The case of a junior Austrian army officer who has remained in service despite wearing a self-made Nazi uniform and making Hitler salutes provoked an outcry on Thursday, with the president among those expressing their shock.
According to a report by the Austrian daily Kurier, the soldier from Carinthia province had ordered a uniform, swastika insignia and flags over the internet to put together his own “SS uniform”.
Photos of the junior officer wearing his self-made uniform “at least five times – partly outdoors and partly wearing a helmet with a visible swastika”, surfaced on social media, the report said.
He was also reportedly witnessed making Hitler salutes on different occasions: in the canteen of a sports club, on the soccer field and in front of his comrades in the barracks.
Austrian defence minister Klaudia Tanner denounced the behaviour of the soldier as “incredible misconduct”, while stopping short of dismissing him, a statement on Thursday from her ministry said.
“The person concerned was immediately relieved of his duties and is employed in a non-military function”, the statement added.
Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen expressed his shock over a soldier engaging in Nazi propaganda.
“Any form of Nazi glorification is to be condemned in the strongest terms and has no place in public service and in our society” , Van der Bellen said in a tweet, adding that those in the armed forces and the police had a “special responsibility” in this regard.
Austria — which the Nazis “annexed” into the Third Reich in 1938 — has some of the world’s strictest laws against Holocaust denial and pro-Nazi activities. Despite this, offences involving expressions of pro-Nazi sentiment are not uncommon.