Austrian police charge 2 men after Hitler speech plays on train’s loudspeakers

Authorities believe suspects infiltrated intercom system to broadcast 20 minutes of antisemitic audio, in violation of Austrian laws barring pro-Nazi statements

Trains parked at a station in Vienna, Austria, March 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak, File)
Trains parked at a station in Vienna, Austria, March 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak, File)

JTA — Austrian authorities are searching for two men suspected of blaring a recording of Hitler’s voice and a series of “Heil Hitler” and “Sieg Heil” chants on a public train for about 20 minutes on Sunday night.

Vienna’s chief rabbi was on the train and told CNN that the recording started with “strange music, snippets of conversation and laughter which suddenly turned into a Hitler speech played louder and louder.”

The rabbi, Schlomo Hofmeister, tweeted that he was disturbed at how long it took for the train’s conductors to shut off the recordings.

Police said on Monday that the men were not employees of the ÖBB, Austria’s federal train service, but that they infiltrated the intercom system via a key that all employees have. Officials believe the suspects played other sounds — a “nonsensical, confusing mix” of childrens’ songs — on other trains around Vienna last week.

The two suspects have been charged by Austrian authorities. Austria, which was the birthplace of Adolf Hitler, has strict laws against pro-Nazi statements and Holocaust denial.

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted on Tuesday that at least one Holocaust survivor was on the train and “one can only imagine how they felt.”

Journalist Colette Schmidt, who was also on the train, called the incident “very scary.”

“No conductor, no one came, there was no one to see. We were alone with this madness. ‘Who is driving this train now?’ I asked myself,” Schmidt, who works for the Austrian newspaper Der Standard, told CNN.

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