Berlin strips Hitler kingmaker Paul von Hindenburg of honorary citizenship | News | DW | 27.02.2020

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Berlin strips Hitler kingmaker Paul von Hindenburg of honorary citizenship

Berlin city-state has rescinded honorary citizenship for Paul von Hindenburg. In 1933, the German Weimar-era general-turned president named Adolf Hitler as chancellor, giving him powers for his 12-year Nazi dictatorship.

Berlin's mayor Michael Müller on Thursday formally delisted Paul von Hindenburg, who like Hitler had become honorary citizen in 1933, enacting a renunciation decided by the capital's center-left-governed assembly last month.

Berlin deleted deceased-Hitler's title back in 1948, then under Allied occupation.

In recent years, numerous German local bodies have derecognized Hindenburg — a former World War I general who died in 1934 — including Dortmund, Kiel, Cologne, Leipzig, Munich and Stuttgart.

Read more: Germans debate renaming of 'Hindenburg' streets

Müller, whose Social Democrats govern with the city's Greens and post-communist Left party, acted Thursday on a decision made in its parliamentary assembly, the Berlin Senate, on January 30.

Hindenburg a 'perpetrator'

During those deliberations, Left parliamentarian Regina Kittler declared: "Hindenburg was a perpetrator," saying the former World War I field marshal contributed to destruction of democracy in Germany.

"The times in which we live require a standing-up for democracy," Kittler said.

Robbin Juhnke of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), who in Berlin city-state are in opposition, rejected Hindenburg's delisting as reflecting an "ahistorical" perspective.

Twice, in earlier phases of Germany's Weimar Republic, created post-war in 1920, Hindenburg had been freely elected by voters as their president (Reichspräsident), said Juhnke.

The former general was a historically controversial future, but it was false to deprive him of Berlin's honorary citizenship, asserted Juhnke.

Storm over head-bow in Thuringia

A scene on February 5 in Thuringia state assembly's chamber caused a storm, when far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) figure Björn Höcke appeared to replicate Hitler bowing while shaking hands with Hindenburg on March 21, 1933, in Potsdam, just three days before the Reichstag fire, later used by the Nazis to rid Germany of democratic restraints.

Höcke's head bow before Thuringia's premier Thomas Kemmerich — briefly installed on votes from the regional AfD and CDU — drew condemnation, including a "fully unacceptable"-rap from Guy Verhofstadt, liberal group leader in the European Parliament.

Björn Höcke AfD bows to Thomas L Kemmerich

Höcke (R) bows to Kemmerich

Roads and plazas also renamed

"Hindenburg" roads and plazas have also been renamed across Germany, including Bonn's Hausdorff Strasse (Street) that recalls mathematics professor Felix Hausdorff of Jewish origin who chose suicide in 1942 over Nazi deportation. 

Others locations remain associated with Hindenburg, including an estuarine causeway to the North Sea island of Sylt in Schleswig-Holstein state. Hindenburg opened that rail connection in June 1927.

Braunschweig key to Hitler's rise

Hitler's rise to power under Hindenburg hinged on legal flimflam within the Weimar Republic's then-state of Braunschweig (Brunswick).

Since 1925, Austrian-born Hitler had been a stateless foreigner and was repeatedly denied citizenship inside Germany.

Shunned in Bavaria and then Thuringia, Braunschweig's Nazi-member government eventually granted him citizenship in 1932, declaring Hitler one of its civil servant and its emissary to Berlin.

Only weeks later, Hitler lost in national elections to Hindenburg, who remained German president but let Hitler in January 1933 become chancellor after months of wrangling on the back of Nazi parliamentary gains.

ipj/aw (dpa, epd)

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