Three in 10 Austrians want "strong leader": Survey

VIENNA (REUTERS) - Nearly 30 per cent of Austrians want a "strong leader" to run the country, according to survey results released on the anniversary of Nazi Germany's capitulation in 1945.

More than half in Austria - which Nazi Germany annexed in 1938 - think it is time to end the discussion of the country's role in World War Two and the Holocaust, turning the page on a dark chapter of national history.

Coinciding with Victory in Europe Day marking the collapse of the Third Reich, the SORA Institute poll for the Austrian Future Fund found 29 percent favoured a "strong leader who does not have worry about parliament or elections".

That was a higher total than in years past. Support for a strong leader has doubled since 2007, it found.

Cheering crowds greeted Adolf Hitler in Austria after Nazi Germany's annexation of the country in 1938.

It took until 1991, more than four decades after the war's end, for Austria to formally apologise for its central role in the Third Reich and Holocaust.

In the SORA poll of 1,015 Austrians aged 15 or older, 43 percent still saw Austria as the first victim of the Nazis, a decrease from previous years.

Half of those polled thought National Socialism, the ideology of Nazi Germany, was completely or mostly bad, while 30 percent thought there were some positive aspects of the regime.

Austrians nevertheless reject the idea of an authoritarian system, with 85 percent responding that "democracy is the best form of government, although it may bring problems with it".

Similar results were found last year in a poll timed for the 75th anniversary of the annexation of Austria.