Austrian Counter-Terrorist Agency Engulfed in Neo-Nazi Scandal
Verfassungsschutz agent reportedly has close ties to neo-Nazi website; Jewish editor questions country’s ability to combat radical ideologies.
By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL
The Jerusalem Post | November 14, 2010
BERLIN – Austria’s domestic intelligence agency, Verfassungsschutz, which is responsible for combating terrorism and neo-Nazi extremism, was plagued by disclosures last week in an APA news report of one of its agents having close ties to the leading neo-Nazi website alpen-donau.info and the Austrian far-right extremist movement.
Rudolf Gollia, a spokesman for Austria’s Interior Ministry, told The Jerusalem Post during a telephone conversation on Friday that intelligence agent Josef Fertschai is continuing to work for the ministry and there is no reason “to sever ties” with him because his son, Benjamin Fertschai, is active on the “right-wing nationalist” scene.
While the Austrian media have not revealed the full names of the agent and his son, the Post obtained them from sources in Vienna. The Austrian Interior Ministry transferred Josef Fertschai this summer from its intelligence division to a new position in the ministry.
According to the APA, there are indications that the neo-Nazi site received sensitive information about the activities of the domestic intelligence agency, leading to Fertschai as the leak. The alpendonau.info website is widely considered to be one of the leading neo-Nazi sites in Central Europe, and frequently incites hard-core hatred against Jews.
Gollia told the Post that although the site is a German-language homepage, the server is in the US. According to Austrian media reports, the police have jump-started searches of homes connected to alpen-donau.info in a number of Austrian regional states. Gollia said the site contains “anti-Semitic content.”
Critics in Austria and Israel have long slammed Austrian officials for failing to crack down on alpendonau.info and its anti-Jewish content. Samuel Laster, the editor-in-chief of the Vienna-based online Jewish news site Die Jüdische, told the Post on Friday that the site had termed him a “dirty Jew.” Laster, who has over the years published articles documenting and criticizing the anti-Semitic tirades appearing on alpen-donau.info, has been the subject of threats from the extreme right-wing website.
Earlier this year, the neo-Nazi site issued a death threat against the spokeswoman for the Austrian chapter of Stop the Bomb, which seeks to halt the Iran’s nuclear program and promote Israel’s security.
Laster told the Post that “apparently, the people from the Interior Ministry have not told the truth to the media. … There is a complaint against the father as well as the son, and both are the subject of an investigation.”
Given the links between Austria’s extreme far-right scene and an agency responsible for fighting the right-wing extremists, “How should people feel protected against the dangers of terror?” Laster asked. “How many other Nazi moles are involved in the security structures?” The Austrian authorities are “insensitive toward the victims“ of Nazis, said Laster. He noted that a representative of Austria’s public prosecutor had said that “it is not our goal to shut down the website.”
Laster raised further question marks over Austria’s ability to combat radical ideologies such as Islamic terror.
One of Austria’s largest political parties, the FPÖ (Austrian Freedom Party), has strong ties to Austria’s neo-Nazi scene. FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache has an affinity for neo-Nazi groups, and has in the past attended events organized by the Viking Youth in Germany, a radical nationalistic group that has since been outlawed.
The FPÖ has associations with Holocaust deniers, and scored dramatic vote results in this year’s Vienna mayoral election.
The party is also represented in the Austrian federal parliament.