Conservative candidate to replace Angela Merkel accused of allowing antisemitism

Conservative candidate to replace Angela Merkel accused of allowing antisemitism

15:53 - Leading environmentalist criticises Armin Laschet for refusing to sack former spy chief Hans-Georg Maaßen

The conservative candidate for German chancellor in September’s elections has been told by the country’s leading environmentalist that he is legitimising antisemitism by refusing to oust the former head of domestic intelligence from his party.

The accusation was levelled at Armin Laschet, the leader of the CDU, by Luisa Neubauer, the face of the Fridays for Future movement in Germany, in a standoff on a popular weekly chatshow on Sunday night.

Hans-Georg Maaßen was the head of the BfV, the domestic intelligence service, until 2018, when he was sent into early retirement after criticising Angela Merkel’s immigration politics and making comments seen to chime with far-right opinions.

Neubauer accused Maaßen, who is standing for the CDU in the central state of Thuringia in September, of spreading antisemitic and racist content, and told Laschet he was legitimising those views by keeping the former chief spy in the party.

Critics of Maaßen’s candidature in for the constituency of Suhl-Schmalkalden say he is trying to push the party to the right. Maaßen and his supporters say he is running to prevent the constituency from falling into the hands of either the leftwing Die Linke party or the rightwing populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD).

On the chatshow, Neubauer urged Laschet to study messages and content that she said Maaßen had been spreading online, as well as discussing in interviews and commentaries. She accused Laschet of “legitimising racist, antisemitic, identitarian as well as science denial content, as embodied by Hans-Georg Maaßen”.

Laschet, who hopes to succeed Merkel in September, defended Maaßen, who he said was not antisemitic and had not spread antisemitic texts. “If he was doing so, that would be a reason to exclude him from the party … there is nothing in which I would be so vigorous as with antisemitism,” Laschet said.

The chatshow’s moderator, Anne Will, said her research team would examine Neubauer’s allegations. After the broadcast she tweeted a thread from the account Union-Watch, which describes itself as a leftwing observer of conservative politics in Germany, listing examples of views expressed by or shared by Maaßen.

However, on Monday she deleted the tweet, saying it had been a mistake to share it. The thread stated that whether or not Maaßen could be described as an antisemite was legally unclear, but added: “What is certain is that he regularly, and over a long time, has spread antisemitism and other agitation”.

Neubauer did not produce examples during the TV show to back up her claim, but Maaßen’s views have long been a cause for concern in the CDU and beyond and kept him in the headlines. Observers note his regular use of the word “globalist”, often an antisemitic dog whistle in far-right circles.

At a gathering of the right wing of the CDU, the WerteUnion, Maaßen is on record as referring to an alliance of “capitalists … and Leninists” – which detractors have said is reminiscent of the “Jewish-Bolshevism” conspiracy theory, according to which Jews were behind the 1917 Russian Revolution.

Maaßen has also come under fire for his remarks criticising Germany’s attempts to take on a pioneering role in climate protection, stating in an interview: “We’ve already tried to save the world twice, and each time it went wrong.”

He has denied Neubauer’s accusations, telling Die Welt newspaper: “What Frau Neubauer said about me in the programme Anne Will were baseless and unfounded remarks which I reject.” He said he saw the discussion in the context of a “brutalisation of political discourse” and added that Laschet was “correct … to say that there should be no place for antisemites in the CDU”.