Call for removal of Nazi-era judge as German elector

21st May 2004, Comments 0 comments

21 May 2004, BERLIN - A Jewish human rights group Friday demanded removal of an ex-Nazi era judge - who helped impose the death penalty - from an elite body due to elect Germany's new president at the weekend.

21 May 2004

BERLIN - A Jewish human rights group Friday demanded removal of an ex-Nazi era judge - who helped impose the death penalty - from an elite body due to elect Germany's new president at the weekend.

Hans Filbinger, who is 90, is one of 1,205 delegates electing the German head of state in a special session at the Berlin Reichstag on Sunday.

Filbinger, a Christian Democrat, resign as Baden-Wuerttemberg's state premier in 1978 after it was revealed that while a Third Reich naval judge he took part in trials of deserters in which convicts were sentenced to death.

"All this runs counter to everything upon which German democracy is based...," said the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, adding: "Filbinger's participation in the presidential election would send the wrong signal ... and would be a stain on Germany's democratic record."

On its website the centre called for Filbinger to be barred from the election and included a website link which allows protests to be sent directly to Christian Democratic (CDU) party leader Angela Merkel.

Filbinger's most notorious trial ended in the death sentence for 22-year-old Wehrmacht soldier Walter Groeger in March 1945 shortly before Nazi Germany's defeat.

Groeger, who was serving in Norway, fled the army and had been hidden by his Norwegian girlfriend. The couple planned to flee to neutral Sweden.

Filbinger not only applied for the death penalty at the trial but also personally attended the Groeger's execution by firing squad.

Asked to explain this and other trials he took part in when the scandal broke in 1978, Filbinger chose a formulation which ultimately forced him from office.

"What was just then cannot today be unjust," he declared.

Filbinger has since argued that he did his best to save those on trial from harsh sentences and alleges he was the victim of smear campaign organised by the former East German Stasi secret police.

Germany's mainly ceremonial president is not elected by direct vote but rather by a Federal Convention which is comprised half of members of parliament and half of delegates sent by the 16 Laender or federal states.

Given opposition conservative domination of the Laedner, the CDU's candidate - former International Monetary Fund chief Horst Koehler - looks all but certain to beat Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's candidate for the presidency, university director Gesine Schwan.

The fact that Koehler is likely to be elected with Filbinger's vote was critcised as "tasteless" by the secretary general of Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD), Klaus Uwe Benneter.

"But this probably cannot be changed," admitted Benneter in a TV interview.

The Wiesenthal Center, with 400,000 members in the US, is one of the biggest Jewish human rights organisations and is represented at the United Nations as an NGO.

DPA

Subject: German news

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