Sack for Holocaust MP

Jorg Haider, the populist politician whose far-right Freedom Party could come to power in Austria's forthcoming election, yesterday dismissed one of his MPs for appearing to cast doubt on the Holocaust.

Mr Haider, who himself once publicly praised Hitler's employment programmes, acted swiftly to defuse the row over comments made by the MP John Gudenus during a television debate. Mr Gudenus refused to answer a question on whether he believed millions of Jews had been gassed to death under the Nazi regime, saying: "I'll stay out of that one."

The MP's evasiveness put his leader in a quandary. Austrians in general - and Freedom Party supporters in particular - have always had a struggle to acknowledge their complicity in the crimes of the Third Reich, but denial of the Holocaust remains completely taboo.

As his sacking of Mr Gudenus shows, Mr Haider clearly is trying to distance himself from the more extreme elements of his party. The prospect of his inclusion in government at the 17 December poll, however, still fills many Austrians with trepidation.