Outrage about Holocaust joke in ORF show

Bosses of national broadcaster ORF have come under pressure over a Holocaust joke in a popular late night show.It emerged today (Fri) that ORF officials were forced to censor the most recently produced episode of “Willkommen Österreich”. The show, which is co-hosted by Dirk Stermann and Christoph Grissemann, is produced a few days before its Thursday night broadcast slot.In the uncut version of the episode, Stermann said: “American lawyers are suing ÖBB (Austrian Railways). They accuse the company of having been involved in the deportation of Jews.”Dear lawyers in the USA, I doubt that. Had Jews taken ÖBB trains, they wouldn’t have arrived in Auschwitz by today,” the German added.The controversial joke was met with roaring laughter by the studio audience before Stermann’s Austrian co-host said: “You have to add: this isn’t an issue to make fun of.”Grissemann then continued talking about other topics.ORF chief Alexander Wrabetz and his team immediately decided to cut out the World War Two era jest when being informed of it.Ariel Muzicant, head of the Jewish Community in Vienna, said today: “I think this joke really is distasteful. I wonder how these gentlemen would feel had their parents and grandparents been on those trains.”Michael Wimmer, a spokesman for ÖBB, said he was “speechless”. Wimmer said it should be common sense not to make fun about the issue. He added that the claim American advocates were pressing charges against ÖBB were wrong.Stermann’s disputed joke refers to group action by Holocaust survivors against the Republic of Hungary which could also hit Rail Cargo Hungaria. The company previously named MAV Cargo was acquired by ÖBB two years ago.The claimants accuse the Republic of Hungary and the country’s Federal Railways of having been involved in confiscating Jewish possessions and transporting members of the Jewish community living in the country into the Nazi’s concentration camps. Around six million people were killed in the regime’s death and forced labour camps.It is not the first time Stermann and Grissemann caused controversy. The comedians have been hosting a radio show called “Salon Helga” on FM4, a radio station which is part of the ORF’s network, since 1991.The duo infuriated received death threats after making fun of Jörg Haider after the right-wing politician got killed in a car crash in 2008.Referring to the late Freedom Party (FPÖ) chief’s drink driving, they said at the beginning of an episode of “Willkommen Österreich”: “We’re seriously drunk too, but we will be aware of what we are doing during the next 50 minutes.”In a reaction to to conspiracy theories about Haider’s last hours alive, Grissemann said: “Haider ordered a bottle of water but got vodka instead. That proves he can turn water into vodka!”Stermann and Grissemann were also suspended from broadcasting on the ORF for a few months nine years ago for suggesting “someone would need to shoot Haider if you want to stop him”.Peter Westenthaler, the FP֒s general secretary at the time, said the statement was an “appeal for murder”.The duo’s most recent stage comedy programme wass called “Die Deutsche Kochschau” (The German Cooking Show) in which they used Nazi era-related terminology to explain what they were doing while preparing trivial dishes such as apple sauce. Millions of people watched clips of the controversial scenes on multimedia platform YouTube.