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Hitler speech intrudes on train intercom

Austrian police investigate ‘two unauthorized persons’ ID’d by national railway by VICTORIA BISSET The Washington Post | May 17, 2023 at 4:52 a.m.

Adolf Hitler, delivering a speech and seeming to shout "Sieg Heil," began playing on the intercom system of the Austrian train headed toward Vienna. In a country with a long history with Nazism -- as well as strict laws against the use of Nazi propaganda and symbols -- passengers were left stunned.

Many riders initially assumed that someone was playing a prank or a train employee accidentally left the intercom on while watching a movie, according to Schlomo Hofmeister, the community rabbi of Vienna, who was on board Sunday.

"Something didn't add up. And eventually the announcements became more and more absurd," Hofmeister said Tuesday in an interview. "When the Hitler speech came, then it was clear to everyone that this is not an accident, but this is on purpose."

Hours after the incident, the rabbi tweeted that he found it "above all disturbing, when some passengers began to laugh" as Hilter's voice and Nazi slogans sounded from the loudspeakers. He expressed frustration Tuesday that train personnel didn't immediately walk through the cars and tell passengers not to worry.

"Some people were shocked, some were panicked, some were upset," he recounted. "Yet others just started to laugh out of awkwardness, I suppose."

Green Party lawmaker David Stogmuller, who tweeted a video showing one of the moments when the Nazi salute call "Sieg Heil" was broadcast, described the sabotage as "pretty disturbing" and said a member of staff appeared "completely helpless."

Austria's national railway operator, OBB, said Tuesday via email it reported the incident to police after identifying the individuals allegedly involved. The "two unauthorized persons" -- neither of whom was a member of its staff -- gained access to the intercom system and played "music and National Socialist texts," the statement said.

"We apologize to the passengers for the unpleasant situation, and we clearly distance ourselves from the content," the statement said.

An OBB spokesman told Austrian newspaper Der Standard that the perpetrators appeared to have used a key that rail employees have to access the intercom and played the recordings from a cellphone. In two similar incidents over the past week, children's songs were played over a train intercom, according to the newspaper.

"The investigators were already able to determine the identity of the two accused in Vienna and will bring them in for questioning as soon as possible," the regional police said Tuesday in an email.

Police have not publicly discussed the motive behind the incident but confirmed that the State Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Combating Terrorism of the State Police Directorate of Lower Austria had taken over the case.

Hitler, who was born in Austria, annexed the country in 1938 while leader of Nazi Germany. Last year, the country announced plans to strengthen its already strict laws banning the use of Nazi symbols, according to Reuters news agency.

On Monday, the antisemitism Reporting Office of the Jewish Community of Vienna said in an annual report that it had received 719 reports of "clearly antisemitic" incidents in 2022 -- the second-highest tally since the group began its tracking.

Print Headline: Hitler speech intrudes on train intercom


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