Left party picks ′Nazi-hunter′ as presidential candidate | News | DW | 27.02.2012
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Left party picks 'Nazi-hunter' as presidential candidate

Germany's Left party has presented its candidate for president: journalist and "Nazi-hunter" Beate Klarsfeld. With all other parties united around another contender, her candidacy is mostly symbolic.

Leaders of the opposition Left party on Monday unanimously nominated German-French journalist Beate Klarsfeld as their candidate for president, three weeks ahead of the election prompted by the resignation of Christian Wulff.

Klarsfeld, 73, had been brought into the discussion by Left party chief Gesine Lötzsch, after Chancellor Angela Merkel shut out the Left from negotiations with the rest of the opposition on presenting a common nominee. Party officials, meeting last week, failed to agree on her as a candidate.

Klarsfeld made a name for herself as a "Nazi-hunter" beginning in the 1960s, fighting for the extradition of former conspirators in the Holocaust to face prosecution.

However, her methods were often unorthodox, once attempting unsuccessfully to kidnap former Paris Gestapo chief Kurt Lischka from his home in Cologne, Germany and bring him to France, where he had been convicted in absentia of deporting tens of thousands to Auschwitz. Germany and France signed an extradition treaty for Nazi war criminals shortly thereafter.

At a 1968 convention of the conservative Christian Democrats, she slapped then-Chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger in the face, shouting at him to resign because of his former membership in the Nazi party.

All other parties in the German parliament - the ruling Christian Democrats and Free Democrats, plus the opposition Social Democrats and Greens - have rallied behind Lutheran pastor and human rights activist Joachim Gauck for president, making his election all but certain.

The Left, a self-avowed democratic socialist party with ties to the former East German communists, views Gauck with distaste, in part because of his investigations into the former Stasi secret police. After Gauck's unsuccessful run for the presidency in 2010, Left party chief Lötzsch called him a "man of the past" who would not "set a path for the future."

acb/gb (AFP, dpa)