vranitzky acknowledged Austria’s complicity in the war and Nazi crimes in 1993. It took until 2012 for the government to recognize May 8, the anniversary of the capitulation of the Wehrmacht in 1945, as the Day of Liberation. German-nationalistic fraternities still commemorate the dead soldiers on that date. Arguably, scandals like those involving anti-Semitic songbooks keep bubbling up because Austria has yet to grapple with its WWII past as thoroughly as has, say, Germany.

The far right in Austria has a long and vocal history of anti-Semitism, but recently it has been trying to shed that image, instead prioritizing anti-Muslim rhetoric. As part of this shift, members of the far right at times claim they want to protect Jews against Muslims. But their relationship with the fraternity system proves they haven’t shed their anti-Semitism either.The chances are extremely slim that a reassessment of the sort Strache announced would eliminate anti-Semitism in the FPÖ. In order for the party to rid itself of anti-Semitism, it needs to cut its ties to the fraternities—a structural problem that is nearly impossible to tackle.

Austria has many high school and university student associations. What makes these fraternities (“Burschenschaften”) unique is that they’re infused with German nationalism. They originated in German university towns in the first half of the 19th century and stood for a united German nation. During the Nazi era, the fraternities were merged with the Nazi students’ associations. They reemerged after the war. Today, not all members of these fraternities are far-right extremists, anti-Semites, or neo-Nazis; some are right-wing conservatives who adhere to old traditions, like a mask-free fencing ritual that often leaves members with scarred faces.

Members swear to secrecy about what happens during their gatherings—which is why the songbooks shocked many. It also means that people don’t know how much other Nazi material is being circulated. In his most recent book, the journalist Hans-Henning Scharsach lists several fraternities that still include former Nazis, such as Rome’s Gestapo chief Herbert Kappler, among their honorary members. Another group organized a carnival party in 2008, photos of which appear to show guests dressed up as Ku Klux Klan members and Orthodox Jews.

In total, there are no more than 5,000 members of such fraternities nationwide, yet these members are important because they’re overrepresented in the ranks of the FPÖ. Strache himself is a member of the fraternity Vandalia. (He is also known to have had frequent contact with neo-Nazi groups in his youth, which he described as a “youthful folly” but never said was a mistake.) Among the party’s MPs alone, roughly one-third are members of various fraternities. The fraternities are an important source of highly educated and loyal personnel.

Which makes Strache’s announcement somewhat hard to believe: “Fraternities have nothing to do with the FPÖ,” he said the day after the Germania zu Wiener Neustadt songbook was made public.“That was a real slap in the face for the fraternities,” said Nina Horaczek, a journalist with Falter who broke both stories, adding that Strache’s attempt to distance himself from them isn’t a good long-term strategy for him. After all, his brothers backed him when he became the head of the party in 2005. “If fraternities need to leave the party, Strache would be the first to go.”

Although the fraternities are by no means the only source of anti-Semitism in the FPÖ, they are considered a gateway into the party. Severing these ties isn’t just difficult, it’s undesirable for the party—which means that the FPÖ will continue to at least indirectly foster a safe space for anti-Semitic thought.

“As long as Strache doesn’t say, I was a neo-Nazi in my youth and I apologize for it, any sort of historical examination is worth very little,” said Doron Rabinovici, an author and historian of Austrian Jewry.

Martin Engelberg, a Jewish MP for the conservative ÖVP, is more optimistic. In a TV debate on the Austrian channel Puls4, he said, “This process won’t happen in just one day,” referring to the plans of his coalition partner, the FPÖ. At a recent MP swearing-in ceremony, the FPÖ’s MPs didn’t show up wearing cornflower pins—the symbol Nazi party members used in Austria before 1938—as they had in previous years. Instead, they wore edelweiss flowers, a rather neutral symbol of Austria. Strache had also given a speech at the fraternities’ annual ball a few days earlier, saying that they had to stand against racism and anti-Semitism. “Those are [positive] signs,” Engelberg said.

