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Following an Anti-semitic Speech, Politician Ousted from German Party

November 17, 2003
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A German politician who gave an anti-Semitic speech in October has been thrown out of his party’s Parliament faction.

At a special meeting last Friday in Berlin, the Christian Democratic Party voted overwhelmingly to eject Martin Hohmann from the Parliament faction. It was the first time in its history that the conservative party has made such a decision.

In all, 198 CDU Parliament members voted to oust Hohmann, while 28 opposed the move and 16 abstained.

Hohmann remains a member of Parliament, but with no party affiliation. He had no immediate public reaction to the news.

The controversy surrounding Hohmann comes after an uproar over another German politician, Jurgen Mollemann, who died earlier this year in what many believe to be a suicide after he accused then-German Jewish leader Michel Friedman of provoking anti-Semitism.

Hohmann’s Oct. 3 speech, in which he suggested that Jews could be seen as a “nation of perpetrators” because some of those involved in atrocities during the Russian Revolution had a Jewish background, has renewed debate about anti-Semitism and national identity in today’s Germany.

The speech, which came to public attention Oct. 30 after reportedly being circulated by a neo-Nazi, raised general alarms about the penetration of right-wing extremist ideologies into mainstream parties.

In fact, an opinion poll released Nov. 13 showed that about half of CDU supporters do not consider Hohmann’s views anti-Semitic.

Critics say Hohmann’s speech, delivered on German Unity Day, was designed to boost national pride by reducing the magnitude of German crimes against humanity in World War II by turning the victims into perpetrators. Hohmann also focused on resentment against reparations to Holocaust survivors.

German newspapers have reported receiving numerous letters from readers asking, “What is anti-Semitic about Hohmann’s speech?”

A common defensive response to charges of anti-Semitism here is that “one must be allowed to criticize Jews or Israel” as part of the normalization of post-World-War II Germany.

In fact, topics such as Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, the suffering of Germans during and after World War II, and confrontation with the Nazi past are handled daily in German political, media and academic venues.

The new survey by a German opinion research institute, Infratest dimap, showed that 49 percent of CDU voters and sympathizers did not consider Hohmann’s words anti-Semitic — they felt “such statements must be possible today” – – while 44 percent disagreed.

A reprimand was enough punishment for Hohmann, 48 percent said, while 45 percent of respondents want him kicked out of the party.

Other studies have suggested that anti-Semitic views are common in German society. A study conducted by Infratest in October 2002 for the American Jewish Committee concluded that 52 percent of Germans believe Jews exploit the memory of the Holocaust for their own purposes. On the other hand, most Germans favor Holocaust education and Holocaust memorials, the survey showed.

That poll also found that 60 percent of Germans acknowledge that anti-Semitism is a problem in their country; 35 percent said the problem is increasing; and 59 percent agreed that “many people in Germany are afraid to express their true feelings about Jews.”

In November 2002, Bielefeld University released a study showing that 22 percent of Germans agreed without reservation that “many Jews try to take advantage today of the history of the Third Reich, and the Germans pay for this.” In all, as many as 80 percent of respondents agreed to some degree with the statement.

Since the Hohmann affair broke, many media outlets have confronted readers’ questions about anti-Semitism head- on, publishing interviews with experts, summaries of the history of the Russian Revolution and point-by-point analyses of Hohmann’s errors and his manipulation of facts.

Though the CDU leadership had hesitated to eject Hohmann, favoring a reprimand, the party essentially was forced to act after Defense Minister Peter Struck of the Social Democratic Party fired an army general on Nov. 4 for expressing support for Hohmann’s views.

Struck’s swift action against Reinhard Guenzel made the CDU look as if it were kowtowing to a strong right-wing faction within its ranks, critics said.

Some feel that the fact that 28 CDU members opposed Hohmann’s ouster bolsters that view; party leadership had hoped for a unanimous vote.

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