Sun, Nov 02, 2003 - Page 6 News List

German MP says Jews have a `dark side' to their past

THE GUARDIAN , BERLIN

A right-wing German minister of parliament (MP) on Friday night faced numerous calls for his resignation after he talked of "the Jews" as a "nation of perpetrators" and alleged they were responsible for the deaths of millions of people during the Russian revolution.

In a speech to his constituents, Martin Hohmann, a member of Germany's main opposition party, the Christian Democrat Union (CDU), claimed that Jewish people had a "dark side."

It was unfair to single out Germans over the Holocaust when the Jews had committed similar crimes in Bolshevik Russia, he said. His remarks, which were aired on German television on Thursday night, provoked widespread outrage yesterday from Jewish groups and from across the political spectrum.

The leader of Germany's Jewish community, Paul Spiegel, said Hohmann had "reached into the bottom drawer of repulsive anti-semitism." The Jewish Council was consulting a lawyer to see whether the MP could be charged with incitement.

The CDU's leader, Angela Merkel, described the remarks as "completely unacceptable and intolerable." She added: "We distance ourselves from them completely."

Hohmann's comments were made on Oct. 3 to celebrate the day of German reunification, but were only picked up by a local radio station last week. In his speech, the MP complained that Germany's political elite was obsessed with atoning for the Holocaust. He added: "With a certain justification, one could ask, in the light of the millions killed in the first phase of the [Russian] revolution, about the guilt of the Jews."

Last night, Irene Runge, director of Berlin's Jewish cultural centre, demanded his immediate resignation. His comments were "absolutely shocking," she said.

She added: "The question is, why would people vote for a person like that? And why did nobody say anything when he first made his remarks?"

Although the CDU's political leadership has expressed its displeasure, it has taken no action against Hohmann, and has declined to say whether he will be made to resign from the party.

Last night Mr Hohmann, 55, refused to apologize. But in a brief statement from his home in Neuhof, where he has been the MP since 1998, he said he was sorry if he had injured anybody's feelings.

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