The FPÖ has also been trying to present itself in recent years not as anti-Semitic, but as decidedly supportive of Jews—a stance that seems politically opportunist. One way they attempt this is by showing support for the Jewish state: Strache and other party officials have been visiting Israel and meeting with far-right membersof the ruling Likud party (official Israeli policy, however, is to boycott the FPÖ). In December, Strache said it would be his wish to move the Austrian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He has also said Israel has the right to build West Bank settlements.Several scholars, a few of whom were featured in a recent Haaretz article, have made the case that some European far-right parties have adopted similar stances:

Cas Mudde, a political science professor at the University of Georgia … highlighted the stance of many radical rightists on the Jews. Jews, says Mudde, are seen to embody a modernity to be defended. Europe’s large Roma minority, on the other hand, are seen as barbarians living on the fringes of modernity, while Muslims are seen as barbarians living inside modernity—the enemy already inside the gates, according to the far right.

As a result, the philo-Semitic turn of many far-right parties, in the words of sociologist Rogers Brubaker, comes directly from these parties’ preoccupations with Islam. Writing earlier this year, Brubaker argues that the far right has come to redefine Jews as fellow Europeans and exemplary victims of the threat from Islam.

Another far-right European party that has tried this strategy is France’s National Front. Founded in 1972 by Jean-Marie Le Pen, who made statements offensive to both Jews and Muslims, the party was taken over in 2011 by his daughter Marine Le Pen. She expelled her father from the party and gave it a facelift, publicly embracing Jews while continuing to speak negatively about Muslims. In 2014, she told French Jews, “Not only is the National Front not your enemy, but it is without a doubt the best shield to protect you. It stands at your side for the defense of our freedoms of thought and of religion against the only real enemy, Islamist fundamentalism.”

As the historian Ethan B. Katz has written, “The extreme right in France has repeatedly invoked Muslims and Jews in the same breath, at once highlighting both groups as different from the rest of the population and seeking to rally them against one another.”

These kinds of tactics may have influenced the FPÖ. “It’s possible that Marine Le Pen played a role in the FPÖ’s move away from anti-Semitism,” said Danny Leder, an Austrian journalist who has been based in France for decades and has covered the right-wing parties of the two countries extensively. “On a European level, the FPÖ was always the National Front’s junior partner.”Leder emphasized that “the threat [against Jews] is real.” In recent years, France has experienced several deadly Islamist terrorist attacks directed at Jews. The Austrian watchdog NGO Forum gegen Antisemitismus reports a steady increase in anti-Semitic incidents over the past few years, and in its 2015 report the increase in Islamist anti-Semitism was significant.

Both the National Front and the FPÖ have used these incidents to foment further hatred. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest anti-Muslim sentiment has become more widespread. Le Pen, in 2010, compared Muslim prayers in the streets to the Nazi occupation. And in Austria, “Daham statt Islam” (“Home instead of Islam”) was Strache’s campaign slogan in 2006. Last November, Landbauer called Johanna Mikl-Leitner, his rival in the state elections, “Moslem-Mama Mikl,” and claimed that she was “pushing Islamization in kindergartens” because a syllabus for kindergartens required that children be introduced to holidays from various religions.

Oskar Deutsch, the president of Vienna’s Jewish community, does see Islamist anti-Semitism as a significant threat, but he doesn’t believe the far-right is a true ally in combatting it. “Muslims, Roma and Sinti, and Jews—as minorities, we’re all sitting on the same branch,” he said. “If you’re sawing off one of our seats, we’re all falling.” But some Jewish leaders, like Engelberg in Austria, or the French Jews who voted for Le Pen, have seemed willing to give far-right parties a chance, perhaps encouraged by public displays of philo-Semitism.

Meanwhile, anti-Muslim sentiment helps to keep the far-right base happy. This base, however, has not abandoned its anti-Semitic strain, and party leaders still at times project anti-Semitic signals. Strache’s 2010 visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, where he wore his fraternity hat when head-covering was required, perhaps illustrates this best.

