The German press on Saturday joined U.S. officials in condemning comments made by the justice minister linking President Bush to Hitler.
Justice Minister Herta Däubler-Gmelin is the focus of the press
On the eve of the national election, German newspapers came out strong in their criticism of the Social Democratic-led government of Gerhard Schröder and his justice minister Herta Däubler-Gmelin, who had allegedly compared the methods of President George W. Bush to those of Hitler.
The country’s prominent papers as well as Germany’s Jewish community condemned Däubler-Gmelin for remarks made during an election campaign speech earlier in the week. Although the justice minister has denied making the statements as quoted in a local newspaper, the German media has accused her and the SPD government of damaging US-German relations.
Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s government has "damaged relations between Berlin and Washington as they have never been damaged since World War II," said the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper in an editorial.
The conservative daily said the damage had been caused "consciously and willingly" and that the government had "sacrificed good relations on the alter of power."
The most recent polls show that Chancellor Schröder’s Social Democrats are slightly ahead in a neck-and-neck race against the conservative bloc of Christian Democrats and the Christian Social Union. Many political analysts credit the edge to Schröder’s widely popular anti-American stance regarding a war with Iraq.
In an interview with the Financial Times Deutschland, U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleeszza Rice said Germany had created "a poisoned atmosphere."
"I would say that just now is not a happy time for our relations with Germany. There have been things said which are totally unacceptable"
The daily Die Welt directed its criticism to the justice minister, whose remarks "illustrate not only a lack of understanding of American politics, society, mentality and history," but "also cowardice in front of the voters and Saddam Hussein."
The Süddeutsche predicted that the minister’s statements would mean the end of her political carrier. "In the event that Schröder is re-elected, he would do right not to include Däubler-Gmelin in his cabinet."
In Hamburg, the president of the World Jewish Congress, Israel Singer, described the Hitler comparison as "without tact, thoughtless, and shocking." Speaking to the mass-circulation Bild, he said, "after the legislative elections in Germany, whoever wins them, consequences should be drawn from this affair."