Jörg Haider, an Austrian populist, died on October 11th, aged 58
If you wanted to see a Nazi in Jörg Haider, it wasn’t difficult. The tanned, cold, Aryan good looks, the liking for black leather, the taste for extreme sports and fast cars, all hinted at it. So did the youthful membership of pan-Germanic mock- duelling clubs, the black-cross flags, the foggy Remembrance Day trysts with SS officers and the band of crop-haired followers who were liable to break out in a chorus of “Tomorrow Belongs to Me”. His father had been an illegal Nazi long before the Anschluss, and his mother a local leader of the League of German Maidens; their de-Nazification after the war, with Robert made to dig graves and Dorothea banned from teaching, struck their son (though he did not remember it) as brutal injustice.
Then there were the remarks, few enough, but indicators of a certain current of thought. Hitler’s employment policies had been “orderly”, he said, unlike the modern Austrian government’s; words that forced him to step down briefly in 1991 from the governorship of Carinthia. The SS veterans he mixed with were men of “character”, “honour” and “conviction”. The phrase Überfremdung, foreigner overrun, which crept into his immigration-talk, had not been heard since Nazi days. And though he once picked a Jew as his deputy at the top of the Freedom Party (FPÖ), he could not help wondering aloud how the head of the Jewish community, Ariel Muzicant, apparently named after a soap powder, could have such dirty hands.
The rest of Europe certainly took him at those words, and when the FPÖ notched up its best electoral result in 1999, 27% of the vote and a place in the governing coalition, EU sanctions were placed on Austria. Many Austrians were ashamed of Mr Haider; but others were aware that he articulated their country’s confusion about the past, a mixture of defiance and repentance, victimhood and guilt, and the struggle to expel old ghosts. Mr Haider, too, talked of “drawing a line” under Nazism and declared that he wanted keine braunen Schatten, no brown shadows. The outside world found such mumblings unconvincing. Mr Haider retorted that this was not the world’s business.
The Haider show at home (and it was always a show of sound, speed, lights and glamour) had a different feel. There he was the Carinthian boy-wonder, waltzing round his adopted deep-south base in a bone-buttoned loden jacket, wolfing Strudel and Nudel washed down with Jörg Bear beer and handing out 5,000 ski passes for the Gerlitzen to mark his 50th birthday. He lorded it like a local count on €10m-worth of forested slopes in Bärental, bought for a song by an uncle in 1941 from a Jew fleeing for Italy. As Carinthia’s governor for the past decade (in a border province that had been successively invaded by Mongols, Turks and Slavs), Mr Haider played the Austrian patriot, defying the law to ship criminal immigrants from eastern Europe across to Styria on the night bus, uprooting Slovene road signs and plastering towns with posters promising a clean sweep of filthy foreign beggars.
The eternal chancer
All this hard-right politicking gave the jitters to some. But Mr Haider, sly as a snake and sharp as a razor, was not so easily defined. When Austria’s ruling parties opposed Turkish membership of the EU, he supported it. Austria’s own accession he first endorsed, then passionately resisted (leading the “No” forces in the 1994 referendum), then accepted. When Saddam Hussein was a pariah, he went to Baghdad to shake his hand. His most admired politician was Archduke Johann, a modernising 19th-century governor of Styria, closely followed by Newt Gingrich and Tony Blair. His ideology shifted with whatever group he was talking to, conservative one moment and leftish the next, as various as the suits, jeans, Robin Hood outfits, puffer ski-jackets and medieval robes in which he clad himself. It was often said that the only “ism” he ever embraced was populism.
This made him, for all his toxicity, a tantalising oddity in Austrian politics. In a country corruptly dominated since the war by “black” (conservative) and “red” (socialist) parties, allocating by the entrenched Proporz system all seats and posts of any consequence, the blue-flagged FPÖ offered an eruption of difference. Many objected when Mr Haider, after his putsch in 1986, gave such a hard-right shove to a party briefly attempting to be liberal. But he thought of it as a vehicle for saying the unsayable, testing the new and generally raising Cain. Behaving this way was a freiheitliche, a truly liberal, thing to do.
When Mr Haider died, smashed in his black car on the road to Klagenfurt, he had just reassumed leadership of the Alliance for Austria’s Future, the party he formed in 2005 after splitting from the FPÖ. (There had been many rows, flouncing-outs, reconciliations; this one was unmendable.) His new party had gained 11% of the vote in September’s elections; he was on the up again in national politics, though never, it was clear, as far as a post in government.
His death itself was the last dramatic Haider show, speeding drunk along a road where he had narrowly escaped death before, crashing into a concrete pole, flipping over time after time. Once more, he played the chancer. Some supporters also thought he was escaping agents of Mossad.
The Economist (Print Edition)
16 October 2008
Arnold Denies Allegations That he “Admired” Hitler
Schwarzenegger was quoted as saying he “admired” Hitler in a 1975 transcript of an interview while filming the documentary “Pumping Iron.” We speak with Martin Lee, author of “The Beast Reawakens: Fascism’s Resurgence from Hitler’s Spymasters to Today’s Neo-Nazi Groups and Right-Wing Extremists”
Schwarzenegger was also forced to deny comments he allegedly made 25 years ago that he admired Adolf Hitler. Schwarzenegger was quoted as making the comments in a 1975 transcript of an interview while filming the documentary “Pumping Iron” that made him famous.
According to the transcript in a book proposal circulated six years ago, Schwarzenegger said when asked to name his heroes: “It depends for what. I admired Hitler, for instance, because he came from being a little man with almost no formal education up to power. And I admire him for being such a good public speaker.” A consultant to the documentary, Peter Davis, later said the Hitler quote was taken out of context.
In addition to the transcript, film producer George Butler wrote in the book proposal that in the 1970s, he considered Schwarzenegger a “flagrant, outspoken admirer of Hitler.” Butler also said he had seen Schwarzenegger playing “Nazi marching songs from long-playing records in his collection at home” and said that the actor “frequently clicked his heels and pretended to be an S.S. officer.”
Amy Goodman: Can you talk about his relationship with Kurt Waldheim.
Martin Lee: When Schwarzenegger was married in 1986 at his wedding he made a very lavish and glowing toast to Kurt, the former Secretary General of the U.N., who, at that time was embroiled in an international scandal because it became public that Valdheim was a member of a Nazi S.S. unit that participated in war crimes in the Balkans.
For Schwarzenegger to have made this toast at that time after these revelations surfaced is really quite shocking. It shows, at the very least, insensitivity to the victims of Nazism and anti-Semitism.
This isn’t the end of the story. A few years later, Schwarzenegger had his photo taken with, Jorg Haider, the head of the extreme Right, Freedom Party in Austria, a catch basin for neo-Nazis, and Holocaust deniers. He, in a sense, is a supporter of Heider, and espouses similar policies with respect to immigration as Heider does in Austria.
Schwarzenegger has association with the Organization of U.S. English, which has a history of ties to white supremacists. Even though others have resigned from the board of advisors, he still lends his good name, so to speak, to this organization. Other people, even right-wingers have resigned because of the controversy. Schwarzenegger has stayed on; he should be called into account for this.