Austria’s Jewish community was outraged on Monday, after a local politician compared the European Union (EU) to the Third Reich in Nazi Germany, Reuters reported.
Following the comments by Andreas Moelzer, co-lead candidate for Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPO), the leader of Austria’s Jewish community called on him to drop his campaign for re-election to the European Parliament.
The German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung had quoted Moelzer as calling the EU a dictatorship that made the Third Reich look “informal and liberal” by comparison.
The Third Reich “certainly did not have as many rules and regulations, commandments and bans,” Moelzer was quoted as telling a gathering in Vienna last month.
In response, Austrian Jewish leader Oskar Deutsch said on Monday that Moelzer’s refusal to distance himself from the comment showed he was apparently unable to come to grips with the fact that proponents of extreme-right thought shared responsibility for Nazi crimes.
“Such people may not represent Austria in Europe, so Moelzer should draw the consequences and withdraw his candidacy,” Deutsch said in a statement quoted by Reuters.
Moelzer did not immediately respond to an email and a message left on his mobile phone seeking comment.
In a statement, however, he dismissed suggestions that his comments sought in any way to play down Nazi crimes or the criminal nature of the Hitler regime, which he condemned.
Moelzer added that political rivals were trying to trump up allegations.
Adolf Hitler’s Germany annexed Austria in 1938 and wiped out its once-vibrant Jewish community.
Late last year, the famed Vienna Philharmonic orchestra stripped six former senior Nazi officials of honors awarded them.
The decision to was made in the wake of research by historian Oliver Rathkolb, who documented the orchestra's close cooperation with Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and other top Hitler associates after Germany's annexation of Austria.
Rathkolb and the other historians discovered as part of their research that Helmut Wobisch, the former head of the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra,was a member of Nazi Germany's elite paramilitary SS and collaborated with the secret police.
The Austrian Academy of Sciences has also acknowledged that many of its scientists were members of the Nazi party and that some of its students served in the SS.
Austrian opinion polls show the FPO, which denies accusations that it harbors anti-Semitic sentiment or that it tolerates neo-Nazi supporters, is running neck and neck with the two centrist governing parties ahead of the May EU voting, noted Reuters.