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Anti-semitic Whispering Campaign Becomes Factor in Bonn Elections

West Germany goes to the polls on September 15 to elect a new Bundestag, the Lower House of the German Parliament, and the expectations today were that the Christian Democratic Union(CDU) headed by Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) would attract more than three-fourths of the entire vote. Hence the electoral struggle is being fought with mounting heat and reports from various sections of the country indicated that attempts were being made to create opposition to the Social Democrats by falsely labelling Erich Ollenhauer, leader of the party, as a Jew. A word-of-mouth campaign stressed that “good Germans” could not support a party which might nominate a Jew as Chancellor.

In the first court case involving this whispering campaign, an official of Chancellor Adenauer’s party offered a formal apology for having represented Dr. Ollenhauer as a Jew and the national executive manager of the party followed this up by expressing regrets to the Social Democratic leader for “the ludicrous and stupid asservation.”

These apologies followed action by the Social Democratic Party in Aachen against Erich Rademacher of the CDU. The public prosecutor indicted Rademacher for insulting Dr. Ollenhauer. Prior to the opening of the proceedings, however, the defendant, on instructions from national CDU headquarters, proferred an apology and the Social Democrats deferred pressing the criminal complaint pending formal repudiation by CDU of the anti-Semitic innuendos. This was forthcoming with Dr. Heck’s letter to Dr. Ollenhauer.

In the Bundestag elections four years ago, Dr. Ollenhauer was constrained to prove his “Aryan” origin. In the 1953 elections, the anti-Semitic appeal was restricted to provincial areas but took forms which lent themselves to reply. In this election, however, the anti-Semitic theme has been carried by word-of-mouth and has been most difficult to check.

A paradox in the situation has been that the only reply has been to sue on the grounds that a statement that a man is a Jew is libelous and insulting. But the Social Democratic campaign directors are aware that to ignore the whispering campaign and not reply to charges that their leader is Jewish would cost them heavily in votes.

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