BONN (Jan. 7)
An anti-Semitic canard by a ranking member of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister-party of Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has added to the bitterness surrounding Jewish efforts to get the Deutsche Bank to honor a reparations agreement reached last year with a company the bank recently took over.
Hermann Fellner, who heads the Home Affairs Committee of the CSU’s Bundestag faction, made clear that he thinks there is neither legal nor moral obligation for Deutsche Bank, West Germany’s largest bank, to pay reparations to former Jewish slave laborers used by major German industries during World War II. (Related story, P. 3.)
ASSAILED FOR THE REMARK
He added in an interview this week, that the claim on the Deutsche Bank “creates the impression that Jews are quick to show up whenever money jingles in German cashboxes.”
His remarks infuriated the Jewish community and drew the ire of other Bundestag factions.
The Free Democratic Party (FDP), a junior partner in Kohl’s coalition, demanded that CSU leader Franz-Josef Strauss denounce Fellner’s remarks. The opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) accused the Bavarian rightwinger of appealing to anti-Semitic prejudice that sullied the memory of slave laborers who died during the Nazi regime.
The influential Frankfurter Rundschau charged in an editorial that Fellner was creating anti-Semitic stereotypes for the younger generation of Germans. But Fellner stood by his remarks, insisting it was “permissible for a politician of my generation to speak out on such issues.”
He exhorted Jews to be “more sensitive” to the feelings of Germans and warned that if reparations were to be paid by firms perceived to be successors to those that used slave labor in World War II it would trigger a wave of such claims.
BACKGROUND OF THE CONFLICT
The Deutsche Bank became involved when it recently purchased the Friedrich Flick group of companies. The Flick group’s holdings included Dynamit-Nobel, whose munitions and explosives factories employed large numbers of Jewish concentration camp inmates who worked under brutal and dangerous conditions.
The Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, after prolonged negotiations, reached an agreement with Flick to provide 5-8 million Marks in a one-time payment to the surviving claimants. The commitment was not honored and Deutsche Bank has refused even to open negotiations. According to its board chairman, if there is a problem “it is not ours but that of Mr. Flick,” the former owner of the private holding company.
Last month Rabbi Israel Miller, president of the Claims Conference, called on Deutsche Bank to “follow the example of several leading German firms such as Krupp, I. G. Farben, Siemens, and others who some years ago reached settlements with the Claims Conference acting on behalf of surviving claimants.”