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'Some Germans want a second Holocaust'

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Photo: DPA
16:53 CET+01:00
Few writers have stung Germany's conscience more than Henryk Broder, The Local's German of the week. The prickly polemicist has sparked controversy by encouraging journalist Jakob Augstein be included in a top list of anti-Semites.

Broder unleashed the latest in a career of firestorms recently after Jewish human rights organization the Simon Wiesenthal Center took his claims that Der Spiegel columnist Jakob Augstein was so anti-Semitic that it put the journalist on their "2012 Top Ten Anti-Semitic/Anti-Israel Slurs."

Not even the German Jewish Council believes the mainstream left-winger and Israel critic Augstein deserved to be lumped with the likes of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Greece's neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. But that probably wouldn't bother Broder much.

One of the few Jews to be quoted approvingly in the "manifesto" of far-right Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Breivik, Broder has a reputation for baiting his fellow Germans. But like other provocateurs, much of his incendiary language (he once called Noam Chomsky "an absolute psycho") is informed by a sense of personal betrayal by (and of) former political allies.

In his later years, the once lefty member of Germany's 1968 student movement and anti-Vietnam War protester transformed into an ardent supporter of George W. Bush's Iraq campaign, and said that if he were a younger man, he'd move out of Europe to a country not threatened by "creeping Islamization." (It was this interview, for a Dutch newspaper, that so endeared Broder to Breivik.)

But before the anti-immigration rhetoric took hold, Broder was an immigrant himself. Born in Katowice, Poland, the son of Holocaust survivors, Broder moved to Germany via Vienna in 1958, at the age of 12.

He was educated in Cologne, though his gift was not for academia. As a schoolboy, Broder would "often only show up in time for the third class," he once told Focus magazine. He later dropped out of various university studies - once again defeated by the unpleasant hours: "getting up early did for me."

But one thing did motivate Broder to knuckle down - the dawn of porn. In the late 1960s, he began his journalistic career at the St. Pauli Nachrichten, a nascent Hamburg tabloid magazine that peddled what turned out to be a successful formula of girl-next-door pornography, adverts for prostitutes, and leftist agitprop. Soon afterwards, his first book - Who is Afraid of Pornography? - was published, complete with hardcore photo illustrations.

But around the same time, his deep interest in - some would say obsession with - German anti-Semitism led to his break with friends and colleagues. His main argument, which guided the rest of his career as a polemicist, was that Germany's anti-Semitism was located not in the far-right, but in the mainstream left, and was deeply embedded in the German psyche.

In 1981, his aversion to his adopted country got to the point that he left altogether and moved to Israel, where he wrote for the Jerusalem Post, among others. In 1993, he pinpointed the single spark that led to his emigration - an article in feminist magazine Emma that allegedly questioned Israel's right to exist.

From that point on, he would routinely put the "anti-Semite" label on prominent left-wing German journalists, intellectuals, and politicians - among others, Emma founder Alice Schwarzer, Green party MP Christian Ströbele, and Nobel literature prize winner Günter Grass.

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he slammed sections of the European press and political classes for supposedly pursuing a policy of appeasement towards Islamic extremists. His 2006 book Hurrah, We're Capitulating! On the Urge to Surrender he went on to criticize the attitude of "1.5 billion Muslims around the world, who suffer from being chronically offended and unpredictable reactions."

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Perhaps even more controversially, his latest book - Forget Auschwitz! - dealt with, as its subtitle said, "the German mania for remembrance and the final solution of the Israel question," and argued that Germany's obsession with commemorating the Holocaust was a moral fig-leaf that stopped Germany dealing with Israel's problems in the Middle East today.

Or, as he told Berlin's Exberliner magazine last year: "The Germans' absolute obsession with Israel shows that they have a problem with themselves, which they try to solve at the expense of the Jews. ... I am absolutely convinced that a portion of the Germans – consciously or not – would like to see a second Holocaust so that the previous one disappears into the fog of history."

The Local/bk

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