The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Skinhead International: Austria

Since the mid-eighties Austria's Skinhead scene, while small and diffuse, has presented a threat to public order. In alliance with the "hools" (hooligans), gangs of Skins have terrorized soccer matches, disrupted youth centers and discos, and attacked random victims on the street and at subway stops. On most weekends the gangs gather at local pubs for drunken parties which frequently end in games of "hunt the foreigners."

Reporting on the knifing of two pedestrians on a Sunday evening in October 1990, a Viennese newspaper angrily noted that hardly a weekend passed without some act of criminal violence. In 1992, emboldened by events in Germany, the pace of such incidents quickened. A few examples will illustrate the trend:

In Graz, Skinheads went on a rampage following the arrest of some of their members by the police. Calling it "a revenge campaign," they left a trail of wrecked autos, smashed shop display cases and several distraught victims.

A band of neo-Nazis, including Skinheads, staged a provocative march through Innsbruck. A number of brawls broke out, ending with one of the neo-Nazis hospitalized with a skull fracture. Vowing revenge on the "leftist vermin," the gang invaded the hospital and threatened the staff. When police intervened, the gang left, shouting "Sieg Heil" and giving the Hitler salute.

In Salzburg, two Skinhead thugs assaulted two 15-year-old Yugoslav students by shooting gas pistols in their faces. Both victims required hospitalization.

A gang of teenage Skinheads passing a synagogue on a Jewish holy day screamed at the congregation, "Long Live the Fuehrer," "Down with the Jewish Swine," and "Death to the Jews." The Skins were later arrested and the ringleader sentenced to one year in prison.

The actual number of Skinheads in Austria is small in comparison with the surrounding countries. Perhaps 150 to 200 constitute the Skinhead scene and of these only a minority are activists. Because of the numerical weakness, they have formed a close relationship with the hooligans, resulting in a less politicized but more violence-prone movement. According to the skinzine Stahlfront (Steelfront), published in Steyr, the Skinheads number about 100 in Vienna, of whom only a hard core of 30 can be counted on. Their potential threat is enhanced by the 200 hooligans in the city with whom they often join forces. The same skinzine notes that in Linz, for example, the Skinhead presence is minimal, but the city is "terrorized by a large number of hools."

There are small, isolated bands of Skinheads in Wels, the Tirol and Steyr (a gang has recently re-emerged there led by the publisher of the zine Stahlfront). The area around Graz (in particular the towns of Leoben and Zeltweg) is favored by Skinheads, much to the discomfort of the authorities. The Voralberg, next to Switzerland and southern Germany, is also a region with a noticeable presence of Skinheads. The town of Bregenz, near Lake Constance, for instance, was the site of a concert in 1992, featuring the German Skin band Stoerkraft and Dirlewanger from Sweden.

Austria has a native Skinhead music band, the Arbeiterfront (Labor Front), whose members are frequently in jail for a continuous string of violations. A second group, called Oisterreicher (word play on "Austrian" using "oi," the term for Skinhead music), has disbanded.

Skinhead Awake

A half dozen skinzines have circulated of late in Austria. One zine, White Pride, from Vienna, has been printed in English. The oldest and most politically influential zine appears to be Skinhead Erwache (Skinhead Awake - Vienna). Other titles have been Aufstand (Revolt - Wels), Pride of Austria, Heimatland (Homeland - Pottendorf), and the aforementioned Stahlfront (Steyr).

In addition to relying on hools to inflate their numbers, the Austrian Skinheads depend largely on their German and other foreign counterparts for activities and inspiration. On May 11, 1992, about 80 Skins, many coming from Germany and Luxembourg, gathered at St. Poelten. A concert planned in Wels for August 31, 1992, at which Skinhead bands from Hungary, Germany and England were to appear, was canceled because the hall became unavailable. Instead, Austrian Skins travelled to Remblinghausen in Germany for a giant open-air concert with seven German Skin bands. Austrial Skinheads joined their German comrades at demonstrations in Gottingen on May 17, 1992, in Bielefelt (where they met at the National Front Center) and in Roth, where drunken Skins marched through the streets shouting "Foreigners Out!"

Austrian Skinheads are also closely allied with Hungarian Skins. Groups frequently travel to Budapest to dance at the popular Viking Club, join the Hungarian hools at soccer matches, or meet with their comrades for beer parties. The Hungarian Skin bands Egreszseges Fejbor (Healthy Skinhead) and Pannon Bulldog are highly popular and T-shirts bearing their logos are avidly worn by Australian Skins.

Austria's Skinheads are favored by hardly any political groups except Gottfried Kuessel's National Extra-Parliamentary Opposition Party (VAPO). Kuessel, now in prison for his neo-Nazi activities, has aggresively canvassed support among the Skinheads and his literature is widely circulated in Skinhead ranks. The zine Skinhead Erwache carried on the front cover of issue No. 8 an old Nazi drawing of marching stormtroops with the rune-eagle of Kuessel's VAPO replacing the swastika. Despite his ideological appeal, however, few Skins have actually applied for VAPO membership. On the other hand, most of Kuessel's followers began their right-wing activity as Skinheads.

While small, the Austrian Skinhead movement ought not to be ignored. It forms part of the larger neo-Nazi network that has developed between Austria and Germany and that believes in a future where Austria is once again united with a resurgent Reich. (Anti-Defamation League, 13-15)

Work Cited

Anti-Defamation League. The Skinhead International: A Worldwide Survey of Neo-Nazi Skinheads. New York: Anti-Defamation League, 1995. Anti-Defamation League, 823 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017.

Disclaimer: not all skinheads are neo-nazis or white supremacists. There are many skinheads who are non- or anti-racist, and who come from a variety of different religious and cultural backgrounds. Nizkor recognizes their achievements in anti-racism: they are part of the traditional, non-racist skinhead subculture and are not the perpetrators of the hate crimes discussed here.

Unless otherwise specified, the word "skinhead" within these pages refers only to neo-Nazi and white supremacist skinheads, the perpetrators of hate crimes and participants in racist organizations. We cannot edit the body of the text above, because it was not written by Nizkor, and to change the wording would be fraudulent. Please keep in mind that not all skinheads are racist.

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