Bavaria’s deputy premier is under intense pressure over an antisemitic pamphlet he is claimed to have written as a 17-year-old schoolboy, in which Auschwitz was described as an “entertainment quarter”.
Hubert Aiwanger was the focus of an extraordinary session of the German state’s coalition on Monday, after the emergence of the leaflet he is accused of distributing at school, 35 years ago, which makes repeated mocking references to the Holocaust.
Charlotte Knobloch, the president of the Jewish community in Munich, on Monday said the leaflet reminded her “of the most vile propaganda of the Nazi era in its tone”.
Aiwanger has denied having written the pamphlet, though he has admitted to having had “one or a few copies” of it in his school bag. The claims were first reported by the Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung, which was threatened with legal action by Aiwanger before the story’s publication.
Aiwanger’s brother over the weekend claimed authorship of the pamphlet. In a written statement, Aiwanger said he found the contents of the leaflet “disgusting and inhumane”.
Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Saturday that it had spoken to “around two dozen people” connected with the incident at Aiwanger’s secondary school. They claimed Aiwanger had been the leaflet’s author and described how its discovery in a toilet in 1987 had sparked a scandal, which led to an internal inquiry, and to Aiwanger being given a penalty, though it remained unclear whether the punishment was ever carried out.
The scandal, labelled Das Auschwitz pamphlet, has since been picked up by every respectable German publication and broadcaster.
Questions are being asked about whether Aiwanger, who is leader of the rightwing populist Free Voters party, has ever renounced the antisemitic beliefs he is alleged to have held at the time, and – if not – how it is possible that he has been able to climb to such a position of political responsibility.
Bavaria faces a state election in October and the revelations are expected to play a prominent part in the campaign and its outcome.
On Monday, as Bavaria’s leader, Markus Söder, called a special meeting, the head of the state chancellery, Florian Hermann, said “many questions remained open” that “only Hubert Aiwanger himself can answer”.
He urged Aiwanger to respond “comprehensively and in person” to outstanding crucial questions, rather than in written form. Hermann said the reputation of the southern German state was at stake.
Söder, who has repeatedly defended Aiwanger for past transgressions – including his scepticism over the Covid-19 vaccine, calling for a popular revolt over the federal government’s heating overhauls, and criticising its immigration policy for “throwing passports” at refugees – called the flyer “hateful and revolting”.
In the typed pamphlet, which was formulated as an apparent protest boycott of an official competition about how to best commemorate Germany’s murderous role in the 20th century, the author wrote that they were on the search for “the biggest traitor of the fatherland”.
Participants were invited to gather at the Nazi concentration camp Dachau for an introductory interview. The “prizes” included a “free flight through the chimney of Auschwitz”, a “lifelong stay in a mass grave”, “a free shot in the back of the neck”, “a ticket … to the entertainment quarter Auschwitz”, and a “night’s stay in the Gestapo cellar, then a trip to Dachau”.
Aiwanger’s Free Voters party governs Bavaria in coalition with Söder’s Christian Social Union and holds about 12% of the vote.
The CSU, which is polling around 39%, has repeatedly said it intends to renew its partnership with Free Voters after October’s vote. Without its partner it may be forced to look elsewhere to the more leftwing Social Democrats or Greens to form a coalition.
Source : The Guardian