Fekter says sorry for ‘anti-Semitic’ statements

People’s Party (ÖVP) Finance Minister Maria Fekter has apologised after comparing today’s criticism of bankers with the Nazis’ persecution of Europe’s Jewish community.

The federal minister warned on Friday current developments could escalate to “what resulted in wars twice.” Fekter said after a meeting of the European Union’s (EU) ministers of finance in Wroclaw, Poland: “We are creating enemy stereotypes in Europe against Bankers and ‘the rich’ at the moment. We had that already. Back then, it was disguised as criticism of the Jews. But the same professional and sociological groups as today were meant.”

Fekter warned on Friday from letting such developments result in a war. Now the former interior minister apologised. Fekter announced yesterday afternoon (Sun) she “regrets if people felt hurt or irritated by my words.” The minister claimed it was not her intention to link the ongoing developments in Europe with the Nazi regime and the Holocaust.

Only one day earlier, Fekter refused to back down. The minister said on Saturday accusations she tried to belittle the prosecution of the Jewish community of the continent in the 1930s and 1940s were baseless. She said: “I oppose the vilification of any group of people with every fibre of my heart.” Yesterday’s apology came hours after ÖVP boss Michael Spindelegger said she should chose her words more carefully. The foreign minister said in a TV interview: “No one must get the impression that the ÖVP tries to downplay the Holocaust.”

Spindelegger told national broadcaster ORF Fekter “could apologise indeed.” Already on Saturday, political rivals hit out at finance minister over her disputed statements from the day before. Greens chief Eva Glawischnig announced she was “horrified” by the claims while SPÖ Defence Minister Norbert Darabos said he had not expected words like this to come from a high-ranking representative of a Christian-Social party and government member.

SPÖ Chancellor Werner Faymann advised Fekter to take more care considering her choice of words. The SPÖ leader, whose party cooperates with the ÖVP, made aware of Austria’s “extraordinary responsibility” considering the issue. He said modest words were needed “even in the heat of political discussions.” ÖVP General Secretary Johannes Rauch branded the criticism of Fekter as a “manoeuvre” of the SPÖ which, in his opinion, tried to label her as being right-wing before Spindelegger struck a different tone the next day.

Representatives of the Freedom Party (FPÖ) and the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) – Austria’s main right-wing movements – did not comment on Fekter’s argumentations while Caritas Vienna director Michael Landau described her words as “shocking and totally inacceptable.” Landau said Fekter “abused anti-Semitic stereotypes,” adding that Christianity was “incompatible” with anti-Semitism.”