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Professor claims anti-Semitic attacks after torture remarks

17 May 2004

HAMBURG//MUNICH – German-Jewish historian Michael Wolffsohn, facing a parliamentary inquiry over controversial remarks made about torture methods used against terror suspects, said he himself has become the target of vile anti-Semitic comments and death threats.

Wolffsohn, who teaches at the German military university in Munich, told the weekly magazine Focus that he had been “devastated” by the kind of reaction to his comments made on a television talk show.

“This goes beyond the usual casual anti-Semitism, but rather involves the worst insults and even death threats,” he said about letters and e-mails he had received.

“This isn’t what I expect or hope for in Germany,” said Wolffsohn, who said he is now asking himself whether this is why “I came to Germany from Israel in 1970”.

Wolffsohn has been at the centre of controversy after his remarks about torture methods made on a television talk show in early May.

“I consider torture or the threat of torture to be legitimate as a means against terrorists,” he told a TV interviewer. “If we try to counter terrorism with gentlemen’s methods, we will fail.”

The remarks, coming amid the wider controversy about the mistreatment and abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers in Iraq, drew widespread condemnation in Germany, with Defence Minister Peter Struck now examining possible disciplinary measures against him.

Parliamentary deputies of the Social Democratic, Greens and Free Democrat parties have demanded that Wolffsohn resign or be dismissed.

The Hamburg weekly Der Spiegel said the parliamentary defence affairs committee is to study the controversy this month.


Subject: German news