There have been protests in Austria against an annual ball attended by European far-right leaders – which this year coincides with Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Heinz-Christian Strache of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPO) had invited others who fall under the umbrella of the eurosceptic European Alliance for Freedom, such as French National Front leader and presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.
“There are no extremists attending the ball contrary to certain allegations. That’s rabble-rousing which is harming the dignity of the ball guests,” he said.
Kept away by police, thousands of protesters objected to the date of the event. The ball took place at Vienna’s imperial Hofburg palace – just a few hundred metres from a Holocaust commemoration ceremony.
“I find this is wrong because today is the liberation day of Auschwitz. And I think it’s impudent that the right wing groups chose this day to celebrate,” said protester Michael Wolfram.
The organisers said the ball was always held on the last Friday in January.
This is the last year it took place at the Hofburg palace: under pressure from unions and the left, its management has terminated the contract for the event.