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Austrian Politico Dubbed Ex-nazi

October 10, 1975
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal charged today that one of Austria’s most prominent politicians belonged to a Nazi SS unit that committed war crimes. Wiesenthal said Friedrich Peter, head of the right-wing Freedom Party, belonged to an SS unit that “murdered innocent people, including women and children.”

Wiesenthal, who heads the Jewish Documentation Center, said he discovered a document by pure accident which proved beyond doubt that Peter had been a member during World War II of the First SS Infantry Brigade. He said the Brigade took part in what the Nazis called a “cleansing action” in occupied Russia in 1942 that executed 10,513 persons, including 8,350 Jews. Wiesenthal said he had no evidence that Peter himself executed anyone.

Peter was re-elected to the Austrian Parliament Sunday. His party won 10 of the Parliament’s 183 seats in the general elections. The Social Democratic Party of Jewish-born Chancellor Bruno Kreisky, retained its absolute majority. Before the elections, political sources speculated that Kreisky would form a coalition government with the Freedom Party and Peter as Vice Chancellor in case he did not win an absolute majority.

Wiesenthal said Peter, in the past, admitted his SS membership but had always insisted he had fought in a unit at the front. “Peter kept silent about his membership in the First SS infantry Brigade, which was part of the private army of Heinrich Himmler, the chief of the Gestapo,” Wiesenthal said. He said he discovered the documents about Peter before the elections but kept silent so as not to influence it. But he informed Austrian President Rudolf Kirchschlaeger.

In a first reaction, Peter rejected the charges. He said he had been a member of the First SS Infantry Brigade, but never took part in any murders or persecutions.

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