A high-ranking member of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party has resigned after publication of a poem comparing migrants to rats in a newsletter distributed to every household in the town where Adolf Hitler was born.
Christian Schilcher’s resignation Tuesday came after widespread criticism of the poem and the country’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz condemned it as "disgusting, inhuman and deeply racist.”
The Freedom Party newsletter containing the poem was delivered to all of the households of Hitler's birthplace, Braunau am Inn, where Schilcher serves as deputy mayor, the Telegraph reported.
The paper called Schilcher’s choice of metaphor powerfully reminiscent of Nazi propaganda in which Jews were frequently compared to rats. The fact it was distributed to Braunau residents only deepened the outrage.
Austrian media reported that Schilcher was also resigning his deputy mayor post.
"Just as we live down here, so must other rats," Schilcher wrote, according to the BBC, telling them to "share with us the way of life, or quickly hurry away" and saying that if you mix different cultures, "it's as if you destroy them."
Schilcher said he did not mean to "insult or hurt anyone" with his poem, according to the BBC, which quoted him as apologizing for ignoring the "historically burdened" comparison between rats and humans.
Kurz’s party and the Freedom Party have run on anti-immigration platforms but with European partliamentary elections next month, Kurz has come under pressure to condemn the controversial outbursts of Freedom Party members, Agence France-Presse reported.