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Germany Commemorates Auschwitz Liberation … with New Nazis

Recently, Germany’s federal parliament commemorated the liberation of Auschwitz on 27th January 1945 by Soviet troops. The event took place inside the former Reichstag – now Bundestag – in Berlin. During the highly official gathering, Auschwitz survivor Anita Lasker Wallfisch who remains one of the last known survivors of the girls’ orchestra of Auschwitz, recalled the atrocities committed by the Nazis.

Anita Lasker-Wallfisch warned in the Bundestag that a new build-up of Anti-Semitism directed against Jews is taking place. To the very visible annoyance of attending AFD-members (Germany’s new radical right-wing, some say new Nazi party), Lasker-Wallfisch emphasized that “Anti-Semitism is a 2000-year-old virus and apparently it is incurable. Only, one does not necessarily say Jews anymore. Today, it is the Israelis.” Lasker-Wallfisch reported that it is a scandal that Jewish schools, even Jewish kindergartens have to be guarded by the police today. This is not the Germany of 1933 when Anita Lasker-Wallfisch was five years old. This is Germany 2018. Examining 14,000 letters and e-mails sent between 2002 and 2012 to the Central Council of Jews in Germany and to the Israeli embassy, Monika Schwarz-Friesel and Jehuda Reinharz’s book “Inside the Anti-Semitic Mind” tells an eye-opening story while confirming Lasker-Wallfisch’s report.

At the ceremony, Lasker-Wallfisch recalled the persecution of Jews during the 1930s. The rise of Nazism brought her family-life to a sudden halt. “The idyll was over”, Ms. Lasker-Wallfisch noted, as Nazi infused racial exclusions and open attacks took hold. “Jews became unwanted”, she said. Indeed, there were Anti-Semitic pogroms in Berlin even before the Nazis took power. Once in power, the Nazis intensified the violence against Jews. “We had to vacate our apartment…and we had to wear the yellow star on our clothes”. Her “parents of the three siblings were deported in April 1942”, reported Lasker-Wallfisch. “Of course we wanted to stay together.” But both parents were murdered by the Nazis. Nazi inhumanity included separating children from parents. It was a preferred Nazi method.

Now aged 92, Lasker-Wallfisch survived the extermination camp Auschwitz as a cellist in the girls’ orchestra. Among other things, the members had to play for the camp staff. In the spring of 1945, she was freed together with her sister Renate by British troops from the camp Bergen-Belsen. “Who would have thought that we would leave Auschwitz alive, not as smoke”, Lasker-Wallfisch recounts.

After the liberation of Germany from Nazism, Lasker-Wallfisch emigrated to England and co-founded the English Chamber Orchestra in London. Initially, she had vowed never to return. Nonetheless, she started reporting on her experiences in Nazi Germany. “Hatred is a poison. And in the end, you poison yourself”, Lasker-Wallfisch revealed. Observing the development of Germany’s postwar democratic society, Germany behaved “by example”, said Lasker-Wallfisch also recalling resistance against the evil Nazi regime.

“We believe we know what is good and evil”, Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) said without alluding to the evil his very own party did in the immediate post-Nazi period by elevating ex Nazis into high ranking positions within Germany’s political and economic institutions. Here are a few examples: Waffen-SS Untersturmführer Hanns Martin Schleyer (later CDU) became president of two powerful commercial organizations, the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations and the Federation of German Industries. SA Obersturmführer Theodor Oberländer (later CDU) became a minister. NSDAP member Karl Carstens (later CDU) was even made president of Germany. Meanwhile SA/NSKK man Kurt Kiesinger became Germany’s 3rd chancellor. Beate Klarsfeld once slapped the ex Nazi. Super-Anti-Semitist Hans Globke – his extraordinary efforts in drafting the Nazi’s key Anti-Semitic law for the “Protection of the German Blood” satisfied Adolf Hitler – was appointed undersecretary in Adenauer’s Chancellery (CDU). There are many more.

At the remembrance day, Schäuble (also CDU) said that Germany today is “free, democratic, constitutional and peaceful” without mentioning the German bombing of Serbia in 1999 that occurred under a “humanitarian” pretext. At that time, Schäuble’s peace loving Germany simply bypassed the United Nations. Today, the current UN Secretary-General warned of increased anti-Semitism and that internationally, the day of remembrance should be used to warn against the worldwide growth of anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that neo-Nazis and other bigots are on the rise. Their racial hatred is also directed against Muslims, migrants, and refugees. It does not even stop in front of children.

Present day neo-Nazis and white racists increasingly make use of the internet, spreading their Anti-Semitic slogans. The anonymity of the internet plays into the hands of the extreme right. The UN Secretary-General called on the international community never to forget the atrocities and mass murder committed by the Nazis. These crimes should never be trivialized. Holocaust Remembrance Day is about the genocide committed by the Hitler regime. In Auschwitz alone, the Nazis murdered around 1.1 million people.