Still, the FPÖ keeps framing scandals such as the songbooks as isolated cases, in its attempt to convince people that Jews are no longer the enemy of the party. Fraternities are clearly enmeshed with the FPÖ, which means that—despite all public claims to the contrary—the party will likely keep its ties to anti-Semitism intact.

Source: Secretive Fraternities Are Feeding Anti-Semitism in Austria


i24NEWS – Austria pledges to grant citizenship to Holocaust victim descendants

Will be interesting to see whether there is much take up by descendants:

The newly minted Austrian government will grant citizenship to the descendants of Holocaust victims, Haaretz reported Tuesday.The decision comes in the wake of a diplomatic spat between Israel and Vienna as Austria’s new coalition between the conservatives and the far-right Freedom Party was sworn in on Monday, rekindling an alliance from the early 2000s which prompted unease around Europe.

The Freedom Party, led by Heinz-Christian Strache, has a past stained by frequent anti-Semitic incidents and instances of Nazi propaganda, which is why a harsh Israeli response was widely expected

According to a statement released by the Israeli government, “Israel will continue to work with civil servants of the Ministries headed by members of the Freedom Party”, but will also “continue to struggle against Anti-semitism” and “for the commemoration of the Holocaust.”

Some Israeli media have interpreted the statement as a “boycott” of the Freedom Party Ministers at the political level, since it says that “working relations” will continue with “civil servants”.

Others have emphasized that working relations will go on, reading the statement as a weak reaction. The reaction is certainly milder than in 2000, when the Freedom Party first joined a coalition government and Israeli authorities withdrew the Ambassador from Vienna.

Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache has traveled to Israel a number of times, and developed ties with representatives of the Israeli right. In one of his last trips, however, late Israeli President Shimon Peres had refused to meet him.

via i24NEWS – Austria pledges to grant citizenship to Holocaust victim descendants

Austria accepted its Holocaust guilt. So why is its far right on the rise? | Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Good long read:

When it comes to the Holocaust, Austria has made a lot of progress assuming responsibility.

In recent years, Austrian officials have consistently acknowledged their country’s support of Adolf Hitler, an Austria native, and his war of annihilation against Jews. In the early 2000s, the government dropped the claim that the country was mostly a victim of German Nazism, citing “the special responsibility imposed on Austria by its recent history.” Instead, teaching about the Holocaust has become mandatory, with visits to former death camps and teacher training in Israel.

The government has paid nearly $1 billion since 2005 in compensation to Holocaust victims, and since 2012, Holocaust memorial projects have popped up at an unprecedented rate. They include the opening of a learning center at the Mauthausen former death camp, a monument for Vienna’s deported Jews and an international exposition, commissioned by the national railway firm, on its own role in murdering some 65,000 Austrian Jews.

Yet in spite of this increased sensitivity, nationalism still has a firm grip on Austrian society: The far-right Freedom Party, which was founded in 1956 by a former Nazi SS officer, is on the rise. In last month’s national elections, the party garnered 26 percent of the vote with a platform that included denouncing “forced multiculturalism, globalization and mass immigration.

As a natural ally of the center-right People’s Party, which won the most votes, the Freedom Party is poised to enter Austria’s government for the second time — it was part of the governing coalition in 2000.

Amid the ascendancy of far-right populism across Europe, its revival in Austria is seen as particularly alarming, as it suggests a failure by society to learn from its recent history. After all, if a country that does nearly everything “right” when it comes to Holocaust education can fail to inoculate itself to the kind of hatred that makes genocide possible, what hope is there for other countries in the region, such as Hungary and Poland, which face rising nationalism amid complicated reckonings with their own Holocaust legacies?

Experts on Austria say the rise of its xenophobic far right is connected to fears over Muslim immigration, as well as a perceived need to protect the nation’s sovereignty from an increasingly interventionist European Union. But it’s also connected to the Austrian government, which deflected its guilt for decades and failed to purge Nazi supporters from positions of influence.

