Last Updated: October 23, 2014

Weather: Canberra 8°C - 28°C . Shower or two. Possible storm.

World Breaking News

Swastika on Austrian tombstone defies ban

A marble tombstone in Austria adorned by a swastika

Nazi symbols continue to be seen on Austrian tombstones despite laws against displaying them. Source: AAP

THE marble tombstone looks like others dotting the main cemetery of Graz, Austria's second city - but only at first glance. Carved into it are a swastika and the inscription: "He died in the struggle for a Great Germany."

Footsteps away, another gravestone is marked with the SS lightning bolts proudly worn by the elite Nazi troops who executed most of the crimes of the Holocaust.

Austrian law bans such symbols, and those displaying them face criminal charges and potential prison terms.

Yet the emblems reflecting this country's darkest chapter in history endure here, and officials appear either unable or unwilling to do away with them - despite complaints from locals.

The controversy reflects Austria's complex relationship with the Hitler era.

Annexation by Germany in 1938 enabled Austrians to claim after the war that they were Hitler's first victims.

Austria has moved since to acknowledge that it was instead a perpetrator. It has paid out millions of dollars in reparations, restored property to Jewish heirs and misses no public opportunity to ask for forgiveness for its wartime role.

Some comments by Graz city and church representatives responsible for managing the dispute suggest they see nothing wrong with graveyard Nazi displays.

While acknowledging the mayor's office was uncomfortable with the swastika, the city's spokesman, Thomas Rajakovics, called it an old "symbol in the English world that stands for the sun."

Christian Leibnitz, provost of Graz' Roman Catholic church, said "a lot" of tombstones in the city still displayed the swastika and suggested it had a right to remain in cemeteries as a "political and societal symbol" of the era, even "if I totally oppose this era."

Asked if the church was ready to put up a sign next to the grave explaining how the swastika is associated with Nazi horrors, he demurred, saying symbols displayed on other tombstones might be just as offensive to some people.

Pressed for specifics, he spoke of "anti-religious" symbols on some graves, adding without elaboration that the church was "not necessarily happy" with some of the emblems displayed on the cemetery's Jewish graves.

Austria enacted a law in 1947 banning Nazi symbols that led to the purging of such emblems from Austrian graveyards. Vienna cemeteries spokesman Florian Keusch says he believes none of the 500,000 gravestones in the Austrian capital now has such symbols, "and if we found any they would be removed."

But Rajakovics, the Graz spokesman, and Leibnitz, the church provost, say their hands are tied.

Both claim they are not aware of the grave with the SS symbol. But in the case of the swastika, they cite Graz' top prosecutor, Hans-Joerg Bacher, who ruled that the law prohibiting Nazi displays did not apply to that headstone because it was put up before the law was passed in 1947.

Under that interpretation, Graz officials say it's up to the grave's owner - a German man they refuse to identify - to voluntarily remove the emblem. But that's something they say he refuses to do.

Rajakovics says the city council criticised the headstone years ago, and the church, as the graveyard's owner, "is the only institution that can do something." Leibnitz, in turn, says the Roman Catholic church has "tried going to the politicians and to the state prosecutors" for a solution that has yet to materialise.

Meanwhile, the swastika remains - to the aggravation of its critics, including Austria's Jewish community.

Raimund Fastenbauer, who speaks for Vienna's Jews, said the problem is not with Austria's anti-Nazi laws but a reluctance to enforce them.

"This is disappointing and frustrating," he said.

News

Weekly Times story tips

100 wind jobs axed

100 wind jobs axed

UPDATE: A LARGE Portland manufacturer will sack 100 staff following uncertainty over the renewable energy target.

Crackdown on NSW fire bugs

Crackdown on NSW fire bugs

NSW firebugs who deliberately offend on total fire ban days could face jail or fines up to $132,000.

Live exporters ‘pained by footage’

Animal cruelty pictures

UPDATE: THE live export industry has condemned the latest acts of cruelty in the Middle East and Malaysia.

Three dead in rural shooting

 wedderburn shootings. Pic Daryl Pinder Picture: Daryl Pinder

UPDATE: THREE people have died during a shooting on a rural property at  Logan, near Wedderburn

Shoot-to-kill bats as virus spreads

Shoot-to-kill bats as lethal virus spreads

A RADICAL new shoot-to-kill policy has been approved to protect humans­ from deadly bats that carry lyssavirus.

Weekly Times story tips

100 wind jobs axed

100 wind jobs axed

UPDATE: A LARGE Portland manufacturer will sack 100 staff following uncertainty over the renewable energy target.

Country footy salary cap debate

AFL Victoria Community Cup, AFL Victoria Country v Victorian Amateur Football Association

AFL Victoria will trial a salary cap to put a lid on the rising costs of country footballers.

Beef numbers defy returns

Beef numbers defy returns

THE number of cattle still coming out of paddocks continues to amaze.

Case mid-sized tractor updated

Case mid-sized tractor updated

CASE IH has hit the 100hp market with its new Farmall C mid-size tractor range.

Mont De Lancey is a treasure

Mont De Lancey

SURROUNDED by orchards, Mont De Lancey homestead sits snugly in a postcard-perfect landscape.

Editor’s Letter: October 2014

 Natalee Ward. Weekly Times. HWT staff.

THE Weekly Times held its first FORUM last month, a day for farmers to get together and hear from some successful producers and marketing gurus on how to build a strong business brand.