Hitler speech on train sparks investigation in Austria

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Shouts of “sieg heil” were heard during a train journey to the Austrian capital Vienna on Sunday.

An investigation has been launched after an Adolf Hitler speech was played over a train loudspeaker in Austria on Sunday. 

Austrian Railways said two suspects have already been tracked down after passengers reported hearing the speech by Nazi Germany’s wartime leader – complete with shouts of “sieg heil” (hail victory) – on a journey to the capital, Vienna. 

Laws against glorifying Nazism, such as giving the salute or displaying its symbols, were passed in Austria shortly after the end of the Second World War. 

A recent study by the Institute for Empirical Social Research found Nazism is on the rise inside the central European country, with one in three now believing Jews exert growing “power and influence” in politics and the media. 

The government-commissioned research, published in April, said multiple social crises, including the COVID pandemic, inflation and the Ukraine war, have caused radical views and conspiracy thinking to surge. 

In a statement on Monday, Austrian Railways said the announcements were made by on the train intercom, with Der Standard reporting they had handed over video evidence to the police. 

David Stogmuller, an Austrian Green MP, was on board the train and recorded the incident on video.  

A spokesman from the train company said the suspects had gained access to the loudspeaker with a key and then used a mobile phone to play audio clips. 

It did not know how they had gained access to the key. 

Schlomo Hofmeister, a rabbi from the Austrian capital who was onboard the train, said he heard people laughing when the calls rang out.

“I found that particularly disturbing,” Hofmeister wrote on Twitter. “There was no explanation or reassurance from the railways.”

Nearly 60% of Austrians have witnessed antisemitic language or behaviour in the past year, according to research by the Institute for Empiral Social Research. 

Austria fought with Germany during the Second World War, after it was annexed by Hitler in 1938. More than 60,000 Austrian Jews were murdered by the Nazis and tens of thousands driven from their homes. 

Vienna, the capital, is one of the great historical centres of Jewish culture in Europe. 

Another passenger, Colette Schmidt, said she other passengers were left “completely shocked” by the announcements.

Successive governments in Austria have tried to clamp down on Nazism. 

In November, the country said it would strengthen laws banning the use of various Nazi symbols in response to rising anti-semitism. 

Police in Vienna were strongly criticised in 2019 for allegedly responding slowly to members of the group Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West (Pegida) apparently giving the Nazi salute at a demonstration.