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Austrian far-right party pledges to clean up pro-Nazi image

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Austrian far-right party pledges to clean up pro-Nazi image

Austrian far-right party pledges to clean up pro-Nazi image
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Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) has appointed a group of historians to look into its past in a bid to distance itself from its anti-Semitic image.

The party, founded by a former Schutzstaffel (SS) brigadier in the 1950s, entered Austria's coalition government in December 2017 after coming in third in elections in October, with 26% of the vote.

It has previously proclaimed a clear break from its roots but the anti-Islam FPÖ has recently been embroiled in Nazi scandals.

Tuesday's announcement comes after a local party official was forced to step down after it emerged he was vice-chairman of a far-right fraternity that had printed a song celebrating Nazi atrocities.

Lyrics in the book, produced in 1997 by the Germania zu Wiener Neustadt organisation, included "Step on the gas, old Germanics, we can make it to seven million."

Protesters hold signs reading

A commission of up to 50 researchers, led by FPÖ politician and historian Wilhelm Brauneder, will examine the party's past, inviting contributions from researchers and representatives of independent bodies, according to FPÖ parliamentary group leader Walter Rosenkranz.

He also said he hoped the commission could "persuade all critics to provide us with everything still slumbering in their archives," including fraternities' private records.

The Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance's archive centre will be included in the commission, which specialises in Nationalism Socialism and neo-Nazism and has been a vocal critic of the FPÖ.

The opposition dismissed the anti-Islam party's plan as a whitewash, with the FPÖ struggling for years to shake off its extreme right-wing image.