Former Nazi Re-elected Chief of Right-wing Party in Austria

Friedrich Peter, former member of a Nazi Waffen SS unit that killed thousands of Jews during World War II, was re-elected today as chief of the right-wing Freedom Party for another two-year term. Peter, who had been a member of the 1st SS Infantry Brigade for 20 months, received 297 of the 402 delegate votes.

His re-election at a party convention in Villach, southern Austria, came 10 days after the Austrian Resistance Movement presented new documents showing that Nazi brigades, including Peter’s unit, killed nearly 400,000 persons, mostly Jews, in southern Russia and the Ukraine, from Sept. to Nov. 1942. The Resistance Movement, however, fell short of presenting juridical proof that the Austrian politician was personally involved in any war crimes.

“All those elements, which are trying to stir up the leadership of our party, are bound to fail.” Peter told the cheering delegates. “I am not personally guilty.” Peter, 55, has been the opposition Freedom Party’s leader for 18 years. The party holds 10 of the 183 seats in Parliament. Chancellor Bruno Kreisky caused a political stir when he defended Peter against charges by Simon Wiesenthal that Peter was a former SS member.

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