Parts of a speech by Adolf Hitler and chants of "Sieg Heil" were played over the speaker system on a train traveling from Bregenz to Vienna in Austria, Austrian Media reported on Monday.
The incident received media attention after multiple passengers on the train, including a Rabbi and an Austrian MP, complained on Twitter. Also among the passengers was a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor, according to Austrian newspaper Heute.
Gerade wurde im RailJet 661 mehrmals „Sieg Heil“ rufe durch das Lautsprechersystem ausgestrahlt! Die Zugbegleiterin komplett hilflos @unsereOEBB ich hoffe es erfolgt Anzeige und schleunigst Aufklärung! pic.twitter.com/S8kx5ZnnpZ— David Stögmüller (@Stoegmueller) May 14, 2023
A Hitler speech from 1938
Austrian MP David Stoegmueller published a short video recording of the announcement on Twitter and commented: "At first completely pointless stuff, even some funny stuff and suddenly, a Hitler speech and chants of 'Heil'. It was rather disturbing. The train attendant didn't know what to do anymore."
"It began with a rather serious-sounding announcement," Rabbi Shlomo Hofmeister of Vienna told the German newspaper Juedische Allgemeine. "Then all of a sudden strange music began to play and somebody said something about a fire alarm, followed by laughter. At that moment most passengers on the train understood that something had to be wrong... The culmination of the whole thing was a historical recording of a Hitler speech from the time of the Anschluss in 1938, including shouts of 'Sieg Heil' and so on."
The announcement continued for around twenty minutes, added Hofmeister.
The Austrian railway company OEBB gave conflicting accounts as to the background of the incident, which reportedly was the third of its kind but the first to be brought to the attention of relevant law enforcement agencies, according to Austrian newspaper Der Standard.
An official account of the company commented on Stoegmuellers post on Twitter and blamed technical defects. "Unfortunately, there are currently irritating announcements on individual trains, from whose content we clearly distance ourselves! We are working intensively to find the cause of these technical defects and fix them as quickly as possible."
However, an OEBB spokesman gave a different account of what happened.
"They must have used the intercom stations in the usual way, with a key, and then simply laid a mobile phone next to it," he explained. Two suspects were found using CCTV and were reported to the authorities, the spokesman added.
According to the Jewish Community of Vienna’s Reporting Center for Antisemitism, there were 719 reported antisemitic incidents in Austria in 2022, representing a 25.5% decrease from the previous year’s all-time recorded high of 965 incidents. The number of incidents remains higher than in 2019 and 2020, which saw 550 and 585 recorded incidents, respectively.
Despite the overall decrease in reported incidents, the number of physically threatening incidents, including physical assault, threats and deliberate damage to property, remained at the same high level as the previous year.
Zvika Klein contributed to this story.