SPD anti-capitalism like Third Reich: Henkel
26 April 2005, BERLIN - Attacks by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats on big business led a top German industrialist to warn on Tuesday that the rhetoric reminded him of what was taught in schools during the Third Reich.
26 April 2005
BERLIN - Attacks by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats on big business led a top German industrialist to warn on Tuesday that the rhetoric reminded him of what was taught in schools during the Third Reich.
"We all know how the Nazis made international big business responsible for the nation's difficulties," said the former head of Germany's Federation of Industry (BDI) and ex-IBM Europe chief, Hans-Olaf Henkel.
Social Democratic Party (SPD) chief Franz Muentefering - battling to revive the ruling party before regional elections next month - has lurched to the left with a remarkable attack on foreign investors in Germany.
"Some financial investors don't waste any time on the people whose jobs they destroy. They remain anonymous, they have no face and descend like a swarm of locusts on a company, devour it and then fly on," said Muentefering in remarks which drew cheers from trade unionists and many ordinary voters.
This drew an angry response from Henkel who now heads the Leibniz Gemeinschaft which represents 80 leading German research institutes.
"Back in the 1930s foreign investors were also made responsible for the misery in Germany," said Henkel in an interview with Deutsche Presse-Agentur and ZDF television.
Henkel noted the Nazis had always blamed "Jewish capital" but that of course nobody was speaking about the Jews today.
Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933 after Germany's depression in which unemployment rose to a record 6.1 million jobless - near 50 percent.
There are presently 5.2 million jobless in Germany, or 12.5 percent of the workforce.
Muentefering's comments also echoed propaganda put out by the former communist state of East Germany, said Henkel.
"Capitalist big business was always responsible for all the bad things in the world according to East Berlin," said Henkel.
SPD leader Muenterfering has also slammed Deutsche Bank, Germany's biggest bank, for making profits and still sacking employees. This, he warned, "robs all trust in democracy."
Ratcheting up pressure on Deutsche Bank chief Josef Ackermann, the SPD leader said there was "something wrong" with the banker's ethics. "A certain class of people" in banking and business behave as if there were "no gates or rules anymore," the SPD leader said.
"We are fighting against this form of capitalism," vowed Muentefering.
Henkel expressed concern about Ackermann's safety in connection with the remarks.
"I can only recommend that Herr Ackermann gets some bodyguards," said Henkel who noted that defamation campaigns paved the way for the murder of another Deutsche Bank chief, Alfred Herrhausen, in 1989 by Red Army terrorists.
Henkel said he could well remember the words of then German chancellor Helmut Kohl at Herrhausen's funeral.
"Kohl said 'murder often begins with character assassination'," Henkel warned.
The problem was not the system, said Henkel, but rather market economy violations by the governments of Germany and France which were causing poor economic growth and unemployment in the key eurozone economies.
Muentefering's comments, which have been largely backed by Chancellor Schroeder, are clearly aimed at getting out the vote on 22 May elections in North Rhine-Westphalia state, where the incumbent SPD trails the opposition conservatives, Henkel said.
Schroeder has angered the left-wing of his SPD by presiding over major reforms in recent years including income tax cuts, corporate tax cuts and reductions to unemployment benefits.
North Rhine-Westphalia, which is Germany's most populous state, has been ruled by the SPD for almost four decades.
Losing the state would be disastrous for Schroeder as the final test before next year's election marathon with five regional votes crowned by national elections in the autumn in which the Chancellor is seeking a third term.
Subject: German news