Austria summons diplomat back from Israel for wearing ‘Nazi’ shirt

Juergen-Michael Kleppich, of the controversial FPOe party, causes uproar by posing with garment bearing name of Nazi tank division

Austrian attache Juergen-Michael Kleppich was summoned from Tel Aviv to Vienna over a Nazi shirt (courtesy)
Austrian attache Juergen-Michael Kleppich was summoned from Tel Aviv to Vienna over a Nazi shirt (courtesy)

VIENNA, Austria — Austria’s foreign ministry has summoned an attache from its embassy in Israel after he posted a picture of himself on social media wearing a T-shirt bearing the name of a Nazi tank division.

A screenshot of the post on Juergen-Michael Kleppich’s Facebook page showed him in the green shirt with the words “Stand your ground” and “Frundsberg,” the Falter weekly reported.

The last name of Georg von Frundsberg, who was a mercenary in the 15th century, was used by the Nazis during World War II for its 10th SS Panzer division.

The garment is sold by Phalanx Europa, an online shop that sells “patriotic” clothing for followers of the nativist Identitarian movement.

The episode is the latest embarrassment for a member of the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) since it came to power in December in a coalition with the center-right People’s Party.

Kleppich, who is also an FPOe local councilor in a district of Vienna, had previously posted a photo of his grandfather in a Nazi uniform, complete with swastika, according to Falter.

Austrian Chancellor of the conservative People’s Party (OeVP) Sebastian Kurz (L) and vice-chancellor of the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) Christian Strache attend the swearing-in ceremony of the new Austrian government in Vienna, on December 18, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / VLADIMIR SIMICEK)

Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl has ordered Kleppich “be summoned to Vienna immediately to submit to a legal probe into the accusations in the media,” her ministry said late Tuesday.

The FPOe, founded by ex-Nazis in the 1950s, has sought to clean up its image and its leader Heinz-Christian Strache says the party rejects all racism and extremism.

But in January an FPOe candidate in a state election quit after it emerged that his student fraternity had published a song book with lyrics praising the Holocaust.

They included the words “Step on the gas, old Germanics, we can make it to seven million.” Six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

Interior Minister Herbert Kickl of the FPOe is also under pressure over police raids on the domestic intelligence agency, which investigates extremist groups, including on the far-right.

Strache has visited Israel several times and supports moving the Austrian embassy to Jerusalem, as US President Donald Trump plans to do with the US mission. But Israel’s government has said it will not have direct contact with FPOe ministers, a stance mirrored by Austria’s Jewish community organization the IKG.

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