The world’s foremost Nazi hunter has criticised the Austrian government after receiving a copy of a rare interview with a former SS officer obtained by The Ferret.
The interview with Herbert Schweiger, a lieutenant in an elite SS unit during WW2 and influential political figure, took place in 2008 during an investigation into Austria’s far right but the audio went missing shortly afterwards and was only rediscovered recently.
During a four hour discussion at his mountainside home in Styria, Austria, a defiant Schweiger defended his Nazi beliefs and used racist and anti-Semitic language.
He praised Hitler and admitted involvement in terrorism in 1961 with a far-right group fighting for the reunification of Austria and South Tyrol, now part of Italy.
“We planted a bomb in a hotel. I was a pioneer after all. I almost split South Tyrol, but it didn’t happen,” Schweiger said referring to the terrorist campaign.
Speaking about Africans, he said:”But biologically speaking the black man always thinks in the present. If he’s got a full stomach and is potent he’ll make children. That’s in his nature, it’s not his fault. So he’s continually multiplying but can’t feed himself because of his means to maintain these masses. Biologically speaking it’s incredible. We have a moral responsibility because of our international, multicultural slogans for the hungry nigger children, but… it’s all made emotional from those multicultural ones and realistically it’s pure suicide of the white race in Europe.”
The Ferret has transcribed and translated the interview into both English and German – some 24,000 words in total – and today publishes the audio and text in full for the first time.
The information provides an insight into the rise of the extreme far right in Austria following the end of World War Two and the role of a man who is still revered by Europe’s neo-Nazis.
Copies were sent to the Simon Wiesenthal Centre (SWC) in Jerusalem, Israel, an organisation that investigates Nazi war crimes.
Schweiger was an Austrian Nazi who became a lieutenant in the Waffen SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, an elite unit formed in the 1930s to act as the Führer’s personal bodyguards.
After escaping a POW camp during WWII, he returned to his homeland where he lived openly from 1947 and became heavily involved in politics.
He was a founding member of three far right political parties in Austria – the Association of Independents (VdU) founded in 1949, the National Democratic Party (NDP), and the Freedom Party (FPO), currently Austria’s third largest party which for years has been tainted by allegations of links to neo-Nazis.
The FPO has always denied these claims.
Schweiger said that after the NDP was banned in 1988 for promoting neo-Nazi ideology, he often travelled to Germany to give lectures.
At his home, there were mementos from his past including a pennant from the SS Death’s Head unit that ran Hitler’s concentration camps. Such memorabilia is banned in Austria
After reading a transcript of the Schweiger interview, Dr Ephraim Zuroff, SWC’s director, was critical of Austria for not preventing a former SS officer from becoming such an influential figure in Austrian politics.
He said Schweiger’s battalion had committed “many war crimes” and that a failure to investigate his past was “hardly surprising given Austria’s almost total failure to prosecute Nazi war criminals, and political sympathisers.”
Dr Zuroff went further and cited several past SWC investigations into Nazi war crimes, stating that Austria had often been uncooperative.
He said: “There were several high profile cases who were never brought to justice. Alois Brunner, for example, who was an Austrian responsible for transporting 128,500 Jews to death camps. He died in Syria, unrepentant and unprosecuted.”
Another was Aribert Heim, an Austrian doctor at Mauthausen concentration camp who became known as Doctor Death, Dr Zuroff added, who disappeared just as he was about to stand trial in Germany.
“He was a sadistic guy. It appears he died in 1992. The failure, of course, was partly Austria’s and partly Germany’s but the Austrians could have been done more.”
Dr Zuroff cited another two cases he dealt with personally that never made trial – one was a Croatian police chief called Milivoj Asner, who sent hundreds of people to be murdered (most went to the notorious Ustasha camp at Jasenovac, not far from Pozega) and who later went to Austria.
He said: “At the beginning, the Austrians claimed that he was Austrian and could not be extradited, when Croatia tried to extradite him. Then, all of sudden, the day after I gave an interview saying Austria was a paradise for Nazi war criminals, they suddenly said he wasn’t an Austrian citizen.
“So, of course, he should have been immediately deported or extradited but it never happened and there were doctors claiming he suffered from dementia.”
The other case was Erna Wallisch, Dr Zuroff added, who served at Majdanek death camp in Poland.
He said: “She’d been investigated and had admitted taking people to be gassed. The Austrians claimed that was ‘passive complicity in genocide’, a category they invented, I would say, to limit the prosecution of Nazi war criminals.”
SWC was established in 1977 and named after Simon Wiesenthal, a Holocaust survivor from Austria who dedicated his life to bringing Nazis to justice following the end of World War Two.
Wiesanthal helped capture Nazi war criminals such as Franz Stangl, Hermine Braunsteiner and Adolf Eichmann.
The interview with Schweiger took place a few weeks before he was due to appear in court charged with promoting neo-Nazi ideology.
In total, he was charged five times for breaking a law called the Verbotsgesetz, enacted in 1947 to halt the spread of fascist ideology.
He was found guilty twice and acquitted twice amid claims the Austrian establishment protected him from more severe sentences.
In response to Dr Zuroff’s criticism, the Austrian government said: “The Federal Ministry of Justice and the Austrian Judiciary take the fight against right-wing extremism very seriously.
“The prosecution of criminal actions in this context (NS-crimes as well as cases of reactivation) is a very important matter. Therefore the Federal Ministry has also installed a specific task force for reprocessing NS-Crimes.
“In the case of Mr Schweiger, the ministry has to object to the criticism of failing to act. Mr Schweiger was indicted several times after the Austrian Verbotsgesetz and was also convicted; the last conviction was in 2010 (Regional Court Klagenfurt, prison sentence).”
The 2008 investigation into Austria’s far right was published by the Mail On Sunday and the Sunday Herald.
The investigation exposed links between the FPO and extreme right-wing brotherhoods founded in German and Austrian universities called Burschenschaften.
These secretive fraternities have long been associated with fascism and some have a history of terrorism.
Adolf Eichmann, Rudolf Hess and Heinrich Himmler were Burschenschaften, as are prominent members of the FPO including its leader Heinz Christian Strache and Martin Graf, who was elected deputy president of the Austrian Parliament after the 2008 Austrian election.
At the time, the move caused an outcry and was condemned by Vienna’s concentration camp survivors.
Schweiger died on 5th July 2011.
The full Schweiger interview in English.
It took place on 12th November, 2008. Billy Briggs and Angela Catlin were present along with a translator.
The full Schweiger interview in German.
Mail On Sunday report from 2009: www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1160972/The-far-right-march-rise-Fascism-Austria.html
Sunday Herald report from 2009 – www.heraldscotland.com/news/12768055.The_Hitler_legacy/
Photography by award winning photojournalist, Angela Catlin – www.angelacatlin.com
The Schweiger interview was translated and transcribed by Julia Maria Secklehner. She was paid £100, and £50 was paid to a journalist.