Jul 2002 Journal

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The bitch is still on heat

While Britain marks the Queen's Golden Jubilee with fanfares, Germany keeps justifiably quiet about a totally different event which also happened to take place half a century ago. The background to it is the indeterminate position on the German political spectrum which the FDP - the counterpart to Britain's Liberals - occupies. While the Liberals are undeviatingly middle-of-the-road, the FDP (as well as its Austrian equivalent, the Freedom Party) has been oscillating alarmingly between laissez-faire and extreme right-wing positions. As Europe knows to its cost, Jörg Haider took over the Freedom Party and pushed it in a neo-Nazi direction over ten years ago.

In Germany, a similar manoeuvre affecting the FDP unfolded in 1952. Werner Naumann, Goebbels's ex-deputy at the Propaganda Ministry, and several likeminded plotters had infiltrated the Free Democrats with the intention of turning the party into a neo-Nazi Trojan Horse. British Intelligence got wind of this and alerted UK High Commissioner Ivone Kirkpatrick, who ordered the plotters' arrest - which kept the party on an even keel. However, today's FDP is led by Jürgen Möllemann, best described as Naumann's spiritual heir. Möllemann has embarked on an extreme right-wing course, for which Martin Walser's call to the Germans to shake off the burden of Auschwitz has paved the way. He has also tapped into the prevailing anti-Israel mood created by biased news reports (see facing page).

If Arik Sharon is Möllemann's chief target, Michel Friedmann, deputy leader of the Jewish community, follows closely behind. The latter's offence is that he criticised the FDP leader for accepting the Syrian-born, Israel-baiting former Green MP Jamal al Karsli as a party member. "I am afraid", Möllemann countered speciously, "that no one has increased the appeal of antisemitism in Germany more than Mr Sharon abroad and Mr Friedmann at home."
Richard Grunberger

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