BERLIN (JTA) – Veteran Nazi hunter Beate Klarsfeld has jumped into the German political fray as an alternative candidate for president.
Her decision to run comes amid growing criticism of the sole nominee — Joachim Gauck, a former East German anti-communist activist who later was the first to head the post-unification commission investigating the archives of the East German secret police. Gauck is coming under increasing criticism over his views on Holocaust remembrance.
Klarsfeld, 73, of the Left Party member, told the German news agency DPA, “I hope that I will get some votes from the CDU and CSU,” the party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and its sister party in Bavaria. “I am committed to international understanding and always take the side of the victims.”
She is not given much chance of winning. Observers note that the Left Party holds 10 percent of seats in the Bundestag, and the other mainstream parties, which nominated Gauck, have an overwhelming majority. The presidency, a symbolic position, is appointed by a total of 1,240 prominent individuals, including all elected members of the Bundestag.
Gauck, a former Lutheran pastor, believes that too much attention has been given to the Holocaust. According to Berlin-based journalist and blogger Chris Hale, Gauck “has spoken out against what he calls an overvaluing — or ‘Überhohung’ — of the Holocaust, aggressively insisting that the worst genocide in human history has to be judged alongside the crimes of various communist regimes.”
Klarsfeld, 73, a journalist born in Berlin to a Protestant family, and her Romanian-born Jewish husband, Serge Klarsfeld, 76 , who live in Paris, are known for their work in raising awareness of the Holocaust and recently for publicizing the complicity of German and French railways in the deportation of Jews to their deaths. They won fame for tracking down Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie in Bolivia in 1971. He was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 by a French court.
Klarsfeld also is known for her anti-establishment views. She was convicted in West Germany in 1969 on assault charges for slapping then-Chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger.
In a view contrary to her party, Klarsfeld is a strong supporter of Israel. She told DPA that her fellow party members “respect the work I have done for years: building a bridge between the German and Jewish people.”