Austria's far-right leader Heinz-Christian Strache Reuters  Oct 10 2010
Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) leader Heinz-Christian Strache (R) gives a thumbs-up as he celebrates with supporters after provincial elections in Vienna, October 10, 2010. Photo by Reuters
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The leader of Austria's far-right Freedom Party, Hans-Christian Strache, came in for sharp criticism Monday after reportedly comparing demonstrations against far-right students with the persecution of Jews.

A reporter of the daily Der Standard overheard Strache at a controversial Vienna ball organized by right-wing student unions on Friday.

It drew some 2,600 demonstrators, critical of the fact that the event coincided with the Holocaust memorial day.

"We are the new Jews," the Freedom Party (FPOe) chief was quoted as saying to others attendees in conversation, reacting to leftist and radical protesters who had heckled some guests as they arrived at the venue.

Other political parties said the comment was outrageous, and Vienna's Jewish community announced it would report the incident to the prosecutor's office.

The FPOe said the conversation had been described in a distorted manner by Der Standard. While Strache did not mean to lessen the Jews' suffering, the attacks on the ball goers had reminded him of "horrible reports about the disastrous Nazi era," the party said.

The FPOe received 17.5 per cent of the vote in the 2008 elections. The next polls are scheduled for 2013. The party was formerly led by the controversial Jorg Haider.

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