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Saturday, 12 February, 2000, 23:54 GMT
Churchill a criminal - Haider

Joerg Haider Joerg Haider's Freedom Party are in government

Austrian politician Joerg Haider has apparently confirmed that he regards former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill as "one of the greatest criminals" of the 20th century.

With Churchill there are a lot of bad things - and a lot of honour. He did right and wrong
Joerg Haider
In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, the leader of the right-wing Freedom Party said Britain's wartime leader was responsible for destroying the German city of Dresden, which was heavily bombed by Allied planes.

Mr Haider, whose rise to coalition power prompted an EU threat of isolation against Austria, is thought to have originally made his remarks about Churchill to a Viennese magazine before recent elections. The comment was never published.

However, when the remark was quoted back to him, Sunday Telegraph editor Dominic Lawson noted: "He did not demur."

Mr Haider told his interviewer: "Yes. With Churchill there are a lot of bad things - and a lot of honour. He did right and wrong. That's the fate of an important politician."

Winston Churchill Winston Churchill: Blamed for bombing Dresden
Asked what Churchill had done wrong, Mr Haider said: "The bad things were like the decision to destroy cities such as Dresden, where there were no soldiers of the German army. There were only citizens."

Mr Haider also implied Austrians would not be upset by the Prince of Wales's cancellation of a planned visit in May in protest at his election.

He was said to have snorted "derisively" at the suggestion.

"The Austrian people would have been disappointed if Diana had been coming, and then cancelled," he remarked. "But this" - he paused - "is not the case."

He also paused before saying whether he would have joined the Nazis, as his father had done.

"It's not easy to say ... because with the privilege of hindsight you know exactly what you have to do."

I think I would have been in prison during the Nazi period, because I am a fighter for freedom and not for dictatorship
Joerg Haider
After thinking more about his reply, he grinned: "I think I would have been in prison during the Nazi period, because I am a fighter for freedom and not for dictatorship."

During the interview, Mr Haider said the Freedom Party was not anti-European and said he respected the referendum result which took Austria into the EU.

He also expressed admiration for current British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

"Well, if you compare our programme with the programme of Blair, you will find a lot of similarities ... He is protecting England against criminals, the same thing we want to do.

"He wants to have lifelong observation of criminals who hurt children, these are similar to our proposals, as well as the programme to provide jobs for the young generation, to reduce youth unemployment."

Mr Haider's comments came as the Duke of Kent prepared to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the Dresden raid on Sunday.

The duke will present a replica orb and cross to Dresden's cathedral which was destroyed in the raid on February 13, 1945, and make a speech in German praising efforts to rebuild the former East German city and the famous Frauenkirche Lutheran cathedral.

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See also:
10 Feb 00 |  Europe
Diplomatic snub for Austria
09 Feb 00 |  UK
Charles' Austria boycott attacked
08 Feb 00 |  Europe
EU trims meeting amid Austria fears
04 Feb 00 |  Europe
Haider: View from the streets
03 Oct 99 |  Europe
Profile: Joerg Haider

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