On October 3, in an address celebrating the anniversary of German reunification, a Hessian deputy to the German Bundestag and a member of the CDU/CSU steering council, Martin Hohmann, committed a gaffe that led to his removal from his party position five weeks later.  The party leader who justified this sacking, Angela Merkel, complained that Hoh-mann, a devout Catholic who has spoken out against abortion and the growing Islamic presence in German cities, was guilty of “conceptual constructions” that “exceed the limit of our aims and principles.”  To the critics of Merkel and of what is perceived by the German right as a token opposition to the left, Hohmann’s fate testified to the parliamentary right-center’s reputation as ein Club der Umfaller (a club for wimps).  As a November 14 feature article in Junge Freiheit shows, the “bourgeois bloc” in the German parliament has a long history of delivering to its leftist critics “grateful offerings.”

What sent the left in Europe and the United States into a tizzy this time were several paragraphs in Hohmann’s speech, borrowed from Johannes Rogalla von Bieberstein, which dealt inopportunely with the Jewish role in communist revolutions and in running the Soviet secret police.  Bieberstein states in his book Der jüdische Bolschewismus. Mythos und Realität what had been written before by, among others, Richard Pipes.  He had produced his offending book during a p.c. era, and it had sold well, despite the misleading statement in the Neue Westfälische that, “until those with obvious interests began rummaging through it, the book led a pitiful wallflower existence.”  What the article properly notes is that the book was prefaced by the remarks of Ernst Nolte, who had achieved a certain notoriety by comparing Nazi and Bolshevik crimes and treating the latter as both a model for and cause of the former.  According to Nolte and Bieberstein, the Nazis and European fascists found a large constituency among those who were stunned by Bolshevik crimes and who identified them with the disproportionately large Jewish participation in Bolshevik activities.  Neither Nolte nor Bieberstein expresses anything but loathing for the Nazis, and both note the persecution of Jews in Czarist Russia as a cause of their political radicalization.  But what has made their argument—and, by extension, Hohmann’s allusions—so offensive is what both p.c. Germans and the German holocaust industry call Aufrechnung, the treatment of Nazi and Soviet crimes and tyranny as equivalent wrongs.  Of course, these evils are self-evidently comparable, but, if we admitted this, the present German left and the “cult of guilt” would have to go out of business or change so dramatically that they would become for their adorers an unrecognizable left.

Hohmann’s provocations for scandal were so trivial that the shrieking reactions have been pathological or grossly dishonest.  Beyond the first half of the address, which is a call for fiscal austerity and for rising above the illusion that immigration from the Third World will alleviate German social problems, there is an extended excursus on Jewish revolutionaries in Eastern Europe and Germany who had been involved in mass murder.  Hoh-mann introduces this section by insisting that the Germans are not a Tätervolk, a nation of evildoers, as the German media and political left now assert.  (Here, the German deputy may be understating the case, together with the widespread self-hatred of his people.)  The point, he explains, is that no nation—neither the Germans nor the Jews whom the Nazis unjustly persecuted—should be held up as singularly good or bad.  What made Jewish communists and German Nazis wicked was that both “rejected God” and traditional moral limits on their actions.  Hohmann ended his speech by affirming the need for such limits as a precondition for civilized living.

The journalistic reactions to this speech were such that not only Hoh-mann but those who expressed—or might have expressed—agreement with him are falling from places of eminence.  The axed (or about-to-be-axed) now include Hoh-mann’s confidants on the party steering committee, Henry Nitzsche and Axel Springer, and the head of Germany’s Special Forces Command, Gen. Reinhard Guenzel, who had worked with Israeli intelligence but sent Hohmann a letter of moral support.  Bieberstein is barely holding on to his librarian post at the University of Bielefeld.  Although the General Student Committee on campus has asked for his dismissal on the grounds that Germans must deal with their intellectual legacy of anti-semi-tism whether or not a particular case is actionable, Rektor Dieter Timmermann sees no reason to fire people “if nothing that is criminally relevant has taken place.”  Significantly, up until a few weeks ago, Bieberstein, who was on friendly terms with German Jewish communal leaders, had been asked to speak at holocaust-related events and to contribute to an American encyclopedia on the holocaust.  His own family had suffered grievously under the Nazis—particularly his uncle, who had participated in the anti-Nazi resistance.  By now, Bieberstein’s aristocratic name has been made synonymous with the “new antisemitism” that Ed Koch and the neocons are finding on the rise among the Germans.  We are also hearing this from the leaders of the Jewish community of Germany, Paul Spiegel and Michel Friedman, the second of whom just appeared on TV, in the midst of legal difficulties arising from his extensive use of drugs and prostitutes, to warn about Hoh-mann and his accomplices.  There is nothing in Hohmann’s speech or Bieberstein’s work that would have raised eyebrows 40 years ago—or that one might not have encountered even in the works of such Jewish authors as Hannah Arendt.  Like the American custodians of p.c., the German ones are always raising the bar, making it impossible to carry on without engaging in agonized collective confessions about one’s national past.  This cult of guilt always excludes any blame for communist mass murders, which in Germany cannot be mentioned without arousing the suspicion of entertaining “fascist conceptual constructions.”