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Liberal fraternities lose battle with far-right
Liberal fraternity spokesman Michael Schmidt Photo: DPA

Liberal fraternities lose battle with far-right

Published: 25 Nov 2012 13:05 GMT+01:00
Updated: 25 Nov 2012 13:05 GMT+01:00

The liberal wing of Germany's oldest fraternity association failed in its bid to ban membership of far-right organizations within their ranks at a special meeting this weekend, cementing a bitter division of the ancient society.

“The meeting has brought great clarity,” Michael Schmidt, spokesman for the liberal wing of the Germany's traditional student fraternity movement told Der Spiegel magazine.

“There are two different positions towards the state in the German Burschenschaft,” said Schmidt. “The first wants to work from within society. The second see themselves as being in conflict with society.”

Approximately 1,500 of the 10,000 members are thought to align themselves with various degrees of extremist nationalism. Burschenschaft customs including wearing cadet-style uniforms, carrying fencing rapiers and taking part in torch-lit parades.

Loyalty and obedience are considered paramount, but with the growth of far-right sentiment in the leadership over the past years, a group of fraternities has chosen to break rank, culminating in this weekend's vote.

Frustrated with the growing presence of extremism in the society, the liberal wing had moved to get membership of undemocratic organizations recognized as being against fraternity work at the meeting this weekend.

However, a majority of the 500 delegate members present voted only to ban membership of specifically “national socialist” organisations, meaning that fraternity members can continue to belong to other right-wing extremist societies recognized by the state as working against democracy, the magazine reported.

Schmidt said he believed the decision is likely to result in a further exodus over the coming months of liberal branches from the umbrella organisation that runs most of the Burschenschaft fraternities in Germany, the Dachverband der Deutschen Burschenschaft (DB).

Exit frees a fraternity from pressure applied by the ruling body to adopt, for example, a race-based entrance policy for new members.

Schmidt said the organization would not split down the middle, as the wing which has been fighting stamp out extremism and turn the fraternity movement into something modern and more liberal represented only a minority of around 20 percent of members.

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Your comments about this article

14:30 November 25, 2012 by Englishted
"wearing cadet-style uniforms, carrying fencing rapiers and taking part in torch-lit parades. "

Sounds just like Karnival and St Martins day.

Oh I almost forgot Shooting festivals .
16:50 November 25, 2012 by raandy
Does anyone know if Obama is hiring??
17:04 November 25, 2012 by garyh911
What a joke. "the liberal wing had moved to get membership of undemocratic organizations recognized as being against fraternity work at the meeting this weekend." So they want to exclude groups that don't agree with the liberals because they might be "undemocratic". A good example of democracy in action! Sounds like German liberals.
18:37 November 25, 2012 by realist1961
However, a majority of the 500 delegate members present voted only to ban membership of specifically ¦quot;national socialist¦quot; organisations, meaning that fraternity members can continue to belong to other right-wing extremist societies recognized by the state as working against democracy, the magazine reported.

If I understand correctly, people voted in a democratic election so that the group can contain members who are working against democracy. Sounds like a Russian election.
12:06 November 26, 2012 by michael4096
"...people voted in a democratic election so that the group can contain members who are working against democracy. Sounds like a Russian election."

Or the British contribution to the European Parliament.
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