Wiesenthal Centre Protests Neo-Nazi Football Attack on Vienna Rabbi

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To Austrian Interior Minister: "... police refusal to intervene is too reminiscent of the 1938 Kristallnacht Reichspogrom in Austria. Law enforcement that betrays the victim is accomplice to the perpetrator."

Paris, 3 September, 2012

In a letter to Austrian Federal Interior Minister, Johanna Mikl-Leitner, the Simon Wiesenthal's Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, noted that "for many years, the presence of the late Simon Wiesenthal in Vienna acted as a restraint against overt expressions of anti-Semitism," adding,"This year, however, witnessed Jewish cemetery desecration and a Nazi-style cartoon by an Austrian political leader on Facebook."

The letter expressed outrage that, "Now, a Rabbi was, this weekend, assaulted in Vienna by, reportedly, neo-Nazi soccer fans IN FRONT OF POLICE OFFICERS."

Samuels cited Rabbi Hoffmeister (pictured), who described how he was accosted "by fans on their way to a soccer game, who yelled 'Move, Jew - Jews Out - Heil Hitler', accompanied by the Nazi salute", continuing "most shocking is to note that police witnesses refused to intervene, claiming with a smile, that 'it's just soccer!'"

Samuels highlighted his presence at EURO 2012 and the Centre's activity in Latin America. "Indeed, our protest at fan racism in Buenos Aires led to the AFA (Argentine Football Federation) disqualification of points won by the Chacarita Juniors Football Club.

This red flag penalty against hate is to be presented to FIFA and a European Parliament directive is to be adopted by the PARLATINO (Latin American Parliament). It should also be an example for Austrian football."

The letter pointed to the attack on Rabbi Hoffmeister and the police indifference as "arguably an Austrian violation of its obligations under EU and Council of Europe anti-discrimination provisions."

The Centre shared the letter with the OFB (Oesterreicher Fussball Bund), "urging that - in cooperation with the Ministry - disciplinary measures be taken, including penalties to be applied to the team supported by the delinquent fans and the prosecution of the bystander policemen."

"Law enforcement cannot be neutral in the face of hate-crime. This is too reminiscent of the 1938 Kristallnacht Reichspogrom in Austria. A policeman who betrays the victim is accomplice to the perpetrator," concluded Samuels.

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The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).