Ex-Waffen SS man rightist candidate in Dresden
15 September 2005, BERLIN - A former member of Nazi Germany's Waffen SS, Franz Schoenhuber, was formally named Thursday as a right-wing extremist party's candidate for general elections in the eastern city of Dresden. Schoenhuber, who is 82, joined the race following the death of a National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) candidate for the city's 160th election district earlier this month. The district, with 219,000 voters comprising half of Dresden, will not vote this Sunday like the rest of Germany. Ba15 September 2005
BERLIN - A former member of Nazi Germany's Waffen SS, Franz Schoenhuber, was formally named Thursday as a right-wing extremist party's candidate for general elections in the eastern city of Dresden.
Schoenhuber, who is 82, joined the race following the death of a National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) candidate for the city's 160th election district earlier this month.
The district, with 219,000 voters comprising half of Dresden, will not vote this Sunday like the rest of Germany. Ballots will be cast on October 2 and the vote could decide the entire election if - as polls project - there is a neck-and-neck result in the rest of the nation Sunday.
Trained in the Waffen SS unit "Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler", Schoenhuber saw action during World War II in France, on the eastern front and in Corsica where he was awarded the Iron Cross for bravery.
After the war he used SS documents from early 1945 questioning his qualification as an officer to claim opposition to the Nazi system, according to Munich's Sueddeutsche Zeitung paper.
Reacting to Schoenhuber's candidacy, the co-leader of Germany's Greens, Claudia Roth, expressed outrage.
"The election chances are low but for the neo-Nazis this is about long-term impact," said Roth, adding: "They want anti-foreigner sentiments and populism to become mainstream."
The NPD are not expected to win the district's seat, even with such a prominent rightist as Schoenhuber. Last year the NPD won 9.2 per cent in Saxony state elections and has 12 deputies in the state parliament in Dresden.
Schoenhuber only became a politician in a roundabout manner. After working briefly as an actor, he became a leading journalist in his native Bavaria where he was editor of the Munich tabloid TZ before becoming a senior editor at the state's public TV network and presenter of a popular talk show.
In 1981 he published a book on his years with the Waffen SS titled "Ich war dabei" (I was there) in which he tried to defend some of the Waffen SS's ideals.
The book caused an uproar with the Sueddeutsche Zeitung slamming it as "an unacceptable apologia full of personal tastelessness."
Schoenhuber was subsequently sacked from his TV job and stripped of his post as honorary chairman of the Bavarian Press Association which he had led from 1971 to 1977.
In 1983 he helped found the Republikaner Party, a rightist movement which began as a protest over multi-billion mark credits brokered by the Bavarian government for communist East Germany.
Schoenhuber took the helm of the Republikaner which swiftly came to focus on stirring up anti-foreigner sentiments - especially aimed at asylum seekers from poorer countries arriving in Gemany.
The Republikaner scored their first election success in West Berlin in 1989, winning 7.5 per cent. Under German proportional representation election system a party needs to cross a 5 per cent hurdle to win parliamentary seats.
Schoenhuber swiftly became the closest thing Germany has had in the post-war era to charistmatic rightist, similar to France's Jean-Marie Le Pen or Austria's Joerg Haider.
His burly figure accentuated tub-thumping speeches flanked by rightist folklore including brass oompah bands of elderly men wearing spiked helmets.
The Republkaner rose to 25,000 members nationwide and drew global news coverage and Germany's new far-right threat.
Schoenhuber was elected to the European Parliament in June 1989 where he served as a deputy until 1994.
Following a firebomb attack on a synagogue in the German city of Luebeck in 1994, Schoenhuber drew outrage for accusing the leader of Germany's Jewish community of being "one of the worst people for stirring up hatred" and partly responsible for rising anti-Semitism.
But Republikaner swiftly began to decline and later that year he was ousted as chairman and quit the party a year later. Since then the Republikaner has gone into terminal decline and party membership has fallen to 7,500.
Turning again to journalism, Schoenhuber has written numerous books and articles on rightist subjects including a recent column in which he says:
"Nazism may have had many bad sides but sports was not one of them. Naturally there was a huge incentive to perform during the 12 brown years and this led to Germany being the most successful nation in the 1936 Olympics ... 'They are fighting for Germany' were not just an empty words but was reality."
Although not an NPD member, Schoenhuber backed the party after it won seats in Saxony last year. This past February he made a speech at an NPD-sponsored rally in Dresden marking the 60th anniversary of the city's firebombing in World War II.
Marching at the front of the demonstration on a frigid day which drew 5,000 thousand rightists - the biggest neo-Nazi protest in Germany since the 1950s - Schoenhuber looked pale and drawn but as determined as ever despite his advancing years.
Subject: German news