Last September, Austria’s far right gained massive political influence in an election that saw the FPO [Freedom Party Austria] along with another far right party – Alliance For The Future (BZO) – gain 29 per cent of the vote, the same share as Austria’s main party, the Social Democrats. The election stirred up terrifying memories of the rise of the Nazi Party in the Thirties.We've since seen seven years of the Establishment welcoming immigrants and otherwise seeking to make objections to people who live by a different moral code into mental illness and then Köln happens.
And just as the Nazis gained power on the back of extreme nationalism and virulent anti-Semitism, the recent unprecedented gains in Austria were made on a platform of fear about immigration and the perceived threat of Islam. FPO leader Heinz Christian Strache, for example, described women in Islamic dress as ‘female ninjas’.
That's the space between Dom and Hauptbahnhof on a more cheerful 2 September 2014. I didn't have a wide-angle enough lens to get the entire cathedral in, nor could I back up any further without going through a plate-glass window at the depot. Not a lot of room for revelers, and no easy exits if there's a pack of feral youth bent on wilding at work.
Seven years ago, Enlightened European Opinion was fretting about retrograde tendencies on the part of Austrians, and, per corollary, native born of any of the advanced tribal societies.
‘The anti-fascists are the new fascists,’ [a student called Roland] says. ‘We are not allowed to tell the truth about how foreigners are a threat.’In the intervening years, though, Enlightened European Opinion has not done anything to preempt the German nationalists -- who are now flying the black, red, and white flag of Old Germany at their rallies -- from having their "Told ya so" moments.
The truth, according to Roland, is that Muslims, immigrants and America are destroying his way of life.
‘We are German-Austrians. We want a community here based on German nationalism,’ he adds. ‘We must fight to save our heritage and culture.’
The Burschenschaften hold regular, secretive meetings in cellar bars around Vienna. Journalists are not usually admitted, but I manage to persuade a group of Burschenschaften students to let me see their traditions. Once inside, I find myself in a bar filled with 200 men sitting at long tables drinking steins of Austrian beer.
The Burschenschaften are resplendent in the colours of their fraternities. Old and young, they sport sashes in the black, red and gold of the German flag, and as the beer flows in this neo-Gothic building, chatter fills the room and cigarette smoke rises in plumes up to chandeliers hung from a vaulted ceiling.
‘Prost!’ the man sitting to my right toasts loudly. His name is Christian. He is no neo-Nazi thug, but instead a psychology student. His white peaked cap signifies that he is a member of a Burschenschaften group called Gothia.
Most of the men at this table are Gothia, including the man sitting opposite who ordered the beer. He glares at me again. He has long scars on both sides of his face that run from his cheekbones down to the edges of his mouth, and when he sucks on his cigarette he reminds me of the Joker from Batman. Christian has a dozen wounds from fencing, including five on his left cheek.
The ideas and racial hatred that I have heard over my two weeks in Austria are just as threatening and just as sickening as any I have ever heard. And they are a lot more sinister because they are spoken with the veneer of respectability.Seven years of developments favorable to the nationalists mean a more difficult correlation of forces for those European politicians who would like to encourage immigrants to assimilate. It's going to be easier in the United States, provided the people and the politicians do the right thing.
The open defiance of these men honouring their Nazi ‘war hero’, and the support they are gaining in these troubled economic times, should be setting off alarm bells in Europe and the rest of the world.
[A] new arrival to the United States can buy into the land of opportunity notion before learning English, or becoming a fan of the Green Bay Packers. That makes it easier for the host country to culturally appropriate the food or the music as need be. Plus freedom of religion.That's part of what's bugging the Austrian nationalists of seven years ago, there are a lot of American Popular Culture elements present in Germany and Austria.