Tuesday, November 04, 2003

German general fired over antisemitic speech

Frankfurter Allgemeine story

The commanding officer of the KSK, the German army's special forces, has been relieved of his duties by the Defence Minister, Peter Struck of the Social Democrats, after he allegedly wrote a letter to the conservative deputy Martin Hofmann congratulating him on his now-infamous speech in which he described the Jews as a "perpetrator nation" (Tätervolk) and declared that they were responsible for crimes committed by the Soviet Communist Party. Hofmann's remarks triggered an eruption of criticism and put him under pressure to resign. At least one German has so far accused Hofmann formally of a crime, as has the Central Council of Jews in Germany. Although his party announced that his remarks were "contradictory to the basic convictions of the Christian Democratic Union", he has so far been permitted to remain a member on probation. Two parliamentary committees have since got rid of him.

Now, the affair has expanded sharply with the dismissal of Brigadier General Reinhard Günzel from his post with the Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK). This unit was created fairly recently and saw action for the first time in Bosnia. It is modelled on the British Special Air Service Regiment. He has been relieved of command on instructions from the Ministry of Defence, and will probably be removed from the army list although this punishment is a matter for the Federal President. Günzel's letter was shown to a television reporter who interviewed Hofmann at his home in Fulda on Saturday whilst he defended the content of the speech and his refusal to apologise.

According to the Austrian Standard, Günzel's epistle explicitly thanked Hofmann for his speech, which he described as "an outstanding speech - if I can permit myself such praise - with a courage for truth and clarity that one very rarely hears in our country". Damn right you don't! He further called on Hofmann "not to allow yourself to be diverted by accusations from the dominant camp of the Left and to hold your course bravely".

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