Austrian charged for singing in film under Hitler portrait

Wed May 6, 2015 5:19am EDT
 
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VIENNA (Reuters) - Austrian prosecutors have charged the owner of a basement filled with Adolf Hitler paraphernalia as a Nazi sympathizer after his collection featured in a documentary film by cult director Ulrich Seidl last year.

Re-engagement with National Socialism has been a crime since 1947 in Austria, which for decades maintained that it was Hitler's first victim and often glossed over the enthusiastic welcome he got from many Austrians.

Nazi Germany annexed Austria, Hitler's birthplace, in 1938.

The scene from Seidl's "Im Keller" (In the Basement) shows five men in traditional dress singing a drinking song in a room featuring a portrait of Hitler, a swastika flag and mannequins wearing Nazi uniforms and helmets.

Two conservative council members in the eastern town of Eisenstadt resigned from their posts and left the People's Party after appearing in the scene in Seidl's film.

Prosecutors in Eisenstadt have charged the owner of the basement, whom they did not name, based on witness statements collected after the documentary's release last year.

The man can appeal the charges, which carry up to 10 years in prison, a spokesman for the prosecution said, adding that investigations into the other men filmed have been dropped.

The suspect had told Austrian media last year that he was merely "a collector", not a Nazi.

(Reporting By Shadia Nasralla; Editing by Dominic Evans)