Students at an elite German university fraternity regularly greeted each other with the words “Heil Hitler” and used the word “Jew” as a pejorative, according to one of its former members in explosive revelations published this week by the German newsmagazine Spiegel.
The fraternity in question — Normannia — has been under German police investigation following an outrage at a party held by its Heidelberg University members at their mansion on Aug. 29, 2020. A 25-year-old student in attendance who spoke about his Jewish ancestry was berated with antisemitic abuse, whipped with belts and pelted with metal coins by several assailants.
On Monday, the Heidelberg public prosecutor announced that the investigation into the attack would now be concluded by the middle of March — another delay following a promise at the beginning of this year that a conclusion would be reached by the middle of February.
News of the latest delay coincided with the Spiegel exposé of the antisemitism and glorification of Germany’s Nazi past that prevailed at the Normannia fraternity.
One if its former members, Karl Stockmann, told the magazine that he had spent two years with the fraternity before quitting in August 2019, spending long periods living at its Heidelberg mansion. He confessed that he had been “repulsed” by the behavior of fellow-members of the fraternity, citing as an example their habit of drinking heavily while listening to recordings of Hitler’s speeches.
“Almost every day, somebody greeted me with ‘Heil Hitler,’” Stockmann revealed.
Stockmann stressed that the attack on the Jewish student at the fraternity party could not be regarded as an isolated incident.
“When I was at Normannia, the word ‘Jew’ was considered a common swear word in the mansion, comparable to ‘asshole’ or ‘motherf*****,’” he said.
Another commonly-heard slogan was, “We are Hitler’s people, then and now,” Stockmann said.
While Normannia nationally suspended its Heidelberg University chapter following the attack at the party, insisting that “antisemitism is incompatible with the fraternity idea,” Stockmann pointed out that the fraternity was a component of the right-wing nationalist Deutsche Burschenschaft (DB). Founded in the nineteenth century, the DB’s slogan is “Honor, Freedom, Fatherland.”
Stockmann said that most members of the fraternity “feel they are part of an elite where lifelong loyalty is considered a virtue.”
“In university towns like Heidelberg, they live in fancy villas for little rent,” he noted. “[After graduation] the networks of their alumni offer them career opportunities.”
Stockmann, who is now 19-years-old, said he was inducted into the fraternity in 2017 as a junior member through his involvement with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party’s youth wing. He said that he had decided to leave Normannia in Jan. 2019, after he was injured and then prosecuted for taking part in an attack on a left-wing youth center in the city of Mannheim.
“After that, I started to think,” Stockmann said. “I didn’t feel like messing up my life. I’m still young, after all.”
Nine men and one woman are currently being investigated for their roles in the attack at the fraternity party. Another witness to the assault on the Jewish student is due to give evidence to investigators in Heidelberg this week — the official reason for the further delay in bringing the case to a conclusion.