Bavaria leader refuses to dismiss deputy despite antisemitic scandal

The leader of the most powerful German state refused to dismiss his deputy despite accusations of antisemitism.

Hubert Aiwanger, deputy leader of the German state of Bavaria, recently faced strong accusations over an antisemitic pamphlet he is claimed to have written as a 17-year-old schoolboy during the 1980s, in which Auschwitz was described as an “entertainment quarter”, reports The Guardian. The document also proposed a satirical quiz on “the biggest fatherland traitor” and offered a prize of “a free trip through the chimney in Auschwitz”.

Although he first rejected the claims, denying to have written the pamphlet, he admitted to having had “one or a few copies” of it in his school bag. Later, Aiwanger’s brother claimed to be the author of the antisemitic flyers.

The leader of Bavaria, Markus Söder, said he would not dismiss his deputy over the antisemitic accusations, claiming it would not be proportionate to sack Aiwanger, reassuring that he had not taken the decision lightly. Söder said that though Aiwanger made serious mistakes in his youth, he had credibly distanced himself from them and apologised. Nevertheless, Söder criticised his deputy for not apologising sooner and said he needed to show remorse.

Aiwanger is the leader of the populist Free Voters, the junior coalition partner to Söder’s conservative CSU. Aiwanger’s party governs Bavaria in coalition with Söder’s Christian Social Union, which is polling around 39% and holds about 12% of the vote. Without its partner, the CSU would have been forced to form a coalition with more leftwing parties, but by not dismissing Aiwanger, Söder can keep his 2018 coalition government intact before the October regional election.

The German interior minister, Nancy Faeser, accused Söder of putting political tactics first, highlighting that “Mr Aiwanger has neither apologised convincingly nor been able to dispel the accusations convincingly.” Instead, she said, he has styled himself as a victim, referring to Aiwanger’s claims of having been the victim of a smear campaign. “That Mr Söder allows this damages the reputation of our country,” Faeser added.


Photo credit: Peter Kneffel/dpa