Unlike neighboring Germany, Austria did not have an organized, judicial denazification effort in the aftermath of World War II — in fact, no one has been convicted of Nazi war crimes in Austria in more than 35 years.

“In Germany, and quite a few of the countries that were under Nazi occupation, many people involved in Nazism were convicted or at least not permitted to be civil servants, teachers, police officers, etc.,” said Tina Walzer, a Vienna historian. “But this has never happened in Austria and we are witnessing the results of this crucial difference.”

This has entrenched populist ideas in a way that has seemed resistant to increased Holocaust awareness.

“When you look at the population as a whole, you don’t feel there has really been a change,” said Milli Segal, founder of the newly opened For the Child museum in Vienna honoring the young Holocaust refugees who fled to Britain through an arrangement known as the Kindertransport.

“Well, there’s change, but in very, very small steps,” she added after a pause. “It makes you feel voiceless.”

Many in Austria share Segal’s feeling of powerlessness over the Freedom Party’s recent successes. Its strong showing last month follows an even greater electoral feat in last year’s presidential elections in which the party’s candidate, Norbert Hofer, won 49.7 percent in the first round of voting. Hofer lost in the second round to the left-leaning candidate Alexander Van der Bellen, 53 percent to 46 percent.

The close election indicates that far-right populism is a “ticking political bomb,” warned Barbara Wesel, a senior Europe correspondent for Germany’s Deutsche Welle broadcaster.

The Freedom Party, for its part, rejects claims that it plays on Nazi and other racist sympathies. Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache has vowed to kick out members caught engaging in racist rhetoric, and has indeed done so to a former lawmaker who supported online the assertion that “Zionist money-Jews worldwide are the problem.”

The Jewish Community in Vienna considers the Freedom Party a racist entity, according to Oskar Deutsch, the community leader, who has called on Chancellor-elect Sebastian Kurz to prevent the Freedom Party from reaching power.

“It’s a facade,” Deutsch told JTA of Strache’s statements against anti-Semitism and racism. “Despite this talk, they position themselves as the go-to address for people with Nazi sympathies.”

A case in point: On Nov. 9, when the outgoing chancellor, Christian Kern, spoke in parliament to commemorate the 79th anniversary of Kristallnacht — a series of pogroms that the Nazis carried out in Germany and Austria — the Freedom Party’s lawmakers were the only ones who demonstratively did not applaud.

“These subtle signs are how they signal and excite their supporters,” Segal said. “If the Freedom Party will be part of the government, it will become difficult to commemorate the Holocaust in the same dignified way that we have now in Austria.”

The dissonance between Austria’s Holocaust commemoration efforts and the far-right’s popularity can be unsettling.

On Oct. 19, for example, a Vienna city official inaugurated a Holocaust memorial installation outside the Herminengasse subway station, near an alley in which the Nazis imprisoned hundreds of Jews during the war. From there they were taken to be deported as non-Jewish locals watched from their balconies. The inauguration ceremonies were held during election season; nearby hung a giant poster of a smiling Strache bearing the slogan “Fairness.”

Does the party’s recent success suggest that such commemoration projects are ultimately failing to make a difference politically?

“You might say so,” Deutsch said. “But the Jewish community will not remain silent.”

To Efraim Zuroff, a hunter of Nazis and historian for the Simon Wiesenthal Center who is based in Israel, the success of the far right in Austria reflects how Holocaust commemoration projects in urban areas hardly reach people who live in smaller towns — the Freedom Party base.

“Holocaust education, which only recently really began developing in Austria, happens there in pockets — in the big cities, in the artists’ scene,” he said. “It has big visibility but isn’t penetrating the way it has in Germany, where the effort was much more robust.”

Zuroff said this has a lot to do with Austria’s failure to prosecute Nazis.

“Holocaust education efforts in Austria are having limited impact because they are done in two voices,” he said. “There was a belated admission of guilt by politicians. But the judiciary, whose work sends a much stronger message in society, was a total failure.”

To some activists against racism, the Freedom Party’s rise is motivation to invest even greater efforts in Holocaust commemoration.

