Austrians condemn right-wing ball

Austrians who attended a Jan. 27 Holocaust remembrance event condemned plans to hold a ball of extreme rightists later that day, saying the event’s timing transformed it into a macabre dance on Holocaust victims’ graves.

“You, who will dance and celebrate here; we remind you of the murder of two-thirds of Europe’s Jews,” proclaimed death camp survivor Rudolf Gelbard.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is held each year on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Ball organizers insisted the timing of the events was coincidental and denied suggestions that those attending their ball were extremists.

But opponents vehemently criticized both the day chosen to hold the ball and the political views of those attending it, suggesting it regularly attracts elements from the neo-Nazi fringe.

Formally, Austria has moved from a postwar portrayal of being Nazi Germany’s first victim to acknowledging that it was Hitler’s willing partner. Most young Austrians reject Nazi ideology and condemn the part their parents’ generation might have played in the Holocaust.

At the same time, the rightist-populist Freedom Party — whose supporters range from those disillusioned with the more traditional parties to Islamophobes and Holocaust deniers — has become Austria’s second-strongest political force. — ap