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Austrian teens held in attack on survivors

BERLIN (JTA) — Five Austrian teenagers were arrested in connection with a neo-Nazi attack on Holocaust survivors.

The survivors and others were attacked while commemorating the 64th anniversary of the liberation of a concentration camp near Salzburg on May 9.

Calling the incident one of the worst in postwar Austria, authorities said the incident also illustrated the growing right-wing extremism among Austrian youth. The teens involved apparently had no previous record.

Austria’s main Jewish body, the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde in Vienna, had not yet issued a comment on the incident, a spokesperson told JTA.

Two people were wounded in the attack, in which teens allegedly fired plastic bullets from air guns and harassed visitors verbally, according to reports. One of the guns was found later near the scene, according to police.

The masked youths also allegedly shouted "Heil Hitler" and gave the Nazi salute, shocking a group of visitors from France and Italy, according to news reports. Some of the visitors, including survivors of the Ebensee slave labor camp, were standing near a stone pit at the site when the incident occurred.

The arrested teens, who had fled the scene, range in age from 14 to 17 and come from the Salzburg area. They have been charged and released on their own recognizance. They reportedly admitted under interrogation that they had planned to disrupt the commemorative ceremony marking the liberation of the camp.

Austrian Interior Minister Maria Fekter described the case as a  "very serious" example of rising right-wing tendencies. Alois Lissl, chief of the Upper Austrian security directorate, said the teenagers professed to be unaware that if convicted as youths, they could spend up to five years in prison for breaching the law that bans the Nazi party and any activities aimed at reviving it.

Willy Mernyi, head of the Mauthausen Committee Austria, said the visiting survivors reported the incident shortly before leaving Austria on Monday.
 

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