The far-right’s success in Austria “only strengthens our resolve,” said Brigitte Prinzgau, an artist who designed the newly inaugurated Aspang Railway Station Memorial, near where 47,035 Austrian Jews were dispatched from Vienna to death camps. “Now educators and artists will make even more monuments confronting fascism and xenophobic populism.”

via Austria accepted its Holocaust guilt. So why is its far right on the rise? | Jewish Telegraphic Agency

These are the countries you can ‘buy’ citizenship to – Business Insider

Another good overview of the various schemes, and the relative advantages for those shopping for citizenship:

Most countries offer citizenship (passports) the hard way. But 7 sell them outright, and 3 have “powerful” passports. “Citizenship Planning” is a thing.

For people who need a second citizenship and passport to dodge the long arm of their government, there is something called “citizenship planning,” similar to “financial planning.” But when it comes to just outright buying a citizenship and passport without having to languish for years as mere non-citizen resident, the Huddled Masses need not apply. And not any passport will do. In fact, there are only three for sale that are really good.

Which are the best passports to get?

There are quality standards for everything, especially if it’s costly. The most powerful passports are those that allow visa-free travel to the most countries.

There are other considerations, for example those that drive US citizens nuts when they live overseas, due to the US government’s onerous reporting requirements on them and on banks that do business with them, and due to US taxation of their worldwide income no matter where they live. Few other governments treat their citizens that way.

In terms of visa-free travel, here are the 25 countries with the most powerful passports, according to a new ranking by Henley & Partners, which is into “citizenship planning.” But among them is only – Austria – one whose citizenship can be bought (more on that in a moment):

  1. Germany: visa-free travel to 176 countries.
  2. Sweden: 175 countries
  3. Denmark, Finland, Italy, Spain, and the US: 174 countries.
  4. Austria, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, UK: 173 countries
  5. Republic of Ireland, Japan, New Zealand: 172 countries
  6. Croatia, Greece, Portugal, Switzerland: 171 countries
  7. Australia, South Korea: 170 countries
  8. Iceland: 169 countries.

And how do you get one of those passports?

In most countries, the hard way: Legally immigrate and obtain residency, and then fulfill the residency requirements to get citizenship and that second passport, which takes years. Most countries, including the US, have special programs for “investors” to obtain residency, such as a green card, essentially on the spot, but even then it takes years to obtain citizenship and a passport. If it’s possible at all, such as in Germany.

Then there’s the direct way: Buy a citizenship and the passport that comes along with it. These citizenship-by-investment programs are not for folks on a tight budget. According to Henley & Partners, only seven countries offer this convenient route, only three have powerful passports, and only one is in the top of the heap above.

Passports from EU countries are the best. If you’re from Russia or China or Iraq and become a citizen of one of the 28 EU countries, you’ll get a country-specific EU passport that allows you to live and do business anywhere in the EU. There are all sorts of offshore benefits. And travel around the world is a breeze.

But citizenship in most EU countries is not for sale. You can buy only residency, similar to programs in the US. But there are three exceptions:


Citizenship is almost impossible to get for normal foreigners already legally in Austria. But the super-rich and famous have a way. The government, through paragraph 10, section 6 of the Citizenship Act, can confer citizenship “because of the services already provided by the foreigner and the extraordinary achievements still to be expected of him in the special interest of the Republic.” This usually involves a big direct investments of unspecified magnitude plus some other “extraordinary” contribution, such as being famous or creating jobs. Few succeed. In some years, none succeed.

They’re playing hard to get. But the rewards are huge for the few that succeed, including an impeccable EU passport with visa-free travel to 173 countries.


In 2012, as the EU-part of the divided island was veering toward bankruptcy, it offered citizenship through a “fast-track” scheme to dodge the normal residency requirements. But the price tag was €10 million in direct investment. Too expensive for the average oligarch.

