BONN (Jan. 12)
Hermann Fellner, a Bundestag member of the government coalition, has expressed regret for the “misunderstanding” caused by his slur on Jews seeking reparations for former slave laborers of the Nazi era. But the 35-year-old rightwing politician, in a statement issued over the weekend, did not retract his remarks.
He alleged instead that the furor they created was due to attempts by the opposition in parliament to portray himself and his party as anti-Semitic. Fellner is a member of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
Kohl and other prominent leaders of the CDU and CSU expressed displeasure with Fellner’s canard but refused to condemn him for it. The Bavarian lawyer, who is Home Affairs spokesman of the CSU’s Bundestag faction, stated publicly last week that pressure for reparations creates the impression that “Jews always show up when money jingles in German cashboxes.”
The CSU has offered to meet with leaders of the West German Jewish community. Theo Aigle, chairman of the party’s Bundestag faction, suggested that Fellner might participate to explain his statement.
DEBATE ON REPARATIONS
Meanwhile, the Bundestag is preparing to debate next week an opposition motion that would force companies to pay reparations to Jewish slave laborers they or their subsidiaries used during World War II.
Several industrial giants such as Krupp, Seimens and I.G. Farben already have. The Deutsche Bank last week approved payment of 5 million Marks, about $2 million, to former slave laborers of Dynamit-Nobel, a subsidiary of the Flick industrial conglomerate which Deutsche Bank acquired last month.
The money was made available to the Frankfurt based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany which is acting on behalf of the claimants. The reaction in the Jewish community has been mixed.
While some Jewish spokesmen seem satisfied that the reparations process has been advanced, Heinz Galinsky, leader of the West Berlin Jewish community, criticized Deutsche Bank for characterizing the payment as a “humanitarian” gesture while insisting it had no legal obligation to honor Jewish claims.