Survivors of a Nazi death camp were shot at and abused as they gathered to remember their liberation.
Masked neo-Nazi thugs screamed 'Heil Hitler!' and 'This way for the gas!' at ten elderly Italian men and women, who returned to the site of the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria.
The gang also fired air guns at a group of 15 French survivors, many dressed in the striped pyjama-style uniforms they wore as inmates. One suffered a head wound while another was injured by a shot in the neck. The four thugs managed to escape.
Jewish leaders in Austria were appalled by the weekend scenes that marred events marking the 64th anniversary of the camp’s liberation by American troops.
'In the first instance a group of French survivors were attacked by four armed men clad in camouflage gear,' said Willy Mernyi, head of the Mauthausen Committee of Austria.
'The attackers shot at the group of fifteen survivors with what police assume was plastic air gun pellets. One person was hit in the head while another was injured by a shot in the neck.
'People come to remember the dead and pay their respects and are met with this kind of terror.'
The second incident happened a short time later when 10 Italian survivors who gathered nearby for a similar ceremony were attacked.
While they were not fired on, the neo-Nazis again hurled abuse and shouted Nazi slogans while giving the Hitler salute.
But the same spirit that kept them alive back then was still evident among the survivors who fought with the cowards who desecrated the memory of their dead comrades.
They even succeeded in ripping the mask from one of them and taking his picture with a mobile telephone camera.
Regional police chief Alois Lissl said the survivors and their families showed 'extreme courage' in fighting back.
'Unfortunately, the men managed to escape but we know that they spoke in a local dialect,' he said.
Ebensee mayor Herwat Loidl condemned the modern-day Nazis, declaring: 'They will not be allowed to gain a foothold in our community.'
He called on Austrians with information as to the identities of the thugs to turn them in.
Some 7,000 Mauthausen survivors and their families from 42 countries travelled to the Mauthausen complexes at the weekend for the remembrance services.
“At least we set out to do what we wanted to – to honour the dead and remember the liberation,” added Mernyi.
An estimated 320,000 people were murdered or worked to death at the camp.
UPDATE: ARRESTS HAVE BEEN MADE (hat tip Susan)
Police have arrested three youths suspected of firing a pellet gun at a former concentration camp and leaving two people—one a Holocaust survivor—slightly hurt.
Two French visitors to the Ebensee camp were hurt Saturday by pellets.