In 2013, Cyprus became desperate. Its offshore financial industry, the main breadwinner of the economy, had collapsed in a cesspool of corruption. The banks had taken much of the foreign money – particularly Russian money – down with them. Cyprus needed some moolah. It slashed the price of citizenship to €3 million of direct investment. Russians who’d lost at least €3 million in the collapse would also be eligible for citizenship.

Since then, the price was further slashed, to as low as €2 million. And it’s fast: about three months for citizenship and an EU passport, with visa-free travel to 159 countries. And that €3-million investment can be sold after three years. An adequate house would likely do.


The tiny EU member state with 417,000 residents spread over three islands is convenient for foreigners, with English being one of the two official languages. In 2013, during the still rough waters of the euro debt crisis, Parliament passed legislation that put Maltese citizenship up for sale at €650,000. A spouse costs another €25,000; unmarried children between 18 and 25 and dependent parents cost €50,000 each. There are no residency or investment requirements. The money goes into government funds.

This citizenship is a product to be marketed. If it sells 100 per year at €650,000 a pop, it would generate annual revenues of €65 million – or 1.75% of total 2016 revenues (€3.7 billion). Given the limits on budget deficits under EU Treaties, everything counts.

This Maltese product includes an EU passport with visa-free travel to 166 countries. Folks can stop by, jump through some bureaucratic hoops, pay, get their citizenship and passport, and settle in Germany or wherever. At the time, Simon Busuttil, leader of the opposition Nationalist Party, warned that Malta could end up being compared to shady tax havens in the Caribbean. And that’s our last stop.

Source: These are the countries you can ‘buy’ citizenship to – Business Insider

Austria’s far-right party wants to ‘ban’ Islam – The Washington Post

More warning signs in Europe:

The head of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party called on Saturday for a total ban on “fascistic Islam.”

Heinz Christian Strache told an audience in Salzburg that he wanted to see a ban of Muslim symbols, something like the Austrian law that bans Nazi symbols. And he warned that Islam posed an existential threat to Europe. “Let us put an end to this policy of Islamization,” he said. “Otherwise we Austrians, we Europeans will come to an abrupt end.”

The Freedom Party is staunchly anti-immigrant. Stache said Saturday that “we need zero and minus immigration.” The country has received 130,000 claims for asylum since the summer of 2015. Most are former residents of Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.

This attitude has made it hard for young Muslims to feel accepted. One recent study of Muslim youth in Vienna found that many do not feel recognized as Austrians, which has increased the risk of radicalization. According to the survey, “85 percent of young people who are in contact with a youth worker have an immigration background,” and “27 percent of those teenagers who are Muslim show strong sympathy for jihadism, and violent and anti-Western thinking.”

The Freedom Party’s anti-Muslim message has been well-received by a nearly a majority of Austria’s electorate. Its presidential candidate Norbert Hofer was defeated in a runoff vote last month, but gained 47 percent support.

In the Netherlands, the Freedom Party is running on a platform of closing mosques and Islamic schools, banning the Koran and Muslim migrants. It also wants to prohibit women from wearing headscarves. The next election is March 2017, and the party is expected to pick up seats to become the most represented party in the Dutch parliament.

Austria to consider total headscarf ban for public servants – The Globe and Mail

Hard to see how this will assist community relations and integration:

Austria’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration Sebastian Kurz said on Friday he wants to ban public servants, including school teachers, from wearing the Islamic headscarf.

Mr. Kurz, of the Christian Conservative People’s Party (OVP), is working on a draft law with Muna Duzdar, a junior minister from the OVP’s senior Social Democrat coalition partner who has an Arab family background and is Muslim.

If passed by Austria’s parliament, the nationwide ban would be stricter than laws in France, where only the full body veil is illegal, or Germany, where the highest court in 2015 restricted lawmakers’ scope to ban teachers from wearing the headscarf.

“Because there (schools), it’s about the effect of role models and the influence on young people. Austria is religion-friendly but also a secular state,” Mr. Kurz said, according to a spokesman.

Christian crosses, widespread in staunchly Catholic Austria, should be allowed in classrooms, Mr. Kurz said, referring to the country’s “historically grown culture.”

