Jewish leaders across Europe have voiced grave concerns about a coalition agreement in Austria resulting in the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) returning to government with the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP).
The Board of Deputies were outraged by the news and made a swift condemnation.
Richard Verber, senior vice president, said far right parties had brought “unprecedented misery” on Austria and other European countries in the past.
“It is up to all European countries, including the new Government of Austria, to make sure it does not do so again in the future.” he added.
“We fully support the position adopted by the Austrian Jewish community, European Jewish Congress (EJC) and World Jewish Congress (WJC) of non-engagement with the far-right in Europe.
“While some parties claim to have disavowed their anti-Semitic and racist roots, actions speak much louder than words.
“We urge the European Union and other international partners to carefully monitor the situation in the coming weeks and months and respond as appropriate.”
WJC was similarly appalled.
President Ronald S. Lauder diplomatically congratulated Sebastian Kurz on becoming the chancellor of Austria, but voiced “severe” concern over his decision to form a coalition government with the far-right party led by Heinz-Christian Strache.
“It is severely disquieting that despite the many real concerns known and expressed about the FPÖ, it will now retain a position of serious influence, giving the Austrian government a real push even further to the right,” he said on the WJC website.
“Mr. Kurz is a capable man, who has shown very positive attitudes toward Israel and the Jewish people, and I wish him luck as chancellor in leading Austria to great success.
“I hope he will make every effort to ensure that the policies set within his government continue to follow a democratic line, and do not dissolve into dangerous populism.
“The FPÖ is a far-right party whose members have in the past expressed xenophobic and anti-Semitic sentiments, yet is has now been charged with overseeing the interior, defense, and foreign ministries, three of the most important and powerful fields of government.
“We have heard promises since the election that FPÖ has softened its policies, but this will remain rhetoric until actual proof of this is shown.”
The EJC expressed likewise voiced concern about the FPÖ entering into an Austrian government coalition.
“The FPÖ has a long history of anti-Semitism and xenophobia and we are concerned about the fact that they will control government ministries in the new Austrian Government,” said EJC president Dr. Moshe Kantor on their website.
“We hope that the FPÖ will not have a problematic influence on the direction of the government led by the People’s Party and that the Chancellor and his party will be able to discipline the intolerant elements within the FPÖ.”
He added, “The (FPÖ) has tried to correct these elements of its past ideology and now we need to see concrete steps to show that these are not publicity stunts or they will remain outside of the pale for the Jewish community.
“The (FPÖ) can not use the Jewish community as a fig leaf and must show tolerance and acceptance towards all communities and minorities.”
Oskar Deutsch, President of IKG Wien, the Jewish community of Vienna stated on the EJC site, “It can never be normality that a right-wing populist or even extreme right-wing party – whose representatives time and again had difficulties to distance themselves from National Socialism, and who raised their voices against people of different cultures or religions – takes on government responsibility.”
Deutsch regarded as “especially alarming”, the far-right party bearing political responsibility for the police and armed forces.
Following the result, thousands of protesters rallied outside the Hofburg Palace in central Vienna during the swearing-in ceremony where there was a substantial police presence.
“Don’t let the Nazis govern” was seen among dissenting banners.
Coalition plans include tougher rules for asylum seekers, a restriction on “political Islam” and extra security measures to fight terrorism.
Key posts include heading up interior and defence ministries.
The far right party has also named Karin Kneissl, an independent Middle East expert who speaks Arabic and Hebrew the new foreign minister.
Ex-Nazis founded FPÖ in 1956 as a successor to the Federation of Independents representing pan-Germanists and national liberals in Austrian politic.
The Party’s first leader was a former SS officer Anton Reinthaller.
Nowadays the far-right Party denies a connection to Nazi ideology.
France’s National Front leader Marine Le Pen said FPÖ’s success was “excellent” news for Europe.