Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Breaking News

Austrian Jewish Leaders Plan to Work With Far-Right Party

JTA — Leaders of Austria’s Jewish community said they are willing to normalize ties with the far-right Freedom Party, which they have previously shunned because of some party members’ Nazi sympathies.

Oscar Deutsch, the president of the Jewish Community in Vienna, and his predecessor, Ariel Muzicant, told the nrg news site they have put together a plan of action for the Freedom Party to implement if it seeks to establish formal contact with the community, the news site Friday.

Last month, Freedom Party’s presidential candidate lost the election’s second and final round by less than a percent of the vote. In its journey from a fringe movement 15 years ago to a mainstream party, the Freedom Party, which opposes immigration from Muslim countries, has sought to downplay its racist and anti-Semitic reputation.

Jorg Haider, the party’s previous leader, praised Nazi employment policies and the Waffen-SS. The current leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, apologized in 2012 for posting on Facebook a caricature depicting an obese, hook-nosed banker wearing star-shaped cufflinks.

Freedom Party lawmakers often have attended and spoken at events commemorating Nazis, including a  gathering in memory of an Austrian-born Nazi fighter pilot, who shot down 258 planes, 255 of them Russian. And Strache himself had been accused of using a little-known Nazi salute in 2009, something he denied. He also visited Israel this year and met with officials there.

Strache said he supports Israel’s fight against radical Islam and has argued he has purged his party of anti-Semitism.

But Muzicant said the party needs to take “substantial steps to clean the anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi elements still active in its ranks,” nrg reported. If Strache “wants to get the Jewish people’s seal of approval, and that of Israel, he needs to prove that he has totally rejected those espousing such views.” The process could take years, Muzicant said. Strache, for his part, told nrg he was in principle willing to meet the requirements and would study the community’s demands.

In April, Karl Pfeifer, a veteran journalist and anti-fascist activist who formerly edited the official publication of Vienna’s Jewish community of 8,000 people, told JTA the community is bound to establish relations with the Freedom Party if it reaches positions of power.

“The Jewish community will have no choice but to cooperate,” Pfeifer said.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.