Austria's far-right party admitted to Haaretz it had deleted the anti-Semitic cartoon posted six years ago by Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache to his Facebook page. The post, which could still be seen last month, was defended by Strache it in a televised debate with a Jewish student leader in Vienna, but it has since disappeared without explanation.
A spokesman from Strache's party responded to a query by Haaretz and said the post was purposefully deleted by them. It still remains unclear what the immediate background for the decision to delete the post was and whether it was a response to pressure by the local Jewish community.
The cartoon, posted by Strache in August 2012, shows three figures labeled “the bankers,” “the government” and “the people.” The bankers are represented by an overweight, porcine man with a long nose, gobbling up a piece of chicken, contrasted with “the people,” represented by a sad-looking, thin man. Strache posted the cartoon in protest of the policy of the European Union, whose banks, he says, are impoverishing the ordinary Austrian citizen.
The man representing the banks, who has Stars of David on the buttons of his sleeve, recalls depictions of Jews in Nazi propaganda. The Jewish community in Vienna has denounced the cartoon over the years, saying that it recalls illustrations from the Nazi propaganda newspaper Der Sturmer.
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Strache has so far refused to apologize for the cartoon, even during his 2017 election campaign, which resulted in his far-right Freedom Party entering the government and Strache’s appointment as vice chancellor. In a televised debate last month between Strache and the president of Vienna’s student union, Benjamin Hess, the latter said to Strache: “The picture is still on your Facebook page. This picture is an anti-Semitic caricature. You never apologized for it. You never removed it from your Facebook page.”
Strache hit back, saying: “Not everything that people attribute to anti-Semitism, for political reasons because they don’t agree with us, is connected to anti-Semitism. The issue here is criticism of the structure of banks. There’s no anti-Semitism in the text or the picture. You can interpret it however you want, but it’s a mistaken interpretation.” Strache later added: “This is not anti-Semitic. There are no Stars of David on the cuffs as you describe. You need an imagination to claim this.”
The Jewish community in Austria says that even after the election, Strache's party did not sufficiently distance itself from its Nazi and anti-Semitic past.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was expected during his visit to Israel on to try to persuade Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to change his attitude to Strache’s Freedom Party, which Israel has boycotted since last year. The Jewish community in Vienna, which has also boycotted the Freedom Party, believes that it is unlikely that Israel will change its position on the matter.
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Kurz visited Yad Vashem, Israel's official Holocaust memorial, on Sunday, where he also signed an agreement through which the museum will receive archival materials from Austria's Federal Archives and the Mauthausen concentration camp memorial site. The agreement will allow documents of historical value to be sent to Yad Vashem for documentation and archiving. Kurz also announced a 1-million-euro donation for a collection at Yad Vashem to preserve Holocaust-era art pieces and documents.
“As chancellor of Austria, I have to state that Austria and Austrians carry a heavy burden for the shameful crimes committed during the Shoah,” Kurz said, according to Yad Vashem. “It is our duty and obligation to ensure that the Shoah will never happen again and that my generation and succeeding generations will never forget these horrific crimes,” he added.
After Yad Vashem, Kurz visited Mount Herzl and is set to visit on Sunday evening the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Western Wall. Kurz is accompanied on his Israel visit by the president of the Jewish Communities of Austria, Oskar Deutsch.