Austrians investigate Nazi camp skinheads

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The Independent Online

A group of far-right skinheads has shocked Austria after going on an organised visit to a former concentration camp, dressed in black T-shirts proclaiming "I love the Nazis", and giving the "Sieg Heil" salute in front of the entrance to a gas chamber.

The group, from the town of Wels, subsequently posted online photographs of themselves at the Nazi Mauthausen camp, where more than 120,000, mainly Jewish, prisoners were gassed or murdered in medical experiments during the Second World War.

In one of the snapshots, three of the skinheads were depicted giving the Nazi salute in front of one of the camp's gas chambers, which have been preserved for posterity. They wore T-shirts with the slogans "I love Nazis", "I like Nazi Rock" and "National Socialist".

A spokesman for the camp, where the late Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal was imprisoned, described their actions as the "grotesque desecration of a national monument".

State prosecutors said the skinheads were known members of a far-right organisation called "The Colourful Ones". Two women and a small child were part of the group.

Austria's Office for the Protection of the Constitution said it had begun an investigation into the incident.

But Willi Mernyi, a spokesman for the Mauthausen memorial committee, said the visit was not merely a one-off incident. "This is just one of a whole series of similar cases which have had no legal consequences," he said.

In Austria, as in Germany, it is forbidden to display Nazi symbols, give the Hitler salute, or praise the policies of the Third Reich. "The visit was meant as a provocation," said Mr Mernyi. "These were no dumb teenagers but adults who knew exactly what they were doing."