The far-right deputy mayor of Hitler’s birthplace has resigned after writing a “deeply racist” poem comparing migrants to rats, which sparked fury across Austria and condemnation from Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.
Christian Schilcher, a member of the anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPÖ) that forms half of the country’s ruling alliance, had published the poem in the Easter edition of his party’s regional newspaper.
It used xenophobic imagery to suggest that migrants should assimilate or “quickly hurry away” from their adopted countries, and was written over a drawing of a rat wearing a long black beard and hat.
One line reads: “if you mix two cultures … it’s as if you destroy them.”
“Just as we live down here, so must other rats, who as guests or migrants … share with us the way of life, or … quickly hurry away,” the poem also says. Its title roughly translates to “The City Rat (Rodent from the Sewer).”
Schilcher served as the deputy mayor of the small town of Braunau am Inn before his resignation was announced on Tuesday, reported by Austrian news agency APA.
He had initially defended the message of the poem, claiming in an interview with regional newspaper Oberösterreichische Nachrichten that he had not considered the historical connotations of the comparison between humans and rats.
Comparing Jewish people to rodents was a tactic frequently used in Nazi German propaganda under Adolf Hitler, who was born in Braunau am Inn.
Chancellor Kurz – who has previously come under pressure to denounce the rhetoric and actions of FPÖ politicians – welcomed Schilcher’s resignation, after initially condemning the poem.
“The resignation of the vice mayor #Braunau of was the only logical consequence of this vile and racist poem,” he wrote on Twitter, calling the move “necessary and correct.”
Kurz has attempted to curb criticism over his ties with the far right party, as he prepares to contest next month’s European elections. The FPÖ has been in government with Kurz’s Austrian People’s Party since the country’s 2017 election, in which both parties took a hard line against immigration.
“The choice of words is disgusting, shows contempt for human beings and is deeply racist,” he told Austrian news agency APA after the poem had first been discovered.
“The Freedom Party in Upper Austria must distance themselves from this immediately and unequivocally and issue a clarification,” he added.
The poem was published on the same day as Heinz-Christian Strache, FPÖ chairman and Austria’s vice chancellor, was accused of sharing an article from a website that denies the Holocaust – putting further pressure on Kurz to distance himself from the party as he prepares to contest next month’s European elections. Strache has denied the allegations.
Drawing a link between the poem and the allegations against Strache, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, leader of the opposition Social Democratic Party, tweeted: “Kurz must act or he loses all credibility in the fight against racism and anti-Semitism.”