Austria Recalls Embassy Employee From Israel Over Nazi T-shirt

Juergen-Michael Kleppich, a member of Austria's far-right Freedom Party, posted a photo of himself wearing the the shirt on Facebook

A selfie posted by Juergen-Michael Kleppich on his Facebook.
Facebook

Austria's Foreign Ministry has recalled an employee of its embassy in Israel after an Austrian weekly said he posted a picture of himself on social media wearing a T-shirt bearing the name of a Nazi tank division. 

Israel's Foreign Ministry said it was updated about the situation and that it was decided to send back the employee immediately.

The Falter weekly published a screenshot of the attache's Facebook page which shows him in a green shirt with the words "stand your ground" and "Frundsberg." Frundsberg was a German Waffen SS armored division during World War Two. 

His Facebook account has since been deleted. 

The attache, Juergen-Michael Kleppich, is a member of the far-right Freedom Party, which is a junior partner in Austria's coalition government. He was sent to Tel Aviv in December to help out at the embassy for a few months, Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl told radio station ORF on Wednesday. 

Kleppich was summoned to Vienna to "clarify all circumstances" of the case, said Kneissl. It was not immediately clear whether he would be allowed to resume his post in due course. 

The incident is the latest in a series of embarrassments for the anti-immigrant FPO, which in December joined Austria's national government for the first time in more than a decade, and has been trying for years to shed any Nazi associations. 

The party was founded by former SS officers in the 1950s but says it has left its past behind and has regularly expelled officials in recent years over alleged Nazi links. 

A high-ranking local party official, who helped lead a far-right fraternity which distributed a songbook that joked about killing Jews, resigned under pressure in February, and a close staff member of Austria's FPO transport minister got involved in another anti-Semitism scandal shortly afterwards. 

Kneissl said she would consult her ministry's human resources department on Kleppich. 

"If there is a disciplinary cause, a disciplinary procedure will be initiated," she said. 

Israel has said it will not do business with FPO ministers, only with the "operational echelons" of government departments headed by an FPO minister. 

The FPO controls the foreign, interior and defence ministries. The FPO nominated Kneissl for the post of foreign minister, though she is not officially a member of the party. 

Interior Minister Herbert Kickl, an FPO member, is expected to be questioned in a parliamentary inquiry about police raids targeting Austria's BVT domestic intelligence agency, which investigates far-right activities. Opposition parties have accused Kickl of aiming to gather intelligence on far-right groups and to sideline political opponents.