BONN (Dec. 27)
Commentators and observers are listing any number of reasons for the downfall of Werner Hoefer, for 35 years one of West Germany’s best-known television journalists, who resigned Dec. 22 because of new revelations about his Nazi past.
The question was raised because Hoefer’s journalistic endeavors for the Nazis were exposed many times over the years and it was no secret that he was a Nazi party member from 1933, when Hitler came to power, through the end of World War II in 1945.
Hoefer, 74, quit two weeks after the latest expose of his past appeared in the mass-circulation weekly Der Spiegel. He lost the confidence of the 41-member board of the Cologne-based WDR television station, which broadcast his popular “Internationaler Fruchschoppen” (International Eye-Openers) interview show at noon every Sunday since 1952.
The press and public are asking, why now? According to leading commentators, the decisive factors were the recent changes in consciousness about the Nazi era and Der Spiegel’s focus on the Hoefer story.
The magazine piece dealt with Hoefer’s writings in the Berlin Nazi daily “12 Uhr Blatt” in 1943, and specifically his praise of the execution by the Nazis of a Jewish pianist, Karlrobert Kreiten.
Hoefer has claimed repeatedly in the past that the most offensive parts of the article were written by someone else and inserted by Nazi zealots.
But Der Spiegel, published in Hamburg, quoted from other articles written by Hoefer to show his comments on the Kreiten case were not atypical. The magazine also interviewed experts who questioned Hoefer’s claim that his article was rewritten.
Paradoxically, Hoefer’s politics, like Der Spiegel’s, have been left-liberal for years. The show he moderated was a forum on controversial issues for foreign journalists, including a number of Israelis, of all political hues. Hoefer frequently came under attack from the right wing.
He was also vigorously attacked in the past by the Vienna-based Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal. But a leading French-Jewish political scientist, Alfred Grosser, has been among his most ardent defenders.
The WDR board gave Hoefer until March 21 to “clarify” the charges contained in the Der Spiegel story. But Hoefer, who will be 75 that month, chose instead to resign. Some observers believe his resignation is what WDR had in mind and used the latest expose to force the issue.