(photo credit: AP)
Barbara Rosenkranz, 51, running for the Austrian presidency, has been endorsed by the owner of Austria's most widely read newspaper, the Kronen Zeitung. Critics contend her candidacy could tarnish the reputation of a country still marred by its connection to the Holocaust.
On Wednesday, just hours after being officially nominated, Rosenkranz reiterated her controversial belief that Austria's law banning the glorification of the Nazis is a hindrance to freedom of expression in well-couched wording, stressing in an interview with Austrian radio that her party's name contains the word "freedom."
"If one is for freedom of opinion and freedom of expression, then there is no other way but to allow absurd, bizarre, reprehensible opinions," she said.
She is most widely known for her opposition to Austria's anti-Nazi law. In the same vein, she has also defended doubts over Nazi gas chambers. Her husband, Horst Jakob Rosenkranz, was part of a far-right political party that was banned for being too radical.
Despite her endorsement from the owner of Austria's most popular newspaper, Rosenkranz is not expected to win the April 25 election. But is likely to lead a campaign against popular President Heinz Fischer laced with the anti-foreigner and anti-European Union rhetoric her far-right Freedom Party generates.
For Austria's Jewish community, Rosenkranz's nomination is a disgrace and "makes a mockery of the 65,000 Austrian Jews who perished in the Shoah," the Hebrew term for the Holocaust.
Other political parties also have criticized Rosenkranz's candidacy and expressed concern about the message it is sending abroad.
Austria's image as a country was marred by its association with Adolf Hitler.
About 130,000 Jewish Austrians fled the country in 1938-39, and it was
annexed by Nazi Germany from 1938 until the end of World War II. It
wasn't until 1991 that Franz Vranitzky became the first Austrian
chancellor to declare in parliament that Austrians were not only
victims but also perpetrators of the Holocaust.
Austria's president holds a largely ceremonial post and does not have
much, if any, political say. Still, the job comes with a large portion
of prestige and involves frequent international travel and
"She is definitely not suited for the highest post in the republic," President Fischer's Social Democrats said in a statement.
"Whoever trivializes as freedom of expression the denial that there
were gas chambers in the Third Reich is certainly unfit as candidate
for the presidency," echoed the opposition Greens.