German party Holocaust remembrance no-show

BERLIN, Jan. 25 (JTA) — All of Germany’s mainstream political parties are criticizing a decision by an extreme-right party not to attend a Holocaust Remembrance Day event.

The furor erupted after the German People’s Union said it would not send a representative to a program at the Holocaust memorial at Sachsenhausen, the former concentration camp outside Berlin.

Germany marks Holocaust Remembrance Day on Thursday, when it commemorates the liberation of Auschwitz on Jan. 27, 1945.

Events marking the date — including lectures, exhibits, and TV and radio programs — are to take place nationwide.

In the former eastern state of Brandenburg, all mainstream parties have sharply criticized the People’s Union announcement Monday that, “on principle,” it would not attend the event at Sachsenhausen.

The head of the Social Democratic Party in Potsdam, Gunter Fritsch, said the announcement “makes that party’s ideology more than clear.” It is a “slap in the face of the victims of national socialism.”

Christian Democratic Party leader Beate Blechinger reproached the People’s Union — which won seats in the state Parliament last September — for besmirching the reputation of Brandenburg.

Heinz Vietze, head of the Party of Democratic Socialism, formerly the Communist Party of East Germany, called this “normal” behavior for an “anti-Semitic and racist party,” adding that the People’s Union “does not belong in this democracy.”

The People’s Union derives its financial and ideological sustenance from Munich businessman and publisher Gerhard Frey, who blames foreigners for crime and high jobless rates.

Frey’s extremist newspaper, the National Zeitung, frequently tests the limit of German law by suggesting that the Holocaust was not as bad as historians say it is.

Meanwhile, Berlin Mayor Eberhard Diepgen, a member of the Christian Democrats, is standing by his decision not to attend a symbolic groundbreaking Thursday for a planned national Holocaust memorial in Berlin.

Last June, the Parliament approved a design by American architect Peter Eisenman that calls for some 2,700 cement columns to be erected on an area as large as a football stadium in the heart of Berlin.

A longtime opponent of the memorial, which he has criticized as too large and disconnected from history, Diepgen said he didn’t know what exactly was going to be built there “and such [vague] things I don’t normally attend.”

He will miss an address by Nobel Prize-winner Elie Wiesel. Attendees will include German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, German Parliament President Wolfgang Thierse and German President Johannes Rau.

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