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German-nationalist fraternities in Austria: a dark tradition continues

Simone Dinah Hartmann, founder of the European coalition Stop The Bomb and its director in Austria, wrote:

While many nations will mark the international Holocaust remembrance day on January 27th, the very day Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army, a different kind of event will also take place on that very date here in Austria.

Vienna’s Hofburg Palace, official residence of the Austrian president Heinz Fischer, will host – as in previous years – the annual ball of the infamous Vienna Korporationsring, an association of German-nationalist fraternities who maintain a gateway between the extreme right, namely the Austrian Freedom Party (FPOE), and the neo-Nazis. In past years this ball has served as a networking event for Europe’s extreme right.

The history of these fraternities (“Burschenschaften”) reaches back to the 19th century, the birth years of a German nationalism that was based on a “völkische” ideology which was antisemitic as well as antiliberal at its core.

At the founding hour of these fraternities, the Wartburgfest of 1817, books by Jewish authors and the Code Napoleon were burned by Teutonic students which led a witness of those times, German poet Heinrich Heine, to write in 1821: “That was only a prelude, where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also.”

It was no surprise therefore that the German-nationalist fraternities played an important role in the rise of National Socialism. Key figures of the Austrian and German extermination machinery were members of these fraternities. Even in the present day, most of these “Burschenschaften” are proud of being “judenrein”.

Members of these fraternities are central figures in the Austrian Freedom Party today, including its leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, and the third president of the Austrian parliament, Martin Graf.

Graf is a member of the notorious “Olympia”, that not too long ago hosted a German band who wrote the following lyrics: “The fun starts with six million Jews, the oven will stay on until six million Jews (…) We have enough Zyklon B (…) At six million Jews it’s far from closing.”

David Irving, a well-known British Holocaust denier, was arrested right before his scheduled lecture at that very fraternity.

As for Freedom party leader Strache, it is to the everlasting shame of some Israeli rightists that they hosted him and other far-right European politicians on a visit to Israel in 2010.

(Hat tip: Karl Pfeifer)