Our Austrian correspondent AMT recommended the following interview with Heinz-Christian Strache of the FPÖ (Austrian Freedom Party) and Arik Brauer, a Jewish artist, and included this introductory note:
The interview is remarkable because Arik Brauer is a well-known Viennese Jew, and he actually sat down with the “Nazi” Strache. Some of what Brauer says is refreshing.
Remember, this interview was published by a very lefist Austrian newspaper.
Many thanks to JLH for the translation from Der Standard:
“Our Strache is the Best”
Der Standard, July 1, 2011
Rightist populist meets artist: FPÖ head Heinz-Christian Strache paid a visit to the painter and balladeer Arik Brauer
Standard: Heinz-Christian Strache is treated as a future chancellor. What will you do if that happens, Mr. Brauer? Brauer: I will congratulate him and say he should show what he can do. But I cannot vote for him. You are young, eloquent, educated, but not able to distance yourself from the rightist fringe. What makes up Nazi fascism has in many minds not been overcome. When an old Jew like me mourns his childhood, that accomplishes nothing. No one believes me. It would be your historical task to fight against this mindset. But you don’t do that. There is just painful denial. Strache: In defiance of knowledge to the contrary, political opponents create a picture I battle against every day. As someone who was born in 1969, I have no problem separating myself from an unholy time, and I reject the NS mindset as I do most vehemently every totalitarian ideology. That is also true for the FPÖ. Standard: But your party is always rubbing people the wrong way. Most recently the Amtslettner FPÖ, which did not want to deny Hitler honorary citizenship. Strache: Nothing about Hitler can be revoked; honorary citizenship is extinguished with death. Anything else would be crazy. Standard: Even if that is so, what was wrong with a symbolic revocation? Strache: We do that by making it clear that this man has not been an honorary citizen anywhere since 1945. Brauer: This means nothing to me. What bothers me is something else: the widespread idea that we lost the war. Otherwise, we would not be in a country where a powerful opposition can flail away at the government. In a dictatorship, as a defiant person, you would be a victim. And yet, on the eighth of May, you wanted to commemorate this SS thinking on Heldenplatz [the very place Hitler greeted thousands of Viennese upon his return]. Strache: That is not an SS commemoration. You cannot impute something evil if someone wants to honor the dead of the World War. No one is regretting a defeat. Brauer: You know better than I what the participants are thinking. They don’t say so, but naturally it is about the dead SS men. Strache: No, we remember the civilians too, the refugees, the women who were raped. All the victims have a right to that. Standard: The Jews were not mentioned in your 2004 speech. Strache: I certainly commemorated the victims in the concentration camps — that is what it is about. I don’t exclude anyone. Brauer: It is not the same. If someone dies because he is a Jew or a Gypsy or because he went to a war he personally did nor want. I cannot throw them all into one pot and say: dead is dead, they all belong together. Standard: Mr. Strache, you mixed in right-extremist circles as a youngster. Do you regret that?
Brauer: May I answer? In my youth, I was a communist when I should already have known that Stalin was putting people into the gulag and having them tortured to death. And I was taken in by the same campfire romanticism as the Nazi boys. I won’t play judge there. Strache: For my part, I used this process, because it brought me further [as a person]. I was in a Catholic boarding school for eight years before I was able to break out at age fourteen and have the freedom to try out many things. To borrow an old saying: anyone who is not a revolutionary in his youth has no heart; Anyone who still is one in his maturity has no brain. Brauer: A Yiddish saying… Strache: And there was campfire romanticism among the Boy Scouts too. Standard: But they don’t carry weapons and and they can — unlike you — exclude the possibility of photos with the Nazi salute. Strache: The weapons were loaded with paintballs — a recognized sport nowadays. Maybe a few stupid things were said in the woods, but nothing that would make you say “Ugh!” Standard: That sounds less like distancing than what Mr. Brauer said. Brauer: And I am just a painter. He is a politician who may not make mistakes. Strache: That is clear. At nineteen I already knew what I wanted, and what I did not want. Brauer: I believe that. But then you have to embrace your task. I’ll tell you something. I once asked Richard Nimmerrichter, who wrote a column in the Krone as “Staberl” why he relativized the instituting of the gas chambers in a column. I said: “My father was definitely gassed. I know the person who carried him out.” He fell around my neck and cried. He was probably drunk, but it seemed to come from the heart. Why the denial of the gas chambers? People being beaten to death had been around forever, but industrial annihilation was something new. Naturally, a German wants to suppress that. A young politician like you should use the chance for enlightenment. Standard: Are there FPÖ positions you like? Brauer: FPÖ is correct in recognizing that there is an integration problem with Muslims. Imams should