BONN (Jun. 18)
The West German parliament last week rejected a resolution censuring government spokesman Hans Klein for remarks last month in which he appeared to defend the actions of the Waffen SS.
Klein, a member of Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s ruling Christian Democratic Union, was quoted as saying that members of the Nazi elite force were not criminals, but regular soldiers who acted in the belief they were serving their country.
The Bundestag also rejected a separate motion which sought to distance the house from Klein’s remarks.
Both motions were easily defeated by the governing majority of the CDU motions were the Greens and some members of the Social Democratic Party.
Klein. Who holds the rank of minister, was quoted in early May by the Munich weekly Quick as saying the Waffen SS was “a fighting unit, not criminals.”
Political observers believe Klein’s defense was meant to recapture conservative voters who recently deserted the CDU for the extreme rightwing Republican Party and other factions.
Last Thursday in Parliament, Jutta Oesterle-Schwerin of the left-wing Greens, a Jerusalem-born deputy who holds Israeli citizenship, said no distinction could be made between the SS and the Waffen SS, a unit which sometimes had combat assignments.
Oesterle-Schwerin pointed out that during the war, regular exchanges took place between concentration camp guards and members of the combat troops.
She also said the Wehrmacht, the 3rd German army, committee many atrocities, too, and was part of the Nizi machinery.
Her statements caused an uproar.
Members of the CDU repeatedly shouted “rabble-rouser” when she said that opponents of the Nazis and deserters were the heroes of the time, not the Waffen SS.
Klein defended his remarks, saying it was wrong to earmark all members of the SS as criminals.
he also said he did not mean to offend Holocaust survivors and was merely echoing former utterances by leading West Germans, including the late Social Democratic leader Kurt Schumacher.