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Berlin still honours Hitler's 'trailblazer'

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Berlin still honours Hitler's 'trailblazer'
Photo: DPA
14:44 CEST+02:00
After a heated debate, Berlin's state parliament has voted not to rid Weimar-era German President Paul von Hindenburg of his honorary citizenship, dismissing claims that he enabled the rise of his successor Adolf Hitler.

Paul von Hindenburg, second president of Germany from 1925-1934, does not have the best reputation. Adolf Hitler's predecessor as head of state, the aristocratic former general and field marshal is credited in many history books as having paved the way for the Nazi dictator's rise to power.

It was Hindenburg who, aged 84 and according to many accounts suffering from mental frailty, swore Hitler in as Chancellor on January 30th 1933. In March the same year, he signed off the Enabling Act, granting Hitler the sweeping emergency powers he then used to consolidate his grip on Germany.

After Hindenburg's death in 1934, Hitler appointed himself Reichsführer - the rest, as they say, is history.

But this did not stop Berlin on Thursday from voting to keep Hindenburg's status as an honorary citizen of the capital after a raging debate in the city parliament.

Members of the governing SPD and CDU parties voted down a proposal from the left-wing opposition Linke to strike his name from the list of honorary citizens. 

It was the second time Berlin had voted to keep Hindenburg on the list after the failure of a similar proposal by the Greens in 2003,  wrote the Berliner Morgenpost.

Berlin should cease to honour this "militarist and trailblazer of Hitler" said the Linke's Wolfgang Bauer, and argued the capital should follow the examples of Cologne, Munich, Halle, Leipzig, Stuttgart and Kiel in striking him off.

But SPD MP Alex Lubawinski said Hindenburg had been a "complex personality" and a "democrat" and that it was wrong to accuse him of intentionally destroying the Weimar Republic, Germany's first experiment with democracy.

"My fraction sees it as inappropriate to chase him down as a malicious arsonist," agreed the CDU's Uwe Lehmann-Brauns, adding that the Linke only had a selective Socialist view of history, a hangover of their East German roots.

Oliver Höfinghoff of the opposition Pirate Party kicked back, saying Hindenburg had given Hitler the tools for his murderous dictatorship, whereupon SPD MP Torsten Schneider dismissed him as a "radical left-wing crackpot."

Hindenburg was given the title of honorary citizen in over 4000 German towns and cities by the Nazis in a mass action on Hitler's birthday in April 1933.

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