The name Jorg Haider probably means very little to most Americans. In Europe, it may well bring a chill to many. The report of his death in a car crash earlier today, at the age of 58, will have few in the western world mourning unduly.
Born of Nazi parents, he grew up cherishing the ideals of the Nazi party even though membership was banished in his native Austria after WW2.
His policies were ultra right-wing. He became chairman of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPO) in 1986 and under his leadership the party’s share of the vote rose from around 5% in the late 1980’s to 27% by 1999.
Then a split occurred in the FPO and Haider left to form his own party, the Alliance for the Future of Austria, or BZO. It effectively split the right-wing vote, leaving both the BZO and FPO to struggle in the polls.
Haider was undoubtedly a Nazi sympathizer. He openly praised Hitler’s employment policies, described the concentration camps as “punishment camps”, and the Nazi SS as, “a part of the Wehrmacht (German military) and hence it deserves all the honour and respect of the army in public life.”
His premature death may be welcomed by many, but the sudden removal of his leadership and charisma may well cause the two ultra-right parties to coalesce once more, and that could cause serious problems for Austrian politics.
Filed under: Diseased politics