Controversy Over FPÖ Candidacy for Yad Vashem Board Shakes Jewish Communities

Lifestyle & TravelMore+ ♦ Published: February 22, 2024; 22:50 ♦ (Vindobona)

The nomination of Wels Mayor Andreas Rabl of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) for a position on the board of the "Austrian Friends of Yad Vashem" has triggered a broad wave of outrage and criticism that reaches far beyond Austria's borders. Rabl's candidacy, known for his affiliation with a party that is often criticized for its extreme right-wing tendencies, was met with staunch opposition from renowned institutions and personalities.

The FPÖ mayor of Wels, Andreas Rabl, wants to become deputy chairman of the Austrian Friends of Yad Vashem. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / Christian Michelides, CC BY-SA 4.0 (

The controversy erupted when Yad Vashem wrote to express its surprise at the upcoming elections, particularly as neither the selection process nor the list of candidates had been agreed with the organization in Israel. The call for the election to be suspended and renegotiated underlines the serious concerns regarding the political affiliations of some of the candidates.

From the Jewish Community (IKG) to the Mauthausen Committee Austria (MKÖ), the front critics see Rabl's ambitions as unacceptable for the role in an organization dedicated to Holocaust remembrance. Oskar Deutsch, President of the Israelite Religious Society of Austria, described Rabl's candidacy as an "imposition" and referred to the FPÖ as "not just an extreme right-wing party, but the political arm of the German nationalist fraternities", which he characterized as direct predecessors of the National Socialists.

The Mauthausen Committee Austria reinforced the criticism with the statement that Rabl's candidacy was an "imposition" and mocked the victims of the Holocaust. The FPÖ is criticized as an extreme right-wing party and political arm of the German nationalist fraternities, which are regarded as direct precursors of the National Socialists. Willi Mernyi, the chairman of the MKÖ, further criticized the fact that Rabl had never distanced himself from the numerous right-wing extremist and anti-Semitic incidents within his party and was himself responsible for some such "individual cases".

The IKG Vienna also rejected Rabl's candidacy and emphasized the incompatibility of such an association with the values of Yad Vashem. The criticism is also directed at other politicians who are on the same electoral list as Rabl, accusing them of lacking anti-fascist sensitivity.

The decision for a joint electoral list, which includes Rabl and other politicians such as Linz Mayor Klaus Luger (SPÖ), was initially presented by those involved as a pragmatic solution to prevent the dissolution of the association. Luger defended the cooperation with Rabl and emphasized the intention not to bring about a fight and instead to seek a dialogue with the outgoing board.

In the media, Rabl himself expressed the desire to "reconcile, fill rifts and bring people together" and rejected the accusations of a "hostile takeover". He emphasized that he had been supporting the association for years and wanted to set an example "for remembering and against forgetting".

This controversy highlights the ongoing tensions in dealing with the far-right past and present in Austria and the importance of the culture of remembrance. The case underlines the need for a sensitive approach to the history of the Holocaust and the role of political representatives in commemorative organizations. The broad rejection of Rabl's candidacy shows that preserving the integrity of memorial sites and organizations is a concern that unites many people across political and geographical boundaries.

Mauthausen Committee Austria

IKG Vienna

Yad Vashem