Wednesday, November 05, 2003

German General Fired for Backing Slur on Jews

The whole furore aroused by CDU MP Martin Hohmann offers yet one more reason to feel less than sanguine about European antisemitism. At the same time, it is encouraging to see that this General Günzel character was so swiftly fired, even if the CDU has still to disown Hohmann.

BERLIN, Nov. 4 — The commander of a German special forces army unit was dismissed Tuesday after he praised a conservative member of Parliament for a speech that has been widely criticized here as anti-Semitic.

The dismissed officer, Gen. Reinhard Günzel, was relieved of his command by Defense Minister Peter Struck, who called him a "lone, confused general who agreed with an even more confused statement made by a conservative member of Parliament."

"His remarks damaged the Federal Republic of Germany as well as the German Army," Mr. Struck said.

The firing of General Günzel is the latest event in a scandal that has been simmering in Germany in the few days since the disclosure of remarks about Jews made by Martin Hohmann, an otherwise obscure member of the German Parliament who belongs to the opposition Christian Democratic Union.

In his speech, made in early October to local constituents, Mr. Hohmann called Jews "a race of perpetrators." Mr. Hohmann was making the argument that Germans still labor under the burden of responsibility for the crimes of the Nazis, while other people who have committed atrocities present themselves as "innocent lambs."

The Jews, he said, were prominent in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, during which millions were killed.

"Thus one could describe Jews with some justification as a nation of perpetrators," Mr. Hohmann said. "That may sound horrible, but it would follow the same logic with which one describes the Germans as a race of perpetrators."

It's easy to see the appeal that this sort of moral equivalence must have for many Europeans, troubled as they are by the reality of so many of their forefathers having been accomplices in genocide. I don't think it coincidental that it was the Dutch Gretta Duisenberg, wife of the head of the ECB, who saw fit to state that Hitler's troops had been better behaved than those of the Israeli state, "with the exception of the Holocaust" (and what a trifling exception it was too!) How much easier it must be to sleep at night knowing one has shown "those people" to be just as bad as their former persecutors.