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CDU politician with neo-Nazi links quits party

A regional politician in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU has stepped down from the party after his links to far-right extremism were exposed.

CDU politician with neo-Nazi links quits party
Robert Möritz. Photo: DPA

Robert Möritz, who was a member of the CDU’s executive committee in Anhalt-Bitterfeld, in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, triggered a crisis in German politics when it became known that he used to be active in the extreme right-wing scene. 

Now, according to German media, he has left the party.

Möritz confirmed last week that he was a member of Uniter, a support network aimed at helping soldiers reintegrate back into civilian life but which is said to have links to far-right circles.

The politician said at the weekend that he had cancelled his membership with the group. However, his social media also showed that in 2011 he had worked as a steward at a neo-Nazi march in Halle.

Meanwhile, a photo had emerged of Möritz showing a swastika-like “black sun” tattoo – a symbol popular with neo-Nazis – on his arm.

After the revelations emerged, the district council had initially supported Mörtiz because he had distanced himself from his past, they said.

However, on Thursday the CDU in Saxony-Anhalt had asked the 29-year-old to detail all his activities within the far-right scene in writing by December 27th. In addition he was asked to declare that swastikas and other Nazi symbolism were incompatible with the principles of the CDU.

According to German daily Die Welt, Möritz wrote in a statement that he was seeking “immediate resignation from all internal party functions and immediate resignation from the CDU” because he wanted to “avert damage” away from the party.

“I would like to send out a personal signal,” he added in the statement. “Sometimes you need to reflect on your true priorities in life.”

READ ALSO: Could Merkel's Christian Democrats really work with the far-right AfD?

'How many swastikas have a place in the CDU?'

The case had triggered a debate within the CDU about how to deal with potential right-wing extremists within their own ranks. 

The CDU's coalition partners in Saxony-Anhalt, the centre-left SPD and the Greens, slammed the behavior of state premier Reiner Haseloff and CDU state leader Holger Stahlknecht, for not taking immediate action.

“How many swastikas have a place in the CDU?” asked Susan Sziborra-Seidlitz and Sebastian Striegel, the co-chairs of the Greens in Saxony-Anhalt, alluding to Möritz's tattoo.

Mörtiz had said his tattoo was inspired by his interest in Celtic mythology.

The incident also sparked a storm at the national level.

“We take resolute and uncompromising action against all forms of right-wing extremism,” said Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the leader of the CDU on Wednesday.

SPD general secretary Lars Klingbeil had accused the CDU leadership of keeping silent about the case. This was “absolutely incomprehensible”, Klingbeil told the Tagesspiegel.

The controversy comes at a tricky time for German politics as debate rages on about whether the centre-right CDU should enter into alliances with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has surged in popularity in recent years, particuarly in eastern Germany.

The CDU at the national level has so far ruled out any cooperation with the anti-immigration AfD.

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the AfD surge in regional German elections

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POLITICS

‘Winter of rage’: Experts warn of riots in Germany due to rising energy costs

Experts are warning that economic hardship may lead to protests throughout Germany in autumn and winter - and that they could be infiltrated by right-wing extremists.

'Winter of rage': Experts warn of riots in Germany due to rising energy costs

In view of rising energy costs, supply difficulties, growing unemployment and general pessimism about the future, authorities in Germany are warning that there will be mass protests this year – and that these are likely to be abused by extremists.

The warnings come from civil servants from the federal offices for the Protection of the Constitution or Bundesverfassungsschutz – Germany’s watchdog for safeguarding free democracy at the federal level and in the 16 states.

Stephan Kramer, president of Thuringia’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution, told German broadcaster ZDF that, following the pandemic and the world events of recent months, there is a “highly emotionalised, aggressive, future-pessimistic mood” among the population, “whose trust in the state, its institutions and political actors is tainted by massive doubts”.

He expects that “legitimate protests” will be infiltrated by extremists, especially those from the so-called Querdenker (lateral thinking) scene and that it is likely that some will turn violent.

READ ALSO: How Germany is saving energy ahead of uncertain winter

“What we have experienced so far in the Covid pandemic in terms of partly violent confrontations on social networks, but also in the streets and squares, was probably more like a children’s birthday party in comparison,” Kramer said.

The head of Hamburg’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Torsten Voß, told the Funke Mediengruppe that he expects “extremist conspiracy ideologues and other enemies of the constitution” will try to abuse protests for their ideological purposes.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, he said “a spectrum of radical opponents of vaccination and so-called Covid deniers have built up a protest infrastructure, with contacts and channels for mobilisation”. This group will try to use this infrastructure for the energy security protests in the autumn, he said.

READ ALSO: German households could see ‘four-digit’ rise in energy costs this winter

Brandenburg’s head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Jörg Müller, also fears that extremists could exploit the energy crisis and high inflation fears for their own purposes.

“Extremists dream of a German winter of rage” he told Welt am Sonntag. “They hope that the energy crisis and price increases will hit people particularly hard so that they can pick up on the mood and advertise their anti-state aspirations. We are following these goings-on with watchful eyes and open ears.”

Vocabulary:

Constitution – (die) Verfassung

Rage – (die) Wut

Violent – gewalttätig

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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