Nearly four weeks after making a speech in which he described Jews as a "race of perpetrators," a German member of parliament faces charges of anti-Semitism from the Jewish community.
The head of Germany's Jewish community has called Martin Hohmann's comments "disgusting anti-Semitism."
Martin Hohmann of the opposition Christian Democrat Union has come under fire from party leadership and the country’s Jewish community for anti-Semitic comments he reportedly made during a speech on the 13th anniversary of German reunification.
On Oct. 3 the parliamentarian from the state of Hesse referred to the Jews as a "race of perpetrators" and compared the Russian revolution with the Holocaust.
Hohmann said that primarily Jewish Bolsheviks were responsible for crimes committed against civilians during the Russian revolution. He then went on to compare what he claimed was bloodshed orchestrated by Jews in Russia in the early 1900s with the murder of Europe’s Jews by the Nazis in the Third Reich.
"Jews were active in great numbers in the leadership as well as in the Soviet secret police firing squads," Hohmann told constituents in his hometown of Neuhof. "Thus one could describe Jews with some justification as a Tätervolk [roughly translated as race of perpetrators]."
Although he admitted in his speech that such a comparison "may sound horrible," Hohmann said it followed the "same logic with which one describes the Germans as a race of perpetrators."
Jewish leader: 'Disgusting anti-Semitism'
The content of Hohmann’s speech, which until Thursday (Oct. 30, 2003) was available for all to read on the Internet, lay dormant for nearly a month before Hesse's public broadcaster aired a report about the speech late Thursday evening. By Friday morning the media was quoting outraged politicians and community leaders.
The head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Paul Spiegel, said Hohmann’s comments delved "into the lowest drawer of disgusting anti-Semitism." He told the national public broadcaster ARD that the parliamentarian was "brutally trampling on the fragile seeds of reconciliation between Jews and non-Jews."
Dieter Graumann, a leader of the Jewish community in Frankfurt, the largest city in Hesse and one of the largest such communities in Germany, said he was appalled by the remarks and worried that it demonstrated a shift toward anti-Semitism.
"Anti-Semitism in Germany has gone beyond the pub tables and arrived at the German Bundestag," he told Hessischer Rundfunk.
Politicians from across the board have criticized Hohmann and called for an immediate retraction of his statements. The Hesse state chapter of the CDU was quick to distance itself from Hohmann’s views and removed the speech from its Neuhof Web site. Michael Boddenberg, the party’s state general secretary, demanded that Hohmann "refrain from such unhistorical, false and unacceptable comments."
On the national level, CDU General Secretary Laurenz Meyer said Hohmann’s statements were entirely unacceptable. He said he could only hope that Hohmann follows the party’s good advice and apologizes immediately.
The ruling Social Democrats were much harsher in their criticism and went so far as to demand Hohmann’s resignation. The parliamentary spokesperson for interior affairs, Dieter Wiefelspütz, said the speech was an unbelievable breech of parliamentarian behavior. "There is no room for anti-Semitism in the German Bundestag," he said.
Populism and anti-Semitism
Intended as criticism of the federal politics of the ruling Social Democrats and Greens, critics said Hohmann’s speech was loaded with demagoguery, anti-foreigner sentiment and insensitive interpretations of the Holocaust. Hohmann heated up his rhetoric with descriptions of how the German state gives extra privileges to foreigners by granting them benefits the ordinary German does not receive.
"Unfortunately, we cannot get away from the suspicion that we in Germany no longer enjoy the advantages of being German," he told his listeners.
He then preceded to give examples of how Germany insists on paying out the full sum for reparations for forced laborers and victims of the Holocaust while calling on its own citizens to tighten the belt and except hard economic reforms which cut out all benefits.
At the end of his long speech he concluded saying Germany needed to focus more on the Germans and he called upon his followers to live according to the motto, "justice for Germany, justice for the Germans."
A repeat performance
The Oct. 3rd speech is not the first time Hohmann, a former terrorist expert in Germany’s federal crime agency, has struck controversy. A year ago he made the news with pejorative statements against gays and their rights to adopt a child. He referred to it as the "de-naturalization of the family," and called on people to show "civil courage" in opposing such a trend. Back in November 2000 he again directed several slurs against homosexuality while speaking in the Bundestag about the need to counteract homosexuality. The three monotheistic religions all would castigate gays, he said.