German MEP quits leftist bloc after far-right past unmasked

A German MEP has resigned from the European Parliament's hard left group, it said Tuesday, after he was unmasked as a former member of the far right ultra-nationalist NPD party.

German MEP quits leftist bloc after far-right past unmasked
NPD members protesting outside of an asylum home in Eisenhüttenstadt in 2014. Photo: DPA

Martin Buschmann, a 49-year-old from Hamburg, was elected to the Strasbourg assembly in May last year on as a member of the tiny Animal Protection Party (Die Tierschutzpartei).

Once in parliament, he joined the European United Left – Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL), the main far left voting bloc.

READ ALSO: The winners and losers: Six things to know about the EU elections in Germany

Recently, however, reports surfaced of his earlier association with the notorious NPD, forcing him to quit the leftists and issue a long apology about his past ties.

In a Facebook post, Buschmann confirmed the report that he was in the NPD “about 25 years ago”, but said he had joined because he “had fallen in love with a woman who was there.”

Although he insisted he had not been an enthusiastic activist, he said it was “difficult to resist the group dynamics” and said he had put his name forward for party jobs.

He eventually resigned and moved into left-wing causes, and says that now, “Nothing disgusts me more than racism, anti-Semitism, fascism or discrimination of any kind.”

He apologized for not having been transparent about his past, but said he wanted to remain in the parliament and to work on its agriculture committee to promote animal rights.

In a statement, the GUE/NGL said the European party was “disappointed in the breach of trust that has been committed” and had accepted Buschmann's resignation.

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‘Bullet holes’ found in window of Halle politician’s office

German MP Karamba Diaby reported finding "bullet holes" in the windows of his constituency office Wednesday, prompting outrage and alarm that the country's politicians are facing increasing levels of intimidation and violence.

'Bullet holes' found in window of Halle politician's office
Karamba Diaby is an SPD politician in Halle near Leipzig. Photo: DPA

Diaby, a lawmaker for the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), posted about the attack on Twitter, saying police and security services were investigating and attaching a photo showing three impact points on a pane of glass.

“One window with my face on it has several bullet holes,” he said.

Diaby represents the eastern German city of Halle, near Leipzig, where an anti-Semitic attack at a synagogue last year left two people dead.

Citing police sources, news site Spiegel Online reported that the projectiles did not penetrate the second pane in the double-glazed window.

Investigators believe the attackers may have used an “airsoft” gun firing small plastic pellets, usually used for wargames similar to paintball.

Foreign Minister and party colleague Heiko Maas tweeted that the suspected attack was “unbelievable, disgusting and cowardly”.

“We will continue standing by your side for a free, tolerant and diverse democracy,” he added.

READ ALSO: Meet the Halle politician continuing to challenge stereotypes of eastern Germany

Mounting violence

The incident comes as German politicians at all levels increasingly become targets of violence, with police statistics suggesting that most suspects were linked to the far right.

Police figures gathered by weekly Welt am Sonntag this week showed significant increases in such acts in many of Germany's 16 states last year.

Attacks on politicians and officials in Thuringia and Saxony, both neighbouring states to Diaby's home in Saxony-Anhalt, more than doubled year-on-year, to 101 and 197 respectively.

Last year, local politician Walter Lübcke was shot dead at his home in Hesse state.

The prime suspect in the killing has far-right beliefs.

There have been three high-profile resignations by mayors in recent months after death threats and attacks on their cars, in western states Bavaria and Lower Saxony as well as Saxony in the former communist east.

And one mayor in North Rhine-Westphalia has made headlines in recent days after applying for a license to carry a weapon in self-defence.

Police said Wednesday they had also been called out to the Thuringia state parliament, where Björn Höcke, a prominent member of the far-right AfD party, received a letter full of powder that later proved to be harmless.

Against the odds

Born in Senegal, Diaby moved to then-communist East Germany in the 1980s after winning a scholarship to study there.

In a 2017 interview with AFP, he recalled experiencing racism both before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification in 1989-90, suffering a beating from neo-Nazis in 1991.

But he went on to get his doctorate in chemistry, marry a German, and in 2001 obtained German nationality.

He has represented Halle since 2013, defending his seat in 2017 even as far-right, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) entered parliament for the first time.

By Tom Barfield