Austria far-right party unwelcome at Nazi camp liberation memorial

Vienna (AFP) –


Ministers from Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) will not be welcome at a ceremony to mark the liberation of the Mauthausen concentration camp, organisers said Monday, drawing protests from the party.

The annual ceremony -- this year on May 6 -- takes place at the site of the camp in northern Austria in which 100,000 prisoners died.

The event comes just a few months after a government was formed between the centre-right People's Party (OeVP) and the FPOe, which was started after World War II and counted former Nazis among its founders.

The Mauthausen Committee Austria (MKOe), one of the organisers of Sunday's event, confirmed that FPOe politicians would not be welcome as has been the case for several years.

The fact that the FPOe now has several ministers in government, including Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache and Interior Minister Herbert Kickl, did not change this, MKOe president Willi Mernyi told the Der Standard daily.

The interior ministry finances the commemorative site at Mauthausen and the museum attached to it.

However, the presence of FPOe ministers would be "an additional humiliation for the survivors," Mernyi said.

He cited among other grievances the links between the FPOe and the far-right "Die Aula" magazine which has repeatedly given a platform to controversial historians who have cast doubt on the history of the Holocaust.

The FPOe condemned the organisers' stance, saying in a statement that "such important commemorations on Austrian soil should be held free from party political calculations", adding that the party was open to dialogue with the Mauthausen Committee.

Some 200,000 prisoners passed through Mauthausen, which was set up for "political enemies" of the Nazi regime and was one of its biggest forced labour camps.

The site was chosen for its proximity to a quarry where granite was extracted in appalling conditions. The camp was liberated by American troops on May 5, 1945.