The recent scandal in Germany over a viciously antisemitic leaflet written by the deputy prime minister of Bavaria when he was a schoolboy graphically “represents the German constitutional state’s lack of response to the antisemitism at its heart,” the head of the country’s Jewish student union has declared.
Writing in the Judische Allgemeine news outlet on Wednesday, Hanna Veiler — president of the Union of Jewish Students in Germany (JSUD) — offered a scathing analysis of postwar Germany’s response to the widespread antisemitism that persisted following the defeat of the Nazi regime in 1945.
The scandal involving Hubert Aiwanger — Bavaria’s deputy prime minister — “makes clear what little space Jewish concerns and anger actually receive in political decisions,” she stated.
A report last month in the the Munich-based Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) news outlet alleged that Aiwanger was behind a typewritten leaflet mocking the Holocaust distributed at the Burkhart Gymnasium in the town of Mallersdorf-Pfaffenberg in 1987, when he was 17.
The leaflet parodied national history competitions through demeaning references to the Holocaust. For example, the “prize” for the best answer to the question “Who is the greatest traitor to the fatherland?” was “a complimentary flight through the chimney at Auschwitz.”
Similar “prizes” were offered for answers to other questions, among them a “lifelong stay in a mass grave,” a free shot in the back of the neck,” “a ticket … to the entertainment quarter Auschwitz,” and a “night’s stay in the Gestapo cellar, then a trip to Dachau.”
Aiwanger furiously denied being the author of the leaflet, for which his brother Helmut later claimed responsibility. However, Jewish leaders and German politicians across the spectrum were unimpressed by his denial, pointing to the presence of copies of the leaflet in his school bag. As the scandal intensified, former schoolmates of Aiwanger’s gave interviews in which they accused the deputy prime minister, now 52, of delivering Hitler salutes, imitating Hitler’s speeches, and cracking antisemitic and racist jokes.
However, Aiwanger was able to ride out the scandal after Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder declined to dismiss him, arguing — to the chagrin of many German Jews — that such a measure would be “disproportionate” given that the controversy took place more than 35 years ago.
Veiler asserted that the outcome in Aiwanger’s case confirmed “what the Jewish community has been pointing out for years: antisemitic and right-wing ideas did not disappear with the defeat of Nazi Germany.”
She continued: “While the image was repeatedly constructed in the political sphere that Germany had learned from its past and become good again, the inhumane ‘brown’ ideology lived on, especially in private life and in West German families. The Aiwanger case did not come as a surprise to many Jews. In German history, Nazi tendencies in the past of politicians are neither a novelty nor an isolated case.”
Veiler warned that German Jews “are once again observing that our interests are not worth much if we want to go beyond mere lip service.”
She added: “For every person who is allowed to remain in office despite their antisemitism and experiences no consequences, ten more antisemites dare to raise their voices publicly. All of this is leading to an increasing shift in discourse that will soon hit the Jewish communities with full force.”