preach in German. Anyone who preaches hate should leave by air or sea — agreed. We have to separate the radicals from the rest. But Strache is wrong in generalizing. We have no foreigner problem; Islam has an Islam problem. [italics added] Strache: I see that last point exactly the same way. Austria has no foreigner problem to speak of. “Foreigners out!” would be stupid.” European immigrants mostly just have an integration disadvantage with the language, which can be taken care of easily. There are difficulties with people from culturally alien areas, who are under pressure from preachers not to integrate. Our criticism is specifically against fundamentalism, which is a stranger to enlightenment. Like every world religion, Islam per se deserves respect. Brauer: I agree up to that point. But why do you have posters with “Daham statt Islam” (“At Home instead of Islam”)? Every Mohammedan must feel attacked by that. And the poor devil on the construction site must suffer the most when a Turkish yob slaps a girl or a preacher of hate blows himself up. There is also racism behind the slogan Wiener Blut* (Viennese Blood). Strache: “Wiener Blut,” which arose in a multi-ethinic state, was set to music in a waltz, celebrated by Falco**. And posters are always an aggravation. Brauer: Your comic book about the Turkish siege (of Vienna) is no better and also drawn miserably. Mohammed caricatures also make no sense. Strache: Jesus Christ can be packaged in caricatures — blasphemy is assessed differently. Tolerance cannot be a one-way street. In Turkey, no more churches may be built. We want every religion to be allowed to build. Standard: But the FPÖ resists every single house of prayer. Strache: No, we don’t want them in the megalopolis, where neighbors are disturbed by the crowding — and with no minarets, which are symbols of conquest. Brauer: How you play up the minaret question! The foul-muthed rightists will never solve this problem; the Muslims themselves — Allahu akbar! — will do that. The only integration that really functions: marriage between the ethnic groups. That is very slow among the Muslims, but in the end, they will integrate as you did — the Czech name means “fear,” right? Strache: Actually, “He who propagates fear”! Brauer: Well, everyone is afraid of you. Standard: Another slogan, How do you like “Austria[ns] first!”? Brauer: Many Austrians will like that, but what feelings does this phrase appeal to? To pure egotism The problem is that there are egotists elsewhere. Every country has a Strache — our Strache is naturally the best. So Europe staggers along like a drunk. There is, in all that, a huge step forward. Europe has come to the point that war is no longer possible. We should say “bravissimo” and do everything to strengthen it. Strache: The peace project is a wonderful development… Brauer: …I am hearing that from you for the first time. Strache: …but the centralizing development is a danger. This is how it should go: First your own shirt, then the family, then Austria. And we have solidarity if we can manage it. But right now, we are facing the greatest mountain of debt in the Second Republic [after 1945]. The bailout packages for the bankrupt [EU] states are stealing the future from our young people. Brauer: Homo sapiens is born with not just egotism but also altruism Altruism must save Europe now. Standard: Is there one of your works that you would like Mr. Strache to take to heart? Brauer: My song cycle “Motschkern” [motschkern means to complain] is sound. And the picture, “My Father in Winter”, that has to do with war and dictatorship in a way that is probably congenial to Mr. Strache. The most miserable characteristics slumber in us human beings. We are such annoying children that we have to be on guard constantly to keep these powers from coming to the fore. Strache: What you may not know is that we in the FPÖ have some great exhibitions — and we have won the participation of your colleague , Ernst Fuchs. Brauer: So Fuchs — my best friend — is giving exhibitions with the FPÖ behind my back? That’s OK, I have no fears of contagion. I would have sat at the same table with Osama bin Laden.
(Gerald John, Der Standard, print edition, July 3, 2011)
Heinz-Christian Strache (42), son of a refugee from the Bohemian Sudetenland, grew up in the Viennese district Erdberg. The trained dental technician has been involved with the FPÖ since 1991, as Viennese party chief beginning in 2004. After the splitting off of Jörg Haider’s BZÖ in 2005, Strache assumed the leadership of the entire FPÖ. In the 2008 national elections, the party achieved 17.5%. The father of two is a member of the (fencing) student club, Vandlaia.
Arik Brauer (82), son of a Jewish shoemaker with Lithuanian roots, grew up in the Viennese district Ottakring. His father was murdered in a concentration camp. He himself escaped the Holocaust in a hiding place. As a painter, Brauer became a major representative of the Viennese school of fantastic realism. He was also active as a set designer, poet and singer of dialect songs. The father of three lives in Vienna and in the artists’ colony Ein-Hod in Israel.
* Title waltz of operetta of the same name by Johann Strauss Jr., which comically contrasts the joie de vivre of Vienna with the unsophisticated stiffness of the German north. ** Austrian pop singer [died 1998 in the Dominican Republic] best known in the USA for his monster hit, “Amadeus.”