Friedrich Peter (13 July 1921 in Attnang-Puchheim, Upper Austria – 25 September 2005 in Vienna) was an Austrian politician who served as the chairman of the Freedom Party of Austria from 1958 to 1978.
Born as the son of a social democratic engine driver and a master baker's daughter, Peter joined the NSDAP in 1938 and volunteered for the Waffen-SS at the age of barely 17. During World War II, he served at the western and eastern fronts and achieved the rank of Obersturmführer in the 10th regiment of the 1st SS Infantry Brigade. This unit was part of the Einsatzgruppen which systematically shot hundreds of thousands of Jews behind the front during the summer of 1941. Although his unit was almost exclusively engaged in this activity, Peter denied any involvement or knowledge about them after the war. He was interned by American forces for a year in Glasenbach.
Early political career
From 1955 to 1966, Peter served as a deputy in the Upper Austrian Landtag, first as a representative of the Verband der Unabhängigen, later of the Freedom Party (FPÖ), whose chairman he became in 1958. In 1966, he was elected into the Austrian Nationalrat and became the leader of his party's delegation in 1970.
As early as in 1962/1963, the FPÖ began to cautiously approach the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ), which antagonized parts of the right-wing extremist-national wing and caused some members to split away from the party. The SPÖ wanted to maintain the option of a coalition with the FPÖ and also supported that party financially. The idea was to weaken the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP), which turned out not to work. Under Peter's chairmanship, the FPÖ attempted to gain a reputation to become a potential coalition partner and tried to give a liberal impression on the outside. At the party convention of 1964, Peter declared that "nationalists and liberals together have a place in the FPÖ."
This "liberalization" of the party led to some internal resistance, against with Peter reacted by expelling dissenters. However, this process did not thoroughly transform the party, neither in terms of its political program nor in terms of its membership. The political views of the party ranks had not shifted towards liberalism.
Support of the SPÖ minority government and the Kreisky-Peter-Wiesenthal Affair
Even though the FPÖ had declared during the election campaign that there would not be a "red chancellor", it supported Bruno Kreisky's minority government after the 1970 elections. This greatly increased the party's significance.
Simon Wiesenthal, at that time head of the Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna, published a report on Friedrich Peter's Nazi past after the 1975 elections. The report documented that Peter had served as Obersturmbannführer in an SS unit involved in mass murder. Chancellor Kreisky, who had himself been persecuted by the Nazis, defended Peter and accused Wiesenthal of employing mafia methods and of collaboration with the Gestapo. This public dispute is remembered as the Kreisky-Peter-Wiesenthal affair.
In 1978, Peter stepped down as party chairman to be succeeded by the mayor of Graz, Alexander Götz. However, he retained control over the party behind the scenes. After the SPÖ had lost its majority in 1983, he negotiated a coalition between SPÖ and FPÖ with Bruno Kreisky, which took office under the leadership of Chancellor Fred Sinowatz (SPÖ) and vice chancellor Norbert Steger. However, he had to decline the offer to take the office of the third president of the Nationalrat after severe public protests, in order not to endanger the coalition.
Controversy with Jörg Haider, later life
His relationship to Jörg Haider was rather strained. The final split came in 1992 after Haider made a public comment on the "Third Reich's proper employment policies". Peter spoke of a "shameful lapse" of Haider, saying that this statement "forced him to break his self-imposed silence and to remind party leaders of their political and statutory responsibilities in public."
Friedrich Peter died on 25 September 2005 in Vienna's Hanuschkrankenhaus hospital, where he had been treated for kidney disease for several weeks.
- 1955-1971 FPÖ State party chairman of Upper Austria
- 1958-1978 FPÖ Federal Party Chairman
- 1955-1966 Member of the Upper Austrian Landtag
- 1966-1986 Member of the Nationalrat
- 1970-1986 Party delegation leader of the FPÖ
- 1992 Resigned his party membership because of the FPÖ's shift to an anti-EC position
Literature (in German)
- Brigitte Bailer-Galanda, Wolfgang Neugebauer: Handbuch des österreichischen Rechtsextremismus. Wien 1996, ISBN 3-216-30099-4.
- Kurt Piringer: Die Geschichte der Freiheitlichen. Beitrag der Dritten Kraft zur österreichischen Politik. Wien 1982.
- Wolfgang Neugebauer: Die FPÖ: Vom Rechtsextremismus zum Liberalismus? In: Rechtsextremismus nach 1945. Hrsg. v. Dokumentationsarchiv des österreichischen Widerstandes. 1981.
- www.wienerzeitung.at/ Friedrich Weissensteiner: Der Wegbereiter Friedrich Peter
- http://www.nationalsozialismus.at/ Skandale und tabuisierte Vergangenheit Österreichs
- Wandelte sich vom SS-Mann zum Demokraten auf www.networld.at
- Obituary from Der Standard
|Anton Reinthaller||FPÖ Party Chairman