Jail term for praising Hitler

A man from Lower Austria has been sentenced to prison for glorifying the Third Reich.

The 54-year-old was found guilty of breaching Austria’s anti-Nazi propaganda law. He was ordered to spend six months behind bars, with another 12 months on suspension. The verdict – issued by a court in Wiener Neustadt yesterday (Tues) – is not yet legally binding as the state prosecutor is yet to make his final statement. The defendant did not appeal.

The man – who co-founded and once headed the banned Austrian Nationalist Party (NVP) – denied all charges under Austria’s anti-Nazi mindset act. He only admitted having possessed a non-registered weapon. Prosecutors accused him of celebrating late Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler’s birthday between 2007 and 2009. They also said in court the man gave the Nazi salute and praised banned symbols like the swastika as well as Hitler himself. Investigators discovered data on his computer confirming his neo-Nazi attitude.

The state prosecution pointed out that the accused did not mention the Holocaust but issues like fees heaved on members of the Church when being asked which aspects in the Nazi’s Third Reich he disapproved of. It also made the court aware that the man decided to leave the Freedom Party (FPÖ) after late chairman Jörg Haider announced he did not want anyone with far-right political ways of thinking in it.

A lawyer representing the defendant described his mindset as “somewhat different to the one the majority may have.” He described the decision to hang up a picture showing Hitler as “odd,” but stressed the photograph was situated in a room no one else had access to.

The court described its decision to speak out a six-month jail term as a “preventive measure” considering the man’s contact with young people.

The trial took place shortly after a Holocaust awareness group reported a confectioner to the police and prosecutors for offering cakes showing prohibited Nazi symbols. The Austrian Mauthausen Committee (MKÖ) explained it was informed by customers spotting images of the products in a catalogue on display at the shop in Maria Enzersdorf near Vienna showing previously made products. The disputed images show a cake with swastika icing and a pie on which a uniformed arm bursts through to give the Hitler salute.

It is not clear whether the confectioner – who received death threats when the story broke – will be prosecuted. He said: “People are calling me a Nazi swine on the phone. I’m not a fan of Hitler. I made these cakes eight years ago. I don’t know what’s so special about fulfilling extraordinary requests by customers.”

Spreading and backing the Nazis’ ideas and neo-Nazi propaganda is a breach of law in Austria. The country’s juridical framework also prohibits the possession and trade of any kind of objects depicting symbols associated with Nazi Germany. The number of people reported to authorities for such felonies rose by almost 40 per cent from 2009 to 2010 when 741 cases were registered.