New York, NY, January 30, 2012 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today condemned as "outrageous and deeply offensive" comments by leaders of the Austrian far-right Freedom Party, who reportedly compared protests outside a far-right ball in Vienna to the persecution of Jews during Kristallnacht.
Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache was overheard saying the protests were "like Kristallnacht," and told other ball guests, "We are the new Jews." One of his associates, Klaus Nittmann, reportedly stated, "Whoever works for this ball immediately gets a Jew star pinned on him."
The Wiener Korporations-Ball (WKR), an annual extremist event, was attended by other European far-right leaders, including Marine Le Pen of France's National Front party and Philip Claeys of Belgium's Vlaams Belang party.
The ball was held on Jan. 27 this year, coinciding with International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Thousands protested outside the venue, causing the event to be delayed.
"Strache mocked the victims of the Holocaust by comparing himself and his fellow extremists to Jews and invoking Kristallnacht to complain about the anti-fascist protests," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and a Holocaust survivor. "This trivialization is outrageous, but not surprising from Strache and his ilk. The victims of the Holocaust are entitled to respect and sympathy, which was shown around the world at commemorations of the greatest act of genocide."
Austria's governing coalition parties, the People's Party and the Social Democratic Party, both strongly condemned Strache's statements. Freedom Party officials have dismissed the criticism.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.