Austria is cracking down on personalised number plates used by neo-Nazis, by banning lesser-known codes with hidden far-right symbolism.
Letter combinations such as HJ or NS – denoting Hitler Youth and National Socialism – have long been prohibited on personalised plates in Austria.
Now transport officials have published a list of more than 30 more cryptic codes that have been banned.
They include number combinations such as 88, which represents “Heil Hitler”.
New legislation, which came into force on Thursday, also outlaws the use of IS or ISIS on personalised number plates in a bid to stop people showing their support for the Islamic State group.
‘No place in society’
“It has been forbidden to have obvious Nazi number plates since personalised plates went on sale in 1989,” a spokeswoman for Austria’s transport ministry told the BBC.
“But then we learned that the far-right scene is moving away from the more obvious codes to more hidden ones.
“So we had to change the law. Civil servants deciding if someone can choose a certain number plate now know which codes are being used by the far-right scene.”
Austria number plate ban
Combinations no longer allowed include:
- BH – Blood and Honour
- 420 – 20 April, Hitler’s birthday
- 1919 – meaning SS, as S is the 19th letter in the alphabet
- WAW – White Aryan War
- FG – Fuehrer’s Geburtstag (leader’s birthday)
- 88 – Heil Hitler, due to where H comes in the alphabet
Only new number plates will be affected by the change in the law.
Abbreviations now outlawed include FG, which stands for “Fuehrer’s Geburtstag”, meaning “leader’s birthday”, and WP for “white power”.
Number combinations have not previously been included, but now codes such as 18 – meaning ‘Adolf Hitler’ because of where A and H come in the alphabet – are also now prohibited.
The new list was compiled in co-operation with the Mauthausen Committee, an organisation representing former concentration camp prisoners. Officials say it is not exhaustive.
Austrian Transport Minister Alois Stoeger, who pushed for the law change, has said: “National Socialist ideology has no place in our society.”
More than half a million Austrians have currently personalised licence plates, according to Austria’s public broadcaster, ORF.
The move in Austria follows similar efforts in Germany to crack down on neo-Nazi symbols.
In Germany, the law says that number plates must not offend public morals. Each state has its own list of banned combinations, and some are stricter than others.
But attempts to introduce a federal solution, similar to that in Austria, have been unsuccessful so far.