Germany’s Remembrance Day took place as a new Nazi party is on the rise. The recently elected parliamentarians of the AFD – the Alternative for Germany – were (more or less) obliged to participate in Germany’s official tribute. It became a remembrance with right-wing extremists. Racist AFD Führer Alexander Gauland who “does not want soccer star Jerome Boateng (born in Berlin and of Ghanaian origin) as neighbor” clapped but did it in slow motion showing his displeasure. He clapped as if he did not want to clap when Holocaust survivor Anita Lasker-Wallfisch spoke. Many of the 92 AFD-members showed similar disapproval joining their 76-year-old boss who many consider an Anti-Semite.

However, the majority of Germany’s parliament, those the AFD abuses as members of “system-parties” and “old-parties” (using Nazi-terminology), applauded Anita Lasker-Wallfisch. Meanwhile, applauds came very reluctantly and often not at all from Hansjörg Müller (AFD) who believes that “neoliberalism’s globalization will lead to global socialism”. Applause came equally visible and equally reluctantly from Detlev Spangenberg (AFD-Saxony). His personal and highly racist slogan is “Sachsenmut stoppt Moslemflut” [Saxon pride will stop the Muslim flood]. This so-called “flood” features strongly in AFD hallucinations and populist ideology. In a similar way, AFD-leader Wolfgang Gedeon says, “the Jews are the inner enemy of the west”. While Joseph Goebbels favored the “total war” in 1943, AFD-demagogue Björn Höcke wants a “total victory” [vollständigen Sieg].

According to the conservative German daily “die Welt”, AFD front-women von Storchs’s hatred against Jews is published on her very own online-blog “free world” [Freie Welt] broadcasting the classical Anti-Semitic fairy-tale of a Jewish world conspiracy. In Schwerin, ex-AFD leader Ralf Borschke (now camouflaging his Anti-Semitism in a new grouping called “Citizens for Mecklenburg-Vorpommern”) distributes writings that argue “there were no concentration camps on German soil and there were no gas chambers in which Jews were gassed”. Confirming all this, a recent “AFD dropout said the hatred of the Jews inside the AFD is unbearable”. The former AFD election candiate, Franz Eibl also reported, “Jew hatred is widespread inside the AFD”. Slowly a comprehensive picture emerges on AFD Anti-Semitism.

Meanwhile Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) who once took 100,000 Deutsch Mark from an arms dealer for his CDU party, said at the Auschwitz commemoration, “out of the guilt that Germans have incurred in the twelve years of the National Socialist dictatorship, we have a special responsibility for future generations”. What Schäuble didn’t mention was his CDU party’s support for Chilean dictator and mass murderer Augusto Pinochet. Again, he failed to allude to the aforementioned responsibilities of his own party towards exNazis re-entering Germany’s administrative apparatus shortly after the end of Nazism. Schäuble also said that “human dignity is vulnerable”. Unfortunately, his party did not show human dignity when seeking to avoid the payment of reparations after World War II for SS and Wehrmacht massacres committed all over Europe and to the people forced into slave labor employed in Germany’s Nazi industry.

Perhaps thinking of his former Nazi mates once populating his own party, Schäuble refrained from repeating key sentences in Lasker-Wallfisch’s speech when noting, for example, that today’s generations should ensure that such things never happen again. Sadly but truly, Germany in 2018 is a rather different place as Anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia ripen.

Confirming much of the above, “a study conducted last year by the Forsa Institute and the Körber Foundation found that 41 per cent of German children over the age of 14 had not even heard of Auschwitz”, reports the newspaper The Algemeiner. With failing knowledge of Germany’s Nazi past and Anti-Semitism on the rise, one is not surprised at all to see that Lasker-Wallfisch was recently attacked in a restaurant. The Anti-Semite shouted that her insistence on discussing Auschwitz “is spoiling the atmosphere”. At the Bundestag, Lasker-Wallfisch noted that things like this “might not have happened five years ago” as German children do no longer know what Auschwitz means. Revisionist history has succeeded. Liam Neeson’s Schindler’s List is increasingly unknown just as Spencer Tracy’s The Seventh Cross.

With Anti-Semitism on the rise, the 2018 commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz is more urgent than in many previous years. Since the AFD marched into the parliament last September, the radical right’s new party became the third strongest political force. The AFD has not improved the political culture of the Bundestag – rather the opposite is the case. The xenophobic party is proud of having moved Germany’s culture toward xenophobic radical hatred. Xenophobia, racism and Anti-Semitism have increasingly become not just political issues but are often expressed in violence and the establishment of so-called “no-go-areas” – geographical locations free of Jews [Judenrein] and others who do not look Aryan enough.

Often AFD xenophobia is spiced up with right wing and nationalistic Euro-skepticism as expressed by, for example, AFD man Peter Boehringer, a conspiracy theorist/therapist. He is ‘the man with two faces’, as Germany’s leading business daily – the Handelsblatt – calls him. While Merkel calls for a daily struggle assuring “Jewish life in Germany” and “fighting against Anti-Semitism”, “two-faced” AFD-MP Boehringer likes to insult chancellor Merkel as “Merkel-whore”. This is the AFD’s political culture in early 2018.

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Thomas Klikauer is the author of Managerialism (Palgrave, 2013).

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