An octogenarian Holocaust survivor made an emotional video plea urging fellow citizens to vote against Norbert Hofer, a far-right candidate in Austria’s presidential election who stands a good chance of winning power this December.
“When they made the Jews clean the streets, the people of Vienna stood there, men and women, and said ‘Look at that.’ That was funny. And again they try to bring that out in people. And that hurts. And I am afraid of that,” Gertrude, identified only by her first name, said on the tape, viewed more than three million times and promoted via the Facebook page of Hofer’s rival, the Green Party candidate Alexander Van der Bellen.
As a teenager, Gertrude told the camera, she was deported to Auschwitz after the Nazis occupied her native Austria, leaving the camp as the only survivor in her family.
Hofer, the nominee of the Freedom Party, a successor political faction to Austria’s Nazi Party, has denounced the flow of refugees from the Middle East into Europe, raising fears about increased crime and demographic change. The leader of the Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strauche, has also cautioned that a “civil war” in Austria is likely, due to “uncontrolled influx of migrants alien to our culture who seep into our social welfare system.”
Back in May, Van der Bellen won a narrow victory against Hofer, in a run-off contest after the first round of voting the month before. But prior to his inauguration as president, the top court ordered the election be done over due to irregularities in the balloting process.
Gertrude said that she thinks this will be her “last election,” but she told the viewers that it was not about her, but the rising generation.
“This is probably my last election… But young people have their whole lives in front of them and they need to make sure that they’re doing well,” she said.
Daniel J. Solomon is the Assistant to the Editor/News Writer at the Forward. Originally from Queens, he attended Harvard as an undergraduate, where he wrote his senior thesis on French-Jewish intellectual history. He is excited to have returned to New York after his time in Massachusetts. Daniel’s passions include folk music, cycling, and pointed argument.