A photograph of an Austrian far-right leader will remain on display at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance here, despite a retaliatory campaign by his followers against the veteran Nazi-hunter for whom the center is named.
“The picture of Jorg Haider, who recently visited the museum, will stay in our rogues’ gallery of contemporary demagogues,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center.
The controversy came to a head last week, when Vienna’s city council voted to name two men honorary citizens of the Austrian capital. The nomination of 90- year old Viktor Frankl, an eminent psychotherapist, passed unanimously in a 99- 0 vote.
However, the nomination of Wiesenthal, 86, though easily approved by the majority conservatives, socialists and environmentalists Green representatives, was opposed by 22 deputies of Haider’s right-wing Freedom Party.
Their dissent was preceded by an ad campaign in Austrian newspapers, claiming that Haider’s picture was displayed in the museum alongside such mass murderers as Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin of Uganda and Cambodia’s Pol Pot.
The ads demanded that Wiesenthal travel to Los Angeles and help remove the photo.
Actually, Haider’s photo hangs alongside such other right-wing, populist demagogues as Jean-Marie Le Pen of France and Ku Klux leader David Duke, Cooper said.
Cooper added that the operation of the center and museum is independent of Wiesenthal.
The Nazi-hunter told Cooper in a telephone call after the city council vote that he took the Freedom Party’s opposition as a badge of honor and that the honorary citizenship would be meaningless if extremists voted for it.
Haider, who is trying to bill himself as Austira’s counterpart to Newt Gingrich, visited the museum in Los Angeles in early May, after unsuccessfully petitioning for a meeting with center leaders and for the removal of the photo.
Despite the rebuff, Haider and four companions appeared at the museum, paid the $8 entrance fee and took the customary tour, led by a docent, said Cooper.
Since its opening two years ago, some 800,000 people have visited the high-tech museum, whose displays warn of the dangers of intolerance and racist persecution.