Ahead of Anschluss anniversary, Austrians want end of commemoration

11th March 2008, Comments 0 comments

The public debate is highlighted by remarks by Otto Habsburg, last heir to the Austrian throne, who expressed understanding for Austria's role as Hitler's first victim.

 

Vienna -- Almost two thirds of Austria's population want to put a lid on the country's Nazi past, a survey released ahead of the 70th anniversary of Austria's annexation by Nazi Germany says.

The public debate was highlighted by remarks by Otto Habsburg, last heir to the Austrian throne and former conservative member of the European Parliament, who expressed understanding for Austria's role as Hitler's first victim.

Speaking at a commemorative event at parliament on Monday organized by Austria's conservative People's Party, Habsburg stressed that "no country in Europe has more right to call itself a victim" of Nazi Germany - a view diametrically opposed to current historical views.

The 95-year-old said the debate over Austria's responsibility was scandalous. The jubilant reception Hitler received by the Austrians had been normal, he said, as people had gathered to see what was happening, similar to football matches today.

"If there is such a big hubbub, people gather, listen or applaud. That is normal," Habsburg was quoted as saying by Austrian public radio.

As official Austria commemorates the events of March 1938 with a string of events, 60 percent said they were opposed to continued soul-searching, a study by SWS, an institute for social studies, said.

The percentage of those wanting to end talking about Austria's Nazi past unchanged from a previous study from the year 2002.

Strongest opposition came little surprisingly from conservatives or Austrians leaning even further towards the Right, with 75 percent being against increased introspection.

Those in favor of more reflection and atonement however increased by 4 percent to 36 percent compared with the previous study.

None of the 509 Austrians interviewed however believed that, as in 1938, almost all Austrians would vote in favor of the Anschluss. A current of anti-Semitism remained in the country, with 5 percent saying they felt uncomfortable shaking hands with a Jewish person

DPA with Expatica

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