Austria election Holocaust survivor”s appeal goes viral

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Austria election: Holocaust survivor”s appeal goes viral

Image caption
“This is probably going to be my last election. I don”t have much time left. ”

An emotional appeal from a Holocaust survivor has gone viral ahead of Austria”s presidential election.

Gertrude, 89, said Norbert Hofer”s right-wing Freedom Party “brings out the basest in people”, as she urged people to vote for his competitor.

“I have seen this once before… and it hurts and scares me”, she said, referencing anti-Semitism in the 1930s.

She was deported to the Auschwitz death camp with her family aged 16. She was the only one to survive.

Gertrude, known only by her first name, shared the video through Mr Hofer”s rival, Alexander Van der Bellen. It has been viewed almost three million times.

Austria”s presidential vote re-run is on 4 December and the polls indicate the result is too close to call. If Mr Hofer wins, he will become the EU”s first far-right head of state.

His party was founded in 1955 by a former general in the Nazi SS and it is also distinctly anti-immigration.

“That”s what bothers me the most … no respect for others, they bring out the basest of people – not the decent, but the indecent,” Gertrude said in her video.

“And it”s not the first time something like this has happened.”

She compared the rhetoric surrounding immigration to her memories of Jewish people being mocked and laughed at as they cleaned the streets of Vienna in her youth.

“That hurts. I am afraid of that,” she said.

Media captionThe BBC goes on the campaign trail with Norbert Hofer

Gertrude also said she was particularly worried by comments from the Freedom Party”s leader.

Heinz-Christian Strache in October spoke of an “uncontrolled influx of migrants alien to our culture who seep into our social welfare system”, adding that “civil war in the medium-term [is] not unlikely”.

Gertrude said she remembered a civil war from when she was seven years old and saw a dead body for the first time – something she said she could never forget.

It is not clear which war she was referring to, but Austria”s February uprising of 1934 was a four-day armed conflict which left several hundred dead.

“A shiver ran down my spine and I thought to myself: this should not even be mentioned, or even thought of,” she said.

“This is probably going to be my last election. I don”t have much time left. But the young ones still have their whole life ahead of them.

“And they have to look after themselves and for a bright future.”


Read more on Austria”s neck-and-neck vote:


Commenting on the reaction to her message, Gertrude said she was “pleasantly surprised that the words of an old lady had been taken seriously”.

The presidential vote takes place on 4 December. Mr Van der Bellen won the initial election, in May, by just 30,863 votes.

But Austria”s high court backed a complaint that election rules on postal voting had been broken, prompting a re-run.