Weeks before elections, Nazi memorabilia embarrasses Austrian far-right

VIENNA — Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) said Wednesday it has expelled a local party official for hoarding Nazi memorabilia, in embarrassing revelations less than three weeks before national elections.

A local activist revealed that Martin Hochstoeger had hung a plaque commemorating Hitler’s 1938 annexation of Austria in a back room of his pharmacy in the town of Landeck, in Tyrol state.

Hochstoeger, ex-president of the local pharmacists’ association, also kept in a display case pieces of cloth with insignia including the SS Death’s Head and the Nazi eagle, photos on the activist’s blog showed.

Markus Abzwerger, head of the FPOe in Tyrol, announced on Facebook on Wednesday that Hochstoeger has been expelled from the party, saying that a “red line had clearly been crossed.”

Hochstoeger’s plaque, complete with a quote from Hitler, commemorated a 1938 plebiscite when all but 20 of Landeck’s 2,766 eligible voters agreed to Austria “rejoining the Reich.”

The anti-immigration FPOe, a party founded by ex-Nazis after World War II and formerly headed by Joerg Haider, has long sought to clean up its image but this latest incident is by no means isolated.

Last month the Mauthausen Committee, a group commemorating concentration camp victims, published a list of what it said were at least 60 anti-Semitic and racist incidents involving FPOe figures since 2013.

The party, now headed by Heinz-Christian Strache, is forecast to come second or third in the parliamentary elections on October 15 and could enter the government as coalition partners.

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