Austria’s new far-right interior minister has sparked outrage by saying his government wants to “concentrate” migrants in one place – which critics have interpreted as an allusion to Nazi death camps.
Herbert Kickl used the phrase at a news conference last week, arguing that he wanted “basic services centres, suitable infrastructure that enables us to concentrate people in the asylum process in one place”.
The Nazis ran a concentration camp in Austria between 1938 and 1945 at Mauthausen-Gusen, where tens of thousands of people were murdered as part of the wider Holocaust, which killed millions.
Mr Kickl has since backpedalled on the comments, saying he “did not intend to provoke anyone”. He became interior minister – the equivalent of home secretary – after the far-right Freedom Party of Austrua (FPO) formed a coalition government with the conservative Austrian People’s Party following elections in October. The FPO has pledged to adopt a “very, very strict asylum policy”.
The FPO was created by former Nazi officers in the 1950s. Its inclusion in Austria’s governing coalition has sparked protests, while representatives of the country’s Jewish community have refused to have any contact with it.
Responding to Mr Kickl’s comments, the Austrian Green Party warned against the “language of National Socialism creeping into our way of thinking and feeling”, while the New Austria and Liberal Forum Party said Mr Kickl should apologise for his “deliberate provocation”.
Mr Kickl’s comments come just days after Manfred Weber, a senior German politician in Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU group, apologised for pledging a “final solution” to the refugee crisis in Europe.
Mr Weber had described the policy as a “finale Lösung”, a very similar term, especially when translated into English, to the word “Endlösung”, used by the Nazis to describe the Holocaust.
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