An adviser to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said in March companies should be allowed to prohibit staff from wearing the Islamic headscarf but only as part of a general ban on religious and political symbols.

Mr. Kurz is revamping Austria’s integration laws and would also like to include a ban on full body veils and restrictions on the distribution of the Koran by Salafist Muslims, Kurz’s spokesman said.

A spokeswoman for Austria’s most prominent Muslim group, IGGIO, noted that discrimination in the workplace on religious grounds was illegal in Austria and said: “After such a statement, trust is badly shaken.”

She said such a ban would send the wrong signal, not least because working women wearing the headscarf could help overcome deep “patriarchal prejudices.”

Ms. Duzdar, the junior minister, told Reuters a person cannot be discriminated against in the workplace on the grounds of their religion and said she wanted to wait for a final ECJ ruling on the issue before sending the law to parliament.

“I’m open to discussions about this but in reality one cannot pick individual religions. If you discuss religious dress and symbols, you have to speak about all religions. We work on a dialogue with all religious communities,” she said.

Source: Austria to consider total headscarf ban for public servants – The Globe and Mail

Austria election: Holocaust survivor’s appeal goes viral – BBC News

We neglect these warnings at our peril:

An emotional appeal from a Holocaust survivor has gone viral ahead of Austria’s presidential election.

Gertrude, 89, said Norbert Hofer’s right-wing Freedom Party “brings out the basest in people”, as she urged people to vote for his competitor.

“I have seen this once before… and it hurts and scares me”, she said, referencing anti-Semitism in the 1930s.

She was deported to the Auschwitz death camp with her family aged 16. She was the only one to survive.

Gertrude, known only by her first name, shared the video through Mr Hofer’s rival, Alexander Van der Bellen. It has been viewed almost three million times.

Austria’s presidential vote re-run is on 4 December and the polls indicate the result is too close to call. If Mr Hofer wins, he will become the EU’s first far-right head of state.

His party was founded in 1955 by a former general in the Nazi SS and it is also distinctly anti-immigration.

“That’s what bothers me the most … no respect for others, they bring out the basest of people – not the decent, but the indecent,” Gertrude said in her video.

“And it’s not the first time something like this has happened.”

She compared the rhetoric surrounding immigration to her memories of Jewish people being mocked and laughed at as they cleaned the streets of Vienna in her youth.

“That hurts. I am afraid of that,” she said.

Gertrude also said she was particularly worried by comments from the Freedom Party’s leader.

Heinz-Christian Strache in October spoke of an “uncontrolled influx of migrants alien to our culture who seep into our social welfare system”, adding that “civil war in the medium-term [is] not unlikely”.

Gertrude said she remembered a civil war from when she was seven years old and saw a dead body for the first time – something she said she could never forget.

It is not clear which war she was referring to, but Austria’s February uprising of 1934 was a four-day armed conflict which left several hundred dead.

“A shiver ran down my spine and I thought to myself: this should not even be mentioned, or even thought of,” she said.

“This is probably going to be my last election. I don’t have much time left. But the young ones still have their whole life ahead of them.

“And they have to look after themselves and for a bright future.”

Source: Austria election: Holocaust survivor’s appeal goes viral – BBC News

In Austria’s Jewish Community, Some Who Fear Muslims Are Drawn To The Far-Right : NPR

Interesting report regarding the political divisions within Austria’s small Jewish community:

KAKISSIS: Van der Bellen is the independent liberal-leaning candidate running against Norbert Hofer. Winkler, an Orthodox Jewish teacher, worries that Austria’s next president could be Hofer, someone from a party with Nazi roots.

WINKLER: Yes, they want to claim that they are OK. Yes, yes, of course. They want to disguise a little bit.KAKISSIS: She says the Freedom Party, which Austrians call the FPO, likes to blame outsiders for the country’s problems. And Muslims are just the current targets.

WINKLER: If there wouldn’t be a Youssef, it would be about Yosef. And if there wouldn’t be a Mohammed, it would about the Moshe. So if the – if wouldn’t have the Muslims to target, it would be us.

