German state leader won't fire deputy accused of past anti-Semitic writings

Bavarian Premier Markus Soeder on Sunday refused to dismiss is deputy, Hubert Aiwanger, after he was linked to an anti-Semitic leaflet produced in the 1980s. File Photo by Ronald Wittek/EPA-EFE

Sept. 3 (UPI) -- Bavarian Premier Markus Soeder on Sunday refused to fire his deputy, a member of the populist Free Voters party, over alleged past anti-Semitic writings as a political crisis engulfed the German state.

Soeder, of the center-right Christian Social Union, told reporters at a press conference in Munich that he will not sack his deputy, Hubert Aiwanger, after grilling him over an anti-Semitic leaflet published during his school days.

The premier said that after talking at length with Aiwanger, he had decided that sacking him would not be a proportionate response.

The crisis began last week when the Munich newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung ran a story linking Aiwanger with an anti-Semitic leaflet published during 1987-88 school year. The newspaper said the then-17-year-old was punished by the disciplinary committee of his school after it was found in his book bag.

Aiwanger has admitted possessing the leaflet but his older brother has since claimed he is its author. The deputy premier has expressed remorse over the revelations but has refused to resign.

Soeder said he ordered Aiwanger to answer 25 written questions about the incident and found that, while not all of his answers were satisfactory, there was no evidence indicating he wrote or distributed the leaflet.

Soeder's CSU, the Bavarian sister party of the national center-right Christian Democratic Union of former chancellor Angela Merkel, formed a ruling alliance with the Free Voters four years ago after slumping to its worst ever result of 37.2% of the state vote.

The alliance was made after Soeder refused to partner with the far-right Alternative for Germany or the Greens.

His refusal to fire Aiwanger did not sit well with some members of German Chancellor Olof Scholz's ruling coalition.

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser of the Social Democrats said in a social media post the decision was a cynical one, made "out of simple power calculations. However, dealing with anti-Semitism must not be a tactical question."