Joerg Haider has stepped down as the leader of the Austrian Freedom Party, but this is also being interpreted as a pause to reinforce his position for the Chancellorship in 4 years' time. Significantly, perhaps, this coincides with the public access to Adolf Eichmann's last diaries and admissions of deliberate genocide by the Nazis.
The Party remains part of the Coalition government, but will be dissociated from Haider's image and his dubious earlier statements about the SS and the Nazi regime, by this move. It nevertheless emerged from a constituency which has voiced its opposition to Austria's immigration policies [10% of the population are immigrants] and to certain aspects of Europeanism, and which has a nationalist past, rooted in the descendants of the Nazi party.
We bring here two discussion-creativity activities to evaluate events in not only Austria, but other regions with a disturbing legacy.
A. Definitions and Opinions
Please duplicate the articles listed as links for allocation as appropriate.
Make enlarged copies of the two statements below to be placed on opposite walls. [Ensure a supply of spare posterboard and markers.]
Try to find an immigrant story from your own country ahead of time, unless you know participants can supply this from their own experiences.
- "I think of [Haider] what all good people think of him, that he caries a message of hatred," Wiesel said. "He does not deserve to be part of the government."
Quoted by Haim Shapiro, Friday, February 11, 2000, Jerusalem Post http://www.jpost.com/Editions/2000/02/11/News/News.2526.html
- "He represents no threat to democracy in Austria," says Simon Wiesenthal […] "He is not a pro-Nazi, but a right-wing populist"
Quoted in "Charlemagne", 12 February 2000, The Economist Newspaper
- Update the participants and ask which statement they believe is the more accurate understanding of Haider. Ask them to group around the statement of choice.
- Each group now examines the articles and develops a reasoned argument for support of their viewpoint. They also address whether the Austrian Freedom Party itself can be labeled in the same way, and why.
- Each group presents the main points without interruption.
- Introduce the possibility of other definitions of the phenomenon of the Far Right's in Austria. Write them up on posterboard and ask for reactions.
- Discuss whether the traditional xenophobic power base of the APFP is inciting hatred against Jews, as well as foreign workers or immigrants.
- Find a group member whose parents or grandparents have told them about their experiences or struggles as immigrants.
- What seem to be the major difficulties of immigrants in our society in previous generations?
- Do we ignore, help, discriminate againt immigrants in our society today - or is it a mixed situation?
- Compare this with what we know of in Austria.
- What rights do immigrants have in our country and how are they protected?
- The German Chancellor, Belgian, and French leaders have declared the Austrian Coalition government's inclusion of the FP a European and a human rights issue.
- Do participants agree?
- Has this changed with Haider's resignation?
- We expect that the Eichmann diaries will eventually be published.
- Do participants think this will weaken the legitimacy of the Far Right in Austria and Europe?
- Do participants believe this could help combat Holocaust denial?
- Participants summarise why there are different views on the nature of the Austria People's Freedom Party.
- Participants define what they have learned and how it has affected them.
Other References / Links
- On the APFP: "This is the party of the children of only slightly reprentant Nazi parents, the pupils of Nazi teachers who were not purged in 1945."
On Haider: "All this does not make him a Nazi, however..."
By Walter Laqueur, Tuesday February 8, 2000, Washington Post
- Newsweek: The Farce Version of History, February 14, 2000
- c. BBC Web: Haider resignation fails to impress, Tuesday, 29 February, 2000
- BBC Web: Israel releases Eichmann Memoirs, Tuesday, 29 February, 2000
B. Discretion or Action?
There are 3 testimonies below, each from a different country, to be photocopied. Use the links for the country reports if you wish [rather long, but very useful]. Prepare copies of the ADL's website tips on combatting hatred.
[Chile] [Argentina] [Austria]
- Divide participants into 3 groups and distribute one country testimony for each group.
- How does the writer feel about the problem in that country and what does he or she feel should be done?
- If participants were to act as consultants to that community, what would you recommend be done - and why? Each group draws up a five point plan.
- Each group reads sections of the ADL's recommendations and says whether they are helpful, and which points.
- Each group presents a revised action plan, and a discussion of similarities and different emphases follows.
- As themselves - citizens of another country - participants are asked whether they feel that these events concern them, and why/why not.
- As themselves, discuss with participants what action they feel Jewish communities should take about these events and how they want to participate.
For example: You can work within the group - writing protest poems [sample with this file], songs, letters to the media - or join an organized community campaign, preparing handbills, slogans, etc.
Other links / references
- ADL - Prejudice: 101 Ways You Can Beat It!
- Country Reports