Austrian Group Calls for the Resignation of an Official Who Made Anti-semitic Remarks

A large poster has been put up in Vienna and all Austrian provincial capitals calling for the resignation of the vice mayor of the provincial capital of Linz for anti-Semitic remarks he made in a letter to World Jewish Congress president Edgar Bronfman earlier this year.

A group of Austrian intellectuals, artists, journalists and politicians signed the poster calling for the resignation of Carl Hoedl, following publication of a letter he sent May 12 to Bronfman defending Austrian President Kurt Waldheim shortly after the WJC head state at the organization’s Conference in Budapest that Waldheim had been “part and parcel of the Nazi killing machinery.”

In his letter, written on official stationery, Hoedl, a member of Waldheim’s conservative People’s Party, compared Jewish criticism of Waldheim to the crucifixion of Jesus. He also cited the Jewish precept of “an eye for an eye” as not being “our European concept.”

Hoedl’s letter was published in Austria in early July, prompting a storm of protest. Chancellor Franz Vranitzsky joined the protesters, and several top conservative politicians asked for Hoedl’s resignation. Nevertheless, People’s Party leaders, including Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Alois Mock and provincial party leader Governor Josef Ratzenboeck, supported Hoedl. In a resolution, the city assembly of Linz condemned anti-Semitism and Hoedl’s letter, and Hoedl himself voted in favor of the resolution.

POSTER HAS WIDE SUPPORT

The poster, signed by 742 people including two Cabinet ministers, several Vienna city government members and several members of Parliament, was put up Tuesday. Plans call for plastering the poster on several hundred billboards. The appearance of the first posters made front-page news in some Austrian newspapers and led to extended television and radio coverage.

The poster reads: “Dear Dr. Hoedl, as vice mayor of Linz, you made anti-Jewish statements. You represent a way of thinking which we deeply reject in Austria. As a contemporary witness, you ought to know the results of such an attitude. It endangers our democracy. Thus you are unacceptable as a public representative. We ask you to resign.”

The poster campaign was organized by a group of business journalists in Vienna, with the signatories paying its costs. Wolfgang Hauptmann, an economics editor, said “We could not write about things we dislike in the current political development, since our issues are business oriented. But as private citizens, we can express our views.”

SPLIT OVER THE ISSUE

The People’s Party seemed split over the issue. Marilies Flemming, Minister for Families and Ecology, who signed the poster, called for Hoedl’s resignation for the sake of Austria and the party. “We do not want to be put in a certain corner,” she said.

Ratzenboeck said that Hoedl had excused himself for the “very unlucky wording” and no new manhunt should come from this “political mistake,” alluding to the widespread criticism of Waldheim. Socialist Party secretary general Heinz Keller said Wednesday that Hoedl had not done enough by voting for the resolution condemning anti-Semitism. Many Austrians thought that the resolution had not dealt with the matter correctly.

The poster campaign was not the first non-Jewish action against anti-Semitism in Austria. Two weeks ago, a group of young people in Vienna approached worshippers leaving the main synagogue after Friday night prayer and handed them carnations and leaflets, saying they feel sorry for the occurrences and that they will fight them. They added that they hoped the Jewish community here will prosper and grow in the future.

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