KAKISSIS: Vienna was once a mecca for Jewish intellectuals like psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. But the rise of Nazism forced many to leave. Tens of thousands of Austrian Jews who did not leave died in the Holocaust. About 15,000 Jews live in Austria today.But for some Austrian Jews, the government’s decision last year to accept 90,000 refugees, mainly from the Middle East and Afghanistan, is more of a worry than far right politicians. Michael Kaner is a Jewish web designer. And he believes Muslim immigrants are teaching their children anti-Semitic values.

MICHAEL KANER: The greedy Jew, the Jew with the big nose who’s always after the money, who’s controlling the economy and who wants to rule the world – these are anti-Semitic things we got rid of in Europe.

KAKISSIS: That’s why Kaner is supporting Hofer. The Freedom Party even has one Jewish number of Parliament, David Lasar, who has taken party members to Israel. Writer Peter Sichrovsky, a former member of the European Parliament was actually the first Jewish number of the Freedom Party. He joined in 1996, he says, because he was tired of Austria’s two mainstream parties dominating politics.

PETER SICHROVSKY: You couldn’t get a job without the support of one of the parties. You would join a sport club that was connected to one of the two parties. If you wanted a cheap apartment in Vienna, you had to become a member.

KAKISSIS: Sichrovsky left the Freedom Party in 2002 after populists took over.

SICHROVSKY: They don’t offer solutions in economics. They don’t offer solutions in education. All they do is using the anger and the frustration and pour oil into the fire, as you say.

KAKISSIS: His son Ilja Sichrovsky now organizes an annual conference that brings together Muslims and Jews from around the world. For NPR News, I’m Joanna Kakissis in Vienna.

Source: In Austria’s Jewish Community, Some Who Fear Muslims Are Drawn To The Far-Right : NPR

Austria Passes Law On Islam Banning Foreign Funding

Austria’s new law – not aimed at Turkish but likely Saudi and other funding:

The legislation also offers Austrian Muslims a mix of increased rights and obligations in practicing their faith.

But the law has generated opposition from Austrian Muslim groups who say the ban on foreign funding is unfair as support from abroad is still allowed for the Christian and Jewish faiths.

The new measures include the protection of religious holidays and training for imams.

Austria’s previous “law on Islam” dating from 1912, after the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina by the Austro-Hungarian empire, had been widely held up as a model for Europe in dealing with Islam.

Turkey’s leading Muslim cleric, Mehmet Gormez, has decried the bill as “a 100-year regression,” arguing that no complaints have ever been lodged about the fact that Ankara funds many imams in Austria.

Austria Passes Law On Islam Banning Foreign Funding.

Austria’s Muslims fear changes to historic Islam law

On foreign funding of mosques in Austria:

The draft law has also been criticised by constitutional experts, who say that some of its provisions fail to treat Muslims equally.

Professor Stefan Hammer from the University of Vienna says, while it is legitimate for the government to try and prevent misuse of donations from abroad, a blanket ban on foreign funding for the Islamic Community is constitutionally very problematic.

“Financing of religious communities is part of their internal affairs. This does not mean the state may not address any aspect of that, but it has to be proportional,” he says.

Other religious groups and churches receive external funding, notably the Russian Orthodox Church from Moscow, so differentiating between religions would clearly be excessive, he believes.

“It would be a clear breach of the principle of equal treatment.”Carla Amina Baghajati from the Islamic Community says the draft is infused with “a spirit of mistrust”, which she fears could play into the hands of the radicals.

“The radicals make use of the identity question, telling people: Look at the European societies, you wont ever be on the same level, you will always be an outsider. They wont accept you, so come and join us.

“This is very dangerous. We have to help young people to find their identity and the law is one of the important pieces in this identity building. It has helped in the past and we want it to help in the future.”

Seems like the solution could be a ban on any foreign funding for any religion to address the equal treatment issue.

BBC News – Austrias Muslims fear changes to historic Islam law.