‘new De-nazification’ Process in Germany Sparks Political Battle

Demands for the resignation of a prominent radio executive because of his Nazi past has touched off a political battle between the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Richard Becker, 57, director general of Deutschland funk (DLF) a major West German radio station, admits that he joined the Waffen SS as a teen-ager but has rejected calls for his resignation because of “the political perplexity of a 17 or 18-year-old man.” Becker is a member of the SPD and a longtime trade union activist.

But only two weeks ago, Theo Loch, a member of the CDU, was forced to resign as director of WDR television in Cologne because of his past membership in the Waffen SS.

BRANDT ATTACKS THE PROCESS

Former Chancellor Willy Brandt, leader of the SPD, spoke out yesterday, apparently in support of Becker. He issued a statement attacking attempts to start a “new de-Nazification” process like the one introduced by the occupying powers after World War II. He condemned “the practice of choosing at random people who are playing a role in public life” and disqualifying them for their former membership in Nazi organizations.

Brandt recalled that the SPD had decided as early as its 1946 convention that young persons “seduced by Nazi propaganda” were not responsible for Nazi crimes unless they were personally involved in them.

Becker said that at age 17 he was taken in by the slogans of the Waffen SS and volunteered. But, he added, “I have totally broken with my youthful mischief and did not make known my membership in the Waffen SS” when he was appointed to head the DLF.

CDU Bundestag member Willi Weisskirch complained that while his party’s activists, such as Loch, are being removed from their jobs because of past membership in Nazi organizations, SPD supporters have been excused. He accused the SPD of opening a campaign against CDU members who once belonged to Nazi formations.

Becker, in his remarks, did not comment on Loch’s resignation but insisted that since the end of World War II he has proven his dedication to democracy. Loch went through the de-Nazification process after the war and was labeled a “fellow traveller” rather than a Nazi. His past was known when he was employed by WDR but it was not raised again when he was promoted.

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