VIENNA (Jan. 8)
Police here have arrested Austrian neo-Nazi leader Gottfried Kussel following blatantly racist and anti-Semitic comments he made in several international television broadcasts, including appearances on the ABC-TV programs “Nightline” and “Prime Time Live.”
Police moved in on Kussel, 33, and a German colleague, Klaus Kopanski, after the Austrian minister of justice, Nikolaus Michalek, received a strong letter of protest from Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.
Foxman also included a videotape copy and transcript of the Dec. 17 “Nightline” broadcast, during which Kussel’s racist views were presented along with comments by French Nazi-hunter Beate Klarsfeld.
In the interview, Kussel, who is forbidden from entering Germany, spoke of Germany and Austria as one. “I know that I am here in Germany as well as I am here in Vienna,” he said.
He spoke of Adolf Hitler as “one of the greatest men in the German history” and said “there had never been an organized killing or organized gassing” in concentration camps.
Last week, on “PrimeTime Live,” Kussel went further, denying that Jews had been killed in the Holocaust. He dismissed a grisly photograph of a dead Jew being shoved into a crematorium as a sham.
Foxman called Kossel’s comments “an insult to the memory of the millions who perished in the Holocaust and an affront to those who survived.”
“We believe this matter should not pass without a forceful condemnation from the Austrian government, and a judicial inquiry into Mr. Kussel’s activities might also be in order,” Foxman wrote.
After Kussel’s arrest, police searched his apartment, where they found his comrade, Kopanski, who is 27.
Kussel was involved in a neo-Nazi trial in 1984 and later joined various extremist groups. He was very skillful in covering up his activities.
Recently, Kussel and his friends set fire to a leftist youth center in Vienna.
In May, Kussel was elected successor to German neo-Nazi leader Michael Kuhnen, who died of AIDS. Since then, Kussel has given repeated interviews.
Kussel has been shown on television in Europe, training in Langenlois, Austria, and has said the Nazi party should be re-established in Austria.
(JTA staff writer Susan Birnbaum in New York contributed to this report.)