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GERMANY: Antisemitism in the army



German Defense Minister Peter Struck said he was sure that the anti-Semitic views endorsed by a top general were not widespread in the army, and emphasized that all soldiers were taught comprehensively about Germany's Nazi past. Struck fired the commander of the elite "Kommando Spezialkraefte" (KSK, Special Forces Command), Reinhard Guenzel, after the brigadier-general wrote a letter of support, on army notepaper, to a right-wing MP who sparked outrage with anti-Jewish comments.

Struck said Bundeswehr soldiers are taught extensively about German history. "I am completely convinced that members of the armed forces, and especially the KSK, are firmly rooted in democracy," said Struck.

Struck sacked Guenzel almost instantly after learning about a letter he wrote in support of Martin Hohmann, a conservative MP who said that Jews could be seen as a "nation of perpetrators", while Germans had also been "victims" of history.

Struck said that after Guenzel's "warped" comments, he would study the general's files to see whether earlier signs of extremist views should have prevented his promotion to the prestigious commando forces. Guenzel told Hohmann, a member of the Christian Democrats, that most Germans shared the MP's views. A group of 100 past and present Bundeswehr officers signed a statement warning that Guenzel was "not an isolated case" and that there were more extremists in the armed forces.

"The army is not made up of right-wing extremists, but there is a considerable number in leadership positions who lack democratic awareness," said Helmuth Pries, head of the group. But several conservative MPs from the Bavarian Christian Social Union party criticised Struck, saying that Guenzel was not a right-wing extremist and admonishing him would have been enough.

The row flared when Hohmann, himself a reserve officer, said that while Germans were always atoning for their Holocaust guilt, other peoples had also committed crimes. He claimed that many Jewish Bolsheviks had taken part in mass executions during the 1917 Russian revolution and that Jews, like Germans, could therefore be called "perpetrators".

Guenzel was sacked after his letter was read out by Hohmann on television. "An excellent speech, if I may make this judgment, which one rarely hears and reads in such courageous clarity and truth in our country," Guenzel wrote. Several deputies in the ruling Social Democrats and Greens have called on Hohmann to resign or be expelled by conservative party leaders.

Wilhelm Schmidt, a senior SPD deputy, said Hohmann's views were shared by a number of other conservative MPs. "I'm certain that Hohmann is not an isolated case," he said. (Reuters, 11/7/03))

Ronald Hilton - 11.07.03


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