CEN/Van der Bellen
CEN/Van der Bellen

A holocaust survivor has issued an appeal - now going viral - to young people in Austria urging them to carefully think about who they vote for in the upcoming presidential election to stop history from repeating itself.

 

Gertrude was only 16 years old when she and her family were deported to Auschwitz with her parents and her two younger brothers. Her entire family was killed in the Nazi camp - only she survived.

Now she is watching with horror how "populists" once again "get the lowest out of the people", referring to the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPO).

In the second round of the Austrian presidential elections, FPO candidate Norbert Hofer, 45, is running against former Green party leader and rival candidate Alexander Van der Bellen, 72.

Gertrude, who is now 89 years old, was especially critical about FPO party chairman Heinz-Christian Strache, who reportedly suggested poor migrants could bring Austria to "civil war".

The holocaust survivor said she witnessed a civil war as a seven-year-old.

She said: "I saw my first dead - unfortunately not the last one. And then a politician says a civil war is possible."

Gertrude said it reminded her of how the Viennese back then had thought it was very amusing that Jews had to do forced labour.

Gertrude warns: "People cannot always complain, but then when there is an election, choose not to vote."

She explained that at the same time, one must consider exactly who to choose and what an elected politician would do with the vote.

Gertrude appealed to youngsters in particular: "For me it is probably my last elections, but young people still have their whole life in front of them."

Van der Bellen published the appeal of Gertrude on social media, where it quickly went viral. At the time of writing, it had 1.4 million views, 1,200 comments and over 34,000 shares on one platform alone.

According to reports and social media, Hofer’s election posters have frequently been defaced with Nazi symbols including swastikas and Hitler-like toothbrush moustaches, as well as stickers reading "I hate Nazis" (in English).

Yet last week, the far-right turned the tables on left-wing critics by contrasting a poster of Van der Bellen with famous images of Hitler. On the poster, van der Bellen can be seen leaning against a fence against an Alpine background looking down at his dog.

The FPO compared it with a famous pictures of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, who also frequently posed with his German shepherd Blondi at his mountainside retreat of Obersalzberg - known in English as the Eagle’s Nest.

Hofer and Van der Bellen are facing off in a second-round vote after a court ordered a rerun after irregularities in postal voting.

A renewed vote was originally scheduled on 2nd October, but was postponed again to 4th December after adhesive seals on postal votes were found to have come unstuck.

Van der Bellen beat Hofer in the second round by just 31,000 votes, but those elections were annulled by the court after Hofer complained about said anomalies in the counting of postal votes.