Storm over German premier's remarks on Nazis

17th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

17 April 2007, Hamburg (dpa) - A German state premier who was rebuked last week by Chancellor Angela Merkel for dubbing a wartime judge an "opponent" of the Nazis faced demands Monday from German Jews for a complete retraction. Baden-Wuerttemberg state premier Guenther Oettinger has apologized for giving offence with a eulogy at the funeral on Wednesday of an earlier premier of the same state, Hans Filbinger, who toppled in 1978 over his war record. Documents showed Filbinger, a member of the SA Nazi param

17 April 2007

Hamburg (dpa) - A German state premier who was rebuked last week by Chancellor Angela Merkel for dubbing a wartime judge an "opponent" of the Nazis faced demands Monday from German Jews for a complete retraction.

Baden-Wuerttemberg state premier Guenther Oettinger has apologized for giving offence with a eulogy at the funeral on Wednesday of an earlier premier of the same state, Hans Filbinger, who toppled in 1978 over his war record.

Documents showed Filbinger, a member of the SA Nazi paramilitary force, had been one of the "awful judges" who voted in 1945 to execute deserting German sailors as defeat loomed for dictator Adolf Hitler.

At the funeral, Oettinger called the dead premier "an opponent" of the Nazis and approvingly quoted Filbinger's statement that his conscience was clear because none of the sailors were actually caught and shot.

Merkel phoned her fellow Christian Democrat Oettinger Friday and told him he should have given a eulogy that was sensitive to the concerns of victims of the Nazis.

A government spokesman, Thomas Steg, said Monday she had acted as leader of the Christian Democrats (CDU), not as chancellor, and believed she "had to take a stance on this issue very early, very clearly, very sharply."

On Monday, Oettinger said in his state capital, Stuttgart, "I've made clear that I'm very sorry about the effect of the speech." But he declined to take back his insistence that Filbinger "mentally" opposed the Nazis.

"I don't think he was an opponent in the sense of resister," said Oettinger.

Speaking to the newspaper Bild, Oettinger said, "It was never my intention to offend the persecuted and the victims. If that is what happened, I'm sorry and I apologize."

Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the German Council of Jews, welcomed the apology but said it was not enough.

"It's only a first step," said Kramer on Bavarian Radio, charging that the state premier had tried to appeal to far-right voters.

"He's caused a lot of damage through these revisionist remarks that cannot be fixed just by saying he is sorry," said Kramer, adding he was upset that most of the centre-right had been silent about the controversy.

The Jewish community has been further outraged by the remarks of an Oettinger supporter, Georg Brunnhuber, who said, "Exaggerated criticism by the Council of Jews only tends to make a lot of people say Oettinger was right."

Kramer accused Brunnhuber, a Berlin legislator, of "pure anti-Semistism."

Premier Oettinger said he would ask to meet this week with the German Council of Jews to discuss the issue.

The leaders of the Greens and Free Democrats, both of which in opposition in Berlin, called for Oettinger to make a complete retraction. Greens leader Claudia Roth said he was "unsuitable for office."

Paul Nolte, a neo-conservative history professor at the Free University of Berlin, said on N-TV television, "Oettinger is out of his mind to revise this old nonsense about Filbinger not actually having done anything wrong.

"All Oettinger needed to say was, 'We don't know how we would behave if we had been alive then, if we would have resisted the dictatorship, but Hans Filbinger did not'."

The Filbinger case was brought to light in 1978 by the German history writer Rolf Hochhuth who coined the "awful judge" sobriquet that clung to Filbinger ever after.

In the eulogy, Oettinger said, "There was no verdict by Hans Filbinger that actually led to anyone losing their life."

Historians have discovered at least four cases in which judge-advocate Filbinger was on court-martial panels in 1945 and voted for the death sentence for members of the navy who had absconded. But none were ever caught.

In another case, Filbinger was a prosecutor who successfully asked for the death penalty for a member of the Nazi armed forces.

Asked Monday to explain this, Oettinger said, "He was the lawyer for the prosecution in that case, not the judge who decided."

DPA

Subject: German news

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