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Cablegate: Hohmann Anti-Semitism Affair Leaves Open Wounds

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 FRANKFURT 009873

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/AGS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM GM
SUBJECT: Hohmann Anti-Semitism Affair Leaves Open Wounds


1. (SBU) SUMMARY. The CDU's tepid and belated response to
anti-Semitic remarks by Bundestag member (MdB) Martin
Hohmann has highlighted enduring nationalist sentiments and
resentment against Germany's Holocaust burden, and weakened
leading CDU figure Roland Koch. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) On German Unity Day (Oct. 3), CDU Bundestag member
Martin Hohmann delivered a speech to two hundred
constituents in Neuhof (rural Hesse, near Fulda). In a
speech with many nationalist themes, Hohmann remarked:

BEGIN UNOFFICIAL TRANSLATION: "Germans have paid for
the Holocaust with billions of Euros (...) but I raise the
provocative question: Is there a dark side to the Jewish
people in more recent history, or is the role as victim,
which we exclusively attribute to Jews, justified?"
Referring to the participation of Jews in the Russian
revolution, Hohmann said "... with some justification,
consider the millions of deaths in the (Bolshevik)
revolution and raise the question of Jewish complicity ...
Calling the Jewish people perpetrators (Taetervolk) follows
the same logic as calling Germans committers of crimes."
END TRANSLATED EXCERPT.

3. (SBU) Hohmann's speech did not cause public controversy
until several weeks later, since no one in the audience
registered offense. Hohmann later apologized for the
remarks, but refused to renounce the speech itself. NOTE:
According to consulate sources, the Office for Protection of
the Constitution (which monitors extremist groups)
discovered the speech after Horst Mahler, a leading figure
in the far-right NPD (National Democratic Party), circulated
Hohmann's text as a model of far-right thinking. END NOTE.

4. (SBU) The CDU's reaction to the speech was mixed and
conflicted. While national CDU leadership quickly condemned
Hohmann's remarks, Hesse Minister-President / CDU chief
Roland Koch declared the case closed after the CDU presidium
resolved to replace Hohmann as Bundestag domestic affairs
committee spokesman (but leave him in the CDU caucus). When
Hohmann persistently refused to renounce the speech, Merkel
announced that the CDU caucus would exclude Hohmann, and a
visibly defeated Koch indicated that the Hesse CDU would
strip Hohmann's party membership.

5. (SBU) On November 14, the CDU Bundestag caucus voted
behind closed doors to exclude Hohmann from the caucus,
apparently the first such vote in the party's history.
Although CDU leadership secured the necessary two-thirds
majority, media seized on the fact that a fifth of CDU
deputies refused to censure Hohmann (195 MPs voted for
expulsion, 28 against, 16 abstentions) as a further sign
that CDU hardliners are unwilling to part ways with anti-
Semitist notions.

Grass Roots Support for Hohmann?
--------------------------------

6. (SBU) Defense Minister Peter Struck (SPD) fired BG
Reinhard Guenzel, commander of the KSK (Kommando
Spezialkraefte/Special Forces), for sending a letter to
Hohmann -- on Bundeswehr letterhead -- praising Hohmann's
courage and supporting the remarks. On Nov. 4, DefMin
Struck censured Guenzel for damaging the reputation of
Germany and of the military but called the letter the
isolated opinion of "a confused general who supports an even
more confused CDU Bundestag deputy." NOTE: Guenzel later
threatened to sue Struck for defamation. Guenzel drew
headlines and a reprimand in 2001 for warning that Germans
would face a bloodbath in Afghanistan, but was popular
within the KSK. Observers noted the contrast between
Struck's quick reaction and CDU's waffling. END NOTE.

7. (SBU) A number of CDU local reps and individual members
have also voiced support for Hohmann. Not surprisingly,
Hohmann has supporters from his home region of rural Hesse.
CDU MdB Vera Lengsfeld (Thueringen) criticized the alleged
media campaign against Hohmann. A handful of CDU city
assembly members in Hesse (including Frankfurt), Baden-
Wuerttemberg, and elsewhere declared their support for
Hohmann. Media reported that most phones calls to CDU
headquarters in Berlin were in support of Hohmann. Even as
late as November 20, Hohmann spoke at a closed-door local
CDU assembly in Fulda, where members recommended giving
Hohmann a second chance.

Jewish Community Reaction
-------------------------

8. (SBU) Moritz Neumann, head of the Jewish community in
Hesse, described the speech as the worst anti-Semitic
statement from a German politician in a long time and
dangerous in that it breaks the taboo of anti-Semitism and
"relativizes" the Holocaust. "Hohmann said what many in the
CDU actually feel." Neumann asked how someone "with a
notorious history of making statements against minorities"
could become responsible for Holocaust compensation issues
in the CDU caucus. Many Jews are unhappy with the Hesse
CDU's handling of the affair and particularly with Koch, who
has otherwise shown support for Jewish community issues.
Show of Weakness for Koch
-------------------------

9. (SBU) The Hohmann affair has damaged Koch politically and
could continue to hurt the Hesse CDU, since the legal
process of stripping Hohmann's party membership may take
months. In a speech at the Reichspogromnacht (Kristalnacht)
commemoration in Frankfurt on November 9, Koch had ruled out
barring Hohmann from the CDU -- prompting audience members
to boo his comments -- only to find himself overruled by
Merkel the following day. In media accounts, Koch appeared
outmaneuvered by hardliners and by the national CDU, and the
affair could damage Koch's efforts to present himself as a
moderate. Hesse CDU reps told Pol-Econ rep that Hesse
conservatives are embarrassed and angry at Merkel for having
"exploited" this opening against Koch.

PASI

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