Europe

Christian Schilcher: Deputy mayor resigns over poem

Austrian Deputy Mayor of Braunau am Inn, Christian Schilcher, who resigned over a "racist" poem, 23 April 2019 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Schilcher said he did not mean to insult anyone

An Austrian deputy mayor has resigned amid mounting criticism over a poem he wrote about migration that compared humans to rodents.

In The City Rat, Christian Schilcher, from the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), tells migrants to integrate or "get out of here fast".

He works in Braunau am Inn, where Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler was born.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said: "The resignation of the deputy mayor of Braunau was the only logical outcome."

Mr Kurz's People's Party governs in a coalition with the FPÖ.

He previously told the Austrian Press Agency that the poem was "disgusting, inhuman and deeply racist" and had no place in Austria.

President Alexander van der Bellen went further, warning that statements targeting incitement towards groups of people had been made public in recent days and weeks that "lead to the poisoning of the social climate in our country".

The Freedom Party is the only far-right party with a share of power in Western Europe, and it has become caught up in a series of race rows.

Last week, Vice-Chancellor and FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache was accused of linking on his Facebook page to a website accused of Holocaust denial.

A party youth poster in south-east Austria entitled "tradition beats migration" has been criticised for drawing on Nazi anti-Semitic tropes.

Rat imagery was also used by the Nazis in anti-Semitic propaganda.

In his poem, Mr Schilcher said that if you mix different cultures, "it's as if you destroy them".

He said he did not mean to "insult or hurt anyone" and apologised for ignoring the "historically burdened" comparison between rats and humans, saying the poem aimed to describe changes "which myself and others quite rightly criticise" from a rat's perspective.

Pamela Rendi-Wagner, head of the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPÖ), said such comparisons were "customary in Nazi propaganda".

Mr Strache acknowledged that the deputy mayor had "reached into the political rubbish bin" but complained in a Facebook post of "incitement" against his party.

It showed competitors were "especially nervous" ahead of European Parliament elections in May, he said.

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