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Holocaust survivor warns Austrians against far-right in viral video appeal

An emotional video message from a Holocaust survivor has gone viral ahead of Sunday's presidential vote. The video has garnered some 3 million views and stoked thousands of comments in just a few days.

The Vienna pensioner - identified only by her first name, Gertrude - warned that Norbert Hofer's far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) was designed to "bring out the worst in people" and labeled it a throwback to the anti-Semitic rhetoric and policies unleashed by the Nazis during the 1930s.

"The thing that bothers me the most is the denigration of others, the attempt to bring out people's most base feelings instead of their decency," the 89-year-old said in the video. "I have seen this once before... and it hurts and scares me".

The video was published on social media late last week by the Green party candidate and Hofer's election rival, Alexander Van der Bellen. By Monday, it had already garnered 3 million views and thousands of comments.

Gertrude was only 16 when she and her family were deported to the Auschwitz death camp. She was the only one from her family to return.

The video has resonated with young people in particular, a demographic Gertrude directly appeals to in the video. She said young voters should ask themseleves when voting, "what could happen if this candidate were to win?"

"This is probably my last election... But young people have their whole lives in front of them and they need to make sure that they're doing well," she said.

FPOe's civil war rhetoric

Most shocking of all, Gertrude said, were remarks made by FPOe leader Heinz-Christian Strache, in which he warned that migrants in Austria could spark a civil war.

"I have witnessed a civil war as a seven-year-old and have never forgotten it. That's when I saw my first dead bodies, and unfortunately not the last ones," she said, likely referring to the Austria's 1934 February uprising, a four-day armed conflict that saw several hundred citizens killed.

Austria goes to polls... again

Sunday's election stand-off between Hofer and Van der Bellen is too close to call and comes in the wake of populist successes enjoyed by Donald Trump in the US presidential election and Britain's vote to leave the European Union. Like his populist counterparts, Hofer has gained popular support by stoking concerns over immigration and hounding what he portrays as an out-of-touch elite class.

Österreich Wien TV-Duell Bundespräsidentenwahl (picture-alliance/dpa/C. Bruna)

Van der Bellen and Hofer during Sunday's Austrian presidential debate.

Should Hofer win, he will become the EU's first far-right head of state.

Van der Bellen narrowly beat his opponent in May by 30,863 votes, before the FPOe successfully got the electoral results overturned over procedural errors. The second re-run was also overturned due to faulty postal envelopes.

FPOe, which was founded by a former general in the Nazi SS in 1955, is also being tipped to win the next Austrian general election, scheduled for 2018.

Responding to her new-found popularity, Gertrude said that she was "pleasantly surprised that the words of an old lady had been taken seriously."

dm/rc (AFP)

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