Hubert Aiwanger, 52, is the leader of Bavaria’s Free Voters party and has been since 2018 the state’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy. On Wednesday, he faced allegations of his antisemitic behavior in high school.
These allegations (which are not new) may have surfaced now because Bavaria is headed to the polls on October 8. Who knows…
Last weekend, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that back in the 1980s, Aiwanger wrote and distributed a leaflet that made fun of the Holocaust.
Aiwanger’s former classmate told a local radio station that the Deputy PM told antisemitic jokes during a class trip to a memorial to the death camps in then-East Germany in 1987.
“On one evening, I was very upset that he made a joke about Jews, which I remember as being very repulsive,” the classmate reported. That and other jokes Aiwanger allegedly told as a teenager were so offensive that his classmate asked that the news outlets not repeat them.
He “also made a joke about children in Africa with malnourished bellies that I can remember very clearly,” a former classmate recalled, adding, “It seemed to me that Hubert found this type of humor to be very enjoyable,” the classmate added.”
Another former classmate said Aiwanger used to make the Hitler salute when entering the classroom in high school. He said Aiwanger “very often imitated these Hitler speeches in this Hitler slang,” and made offensive, hateful jokes about Jewish people.
Deputy PM Aiwanger confessed to Welt TV: “It is certainly the case that in adolescence, one thing or another could be interpreted in such and such a way that is in line with the things that 15-year-old me is being accused of. But in any case, I can say that since I reached adulthood, over the past decades, I am not an antisemite, not an extremist – but rather, a humanitarian.”
Josef Schuster, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, called Aiwanger’s response to the allegations “almost defiant.”
“If he belonged to certain groups in his youth where this type of rhetoric and these views were common, a willingness to address the situation should be especially important considering his current position,” Schuster told the Bild newspaper. “He owes it to the public.”
In January and February of 2012, Aiwanger was attacked for tweeting several jokes that were in poor taste, and under pressure from his party members deleted his Twitter account.
On Wednesday, during a meeting of his cabinet, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called for clarification of the matter. “All that has become known so far is very depressing,” Scholz said, adding, “And that is why it is very clear to me that everything must be clarified.”
Germans and humor, don’t get me started. Back in 2011, Badoo.com asked 30,000 people in 15 countries to rate the “least funny” nationality. The Germans were voted the world’s “least funny nationality,” Americans the funniest nationality, and the Spanish the funniest Europeans.
The British were voted “not as funny as they think.”
Or, as German comedian Henning When put it: “The British always say that we Germans don’t have a sense of humor. I don’t find that funny.”