Austrian Jewish Student Organization Seeking Legal Action Against National Student Leaders Who Participated in Chat Group Mocking Holocaust
Following the exposure of a secret chat group in which top Austrian student leaders engaged in Holocaust denial, the president of the country’s leading Jewish student organization told The Algemeiner on Monday his group has decided to pursue criminal charges.
Benjamin Hess — of the Union of Jewish Austrian University Students (JÖH) — said those behind the pro-Nazi content posted over four years in the Facebook group “FVJUS Men’s Collective” and the WhatsApp group “Badass warlords” should be “prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
In another post, a picture of Adolf Hitler was uploaded alongside the words: “Hey. I just met you and this is crazy, but here’s your number… So Auschwitz, maybe?”
The chats were also filled with degrading comments about women and Muslims.
Hess said many of the chat groups’ 32 participants were members of the student chapter of the Conservative Austrian People’s Party at the University of Vienna’s Faculty of Law (where Hess is a student himself), a school and student group from which many of the country’s premier politicians and lawyers have ascended to prominence.
The posts, a selection of which have been published online, were first leaked earlier this month to weekly Viennese newspaper Falter (Butterfly), soon before elections for the national Austrian University Students’ Union took place.
“I was shocked that the [Conservative student party] barely incurred any loses in the elections as a result of this,” said Hess, noting that the party holds some 30% of the union’s seats. “They posted under their own names. Some were already in office or had formerly held office, but some were running for election — and a few won.”
He said the law school has no avenues to take disciplinary action against students involved, but that JÖH was “pursuing cooperation with [the school] to make sure such incidents do not happen again, and working with the [Conservative student] party to make sure all people who did something questionable are removed from their positions.”
On May 16, JÖH held a demonstration in front of the law school to raise awareness about antisemitism, and attracted some 200 supporters.
“This scandal goes beyond just the students, because it is known that participation in the students’ union and the Conservative student party is the first step to a larger career,” Hess said. “These people go on to be the country’s leaders.”