Benjamin Hess, President of the Union of Jewish Austrian University Students, the main representative group for Jewish students in Austria, has revealed that the organisation will be seeking legal action after two secret groups were revealed to have contained worrying antisemitic rhetoric.
The Facebook group “FVJUS Men’s Collective” and the Whatsapp group “Badass warlords” both contained antisemitism. They included pictures of a pile of ashes captioned “Leaked Anne Frank nudes!” and a picture of Hitler with the caption “Hey. I just met you and this is crazy, but here’s your number…So Auschwitz, maybe?”
There is also a picture of Hitler with the caption “you can’t be racist if there is no other race”, clearly making light of the attempts to exterminate non-“Aryans”.
A gallery of some of the content, which also includes misogynistic and Islamophobic rhetoric, can be viewed here.
Benjamin Hess said that the content should be “prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law”.
Most worryingly, many of the group’s participants were student leaders, notably student leaders of the Conservative Austrian People’s Party at the University of Vienna, where Hess is a student. The CAPP are a centre-right party in Austria, but many of the nation’s future leaders will come through the ranks of the University of Vienna.
Following student elections, Hess said that he was “shocked” that the people in question had not lost their seats as a result of their bigoted discourse. Despite a demonstration involving 200 people, the University of Vienna seems to have taken no serious action against the culprits. It is however very encouraging to see people turn out to show solidarity with Jewish students.
Hess commented that “this scandal goes beyond just the students, because it is known that participation in the students’ union and the Conservative student party is the first step to a larger career. These people go on to be the country’s leaders”.
Whilst the content in the group may have been made without malicious intent, it demonstrates a lack of concern for rising antisemitism and the experiences of Jewish and other minority students. More worrying is the failure of the University to take disciplinary action and the re-election of the students involved, both of which communicate to all involved that antisemitism is an acceptable part of academic life.