VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ Another official in Joerg Haider's Freedom Party found himself surrounded by controversy today after using a Nazi-era slogan to honor longtime members of his far-right party.

On Sunday the newly elected head of the Freedom Party in Lower Austria, Ernest Windholz, used the slogan ``our honor is called loyalty'' during remarks honoring veteran party activists at the group's state convention.

The slogan, which in German is ``unsere ehre heisst treue,'' was a motto of the SS, the armed wing of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party.

In February, the 14 other European Union members imposed diplomatic sanctions on Austria after the Freedom Party joined Austria's ruling coalition government.

The measures were taken in response to earlier statements by Haider expressing sympathy with certain aspects of the Nazi regime. Haider apologized for the remarks and stepped down May 1 as party chairman, although he still wields considerable influence.

Today, Windholz told the Austria Press Agency that he was born well after the collapse of Nazism in 1945 and never associated the words with the SS.

``I am 40 years old,'' he told APA. ``I didn't know the phrase in this context,'' meaning its association with the SS.

The secretary-general of the Freedom Party, Theresia Zierler, called the use of the phrase ``very regrettable'' but defended Windholz, saying he didn't know the slogan was used by the SS.

Leaders of the opposition Social Democrats, however, said the comment was another sign of the political insensitivity of the Freedom Party.

Barbara Prammer, in charge of women's issues in the Social Democrats, said that if Windholz did not step down as Lower Austria regional party leader, the Freedom Party would ``once again place itself outside the acceptable bounds of a democratic party.''

She urged Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel to take a public stand on the issue.

``The Peoples Party needs to declare whether the Freedom Party can still be an acceptable coalition partner,'' she said.