'Bring pride back to Austria. Bring pride back to Germany'

GOP congressman sympathizes with Austrian far-right after Auschwitz visit

After going on trip to Poland funded by education group, Steve King meets with Freedom Party, says Germans shouldn’t have to apologize for Holocaust anymore

Republican Representative Steve King of Iowa on Capitol Hill in Washington, on June 27, 2018. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Republican Representative Steve King of Iowa on Capitol Hill in Washington, on June 27, 2018. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

JTA — Rep. Steve King of Iowa met with members of a far-right Austrian political party and gave a sympathetic interview to a related publication after participating on a trip to Poland sponsored by a Holocaust education group.

King, a Republican, met with members of the Freedom Party, or FPOe, in Austria following an August trip that included visits to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp and meetings with Holocaust survivors, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

The Freedom Party was founded by a former Nazi SS officer and is known for its anti-immigrant views.

King, who is seeking a ninth term in next month’s midterm elections, gave the interview to Unzensuriert, a publication associated with the far-right party, in which he complained about illegal immigration to the United States, said that Islam and Western liberalism “have teamed up against Western civilization” and criticized George Soros, a Jewish billionaire who is frequently the target of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

“We might not have had Obamacare without Soros,” King said. “His money floats in in such a way you can’t see the flow, but if you trace it back you can connect it to his foundation.”

King, whose comments in the past have led to accusations of racism, defended the meeting with members of the Freedom Party and said its leaders “completely reject any kind of Nazi ideology or philosophy.”

People walk through the Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland, on January 28. 2011. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski/ File)

Prior to visiting Austria, King participated in a four-day trip sponsored by From the Depths, a foundation that has brought over 100 politicians from Europe, Israel and the United States to visit German Nazi concentration camps in Poland.

King told the Washington Post visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp was a “very, very powerful experience.” He also said he visited sites on his own so he could get a “Polish perspective,” apart from a Jewish one.

The organization’s founder, Jonny Daniels, told JTA on Thursday that it was “upsetting” that King had met with members of the far-right party. Daniels emphasized that while his group had paid for King’s trip to Poland, it had not funded his travel to Austria and was not aware of what he was doing there.

“It’s been quite shocking to me on a personal level,” he said, “because through all the congressmen in the past and members of parliament from all over, we’ve never had any issues. In fact quite the opposite — people leave with a very deep and intense understanding.”

Jonny Daniels’ From the Depths organization honored three Poles for risking their lives to save Jews. (Jonny Daniels/Facebook)

The British-born Daniels first gained prominence in Poland in 2014, when he brought over half the Israeli Knesset to Auschwitz on a trip financed by private donors.

Daniels, who was present on the trip by King, said the lawmaker “was visibly moved” and “in tears” at Auschwitz.

He said that the reports showed why the foundations trips were necessary.

“This clearly proves that there’s a lot more for us to do,” Daniels said.

King has a history of speaking harshly about immigration and multiculturalism, and sharing far-right opinions on Twitter. In June, he shared a tweet by a prominent neo-Nazi.

Last year, King endorsed Dutch nationalist Geert Wilders by tweeting that “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

In the Unzensuriert article, King agrees with his interviewer that the United States is threatened by a “Great Replacement,” which white nationalists say is an attempt to uproot “indigenous” populations in Europe and the United States and replace them with immigrants from Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.

People hold up placards featuring Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (L) and Heinz-Christian Strache, chairman of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPOE) during protests against Austria’s far right holding its so-called Academics Ball in Vienna, Austria on January 26, 2018. (AFP/APA/HANS PUNZ)

King also suggests that Austria and Germany have done enough to atone for the Holocaust and should take pride in their history.

“So I suggest: Bring pride back to Austria! And bring pride back in to Germany again,” King said. “I came to Germany about 15 years ago, and a lot of conversations started with the words ‘I am German, therefore I apologize.’ I took note the first time I heard this from an individual. But after I heard this 10, 12 times, then I knew: It’s the culture.

“When I interviewed Poles, especially the Jewish Poles that are left, and there are not very many of them, their level of resentment is so deep that they think any time a German opens his mouth he should apologize first. And I think you can’t pass the sins of the fathers on to the succeeding generations. They need to know their history, they need to be aware of it, but that’s not their sins. They were not yet born.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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