Ronald S. Lauder: Strache is dangerous for Austria - World Jewish Congress

Ronald S. Lauder: Strache is dangerous for Austria

The following opinion piece authored by WJC President Ronald S. Lauder first appeared in the Austrian newspaper 'Der Standard' on 27 August 2012. You can access the original article (in German) by clicking here.

FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache has published a cartoon whose author might easily have been Joseph Goebbels and which could also have been published in the notorious Nazi paper ‘Der Stürmer’. The original cartoon shows a banker sitting on one side of a table eating all the food that the waiter, representing the government, serves him. On the other side of the table, a skinny man is suffering from hunger, a small bone on his plate – quite a trivial cartoon for such a complex issue.

In Strache’s version of the cartoon, though, the banker has a hooked nose and wears cufflinks with the Star of David on them. He thus epitomizes precisely the image the Nazis created so successfully in people’s minds, that of the rich Jews, helped by powerful politicians, exploiting the people.

The brazenness of the political arsonist that is Strache apparently knows no bounds. His sick methods include portraying himself as the victim of a campaign and alleged conspiracies against his person when in fact it is him that stirs up the controversy in the first place.

If one believes Strache, he is misinterpreted all the time. Although the list of his misdeeds is long he always claims that he strictly rejects anti-Semitism and racism. However, we Jews get his message. We know people of his kind.

What should the world think of a country where the leader of the third-largest party openly advocates anti-Semitism? What kind of political culture prevails in a democratic Western country where things like this are possible? On which foundation can such a hatemonger build that he knows that he can get away with it?

The Strache case ought to ring alarm bells in Austria, and yet the number of those who publicly condemned his cartoon is rather small. Most people seem to be keen to move on quickly and forget this unsavory matter. However, one must be allowed to pose this question: How can a politician with his mindset and track record as an extremist get this far in Austrian politics?

Because I like Austria and its people I am particularly angry that such a man is a leading political figure in Vienna. He is dangerous for Austria.

I am saddened that more Austrians do not stand up to him and sideline the man. Where is the Austria that I came to like, the country that can be proud on its achievements in the arts and the economic, proud on its prosperity and its hospitality? Where is the decent Austria that energetically opposes people like Strache whenever they make anti-Semitic or xenophobic statements?

One hasn’t heard a great deal of outrage yet.