Dispute Triggered over a Memorial Tablet and Street Honoring Nazis

A memorial tablet and a street name honoring Austrian Nazis has drawn the ire of the Yugoslavian government and triggered a dispute in the city of Linz. The two altercations are unrelated but, according to one Vienna newspaper, they show a lack of sensitivity in dealing with the past.

The memorial tablet, at the Austrian Military Academy in Wiener Neustadt, honors Maj. Gen. Alexander Loehr, recognized as the founder of the Austrian Air Force in 1935. In 1941 he gave orders to bomb Belgrade, resulting in the deaths of thousands of civilians. He was executed as a war criminal in Yugoslavia in 1947.

Defense Minister Friedhelm Frischenschlager has refused orders to have the tablet removed. He claims it honors Loehr as the father of the Austrian Air Force, not his wartime activities, and was, in any event, donated by a private organization.

The official Yugoslavian news agency, Tanjug, protested Sunday that the tablet undeservedly honors the fascist “Soldatesca” which laid waste to Europe and is an affront to good neighborly relations between Austria and Yugoslavia.

Frischenschlager, whose rightwing party is a member of the Socialist-led coalition governing Austria, created a furor and a government crisis last year when he personally met and shook hands with Austrian Nazi Walter Reder who returned to his homeland after more than 30 years in prison in Italy for war crimes. In Linz, a coalition of Catholics, Socialists and Communists are demanding that a street named for a former Nazi mayor be renamed in honor of a local Nazi victim. The rightwing Freedom Party is opposed.

Documents which came to light recently show that Franz Langoth, Mayor of Linz during the Nazi regime, was also an associate judge of the infamous Volksgerichtshof, the Peoples Court, and in that role, shared responsibility for the execution of more than 10 persons.

The citizen groups want the street named for him changed to Franz Jaegerstaetter Strasse, to honor a Catholic farmer who, as a conscientious objector, refused to serve in the Wehrmacht and was sentenced to death by the Peoples Court.

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