Bavaria’s governor leaves his deputy in office despite a furor over antisemitism allegations

Hubert Aiwanger party leader of the Free Voters and Bavaria's Minister of State for Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy speaks at a press conference in Munich, Germany, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023. Bavaria's deputy head of government Hubert Aiwanger has apologized in the affair about an anti-Semitic flyer from school days. (Lennart Preiss/dpa via AP)

BERLIN — The governor of the German state of Bavaria said Sunday that he will let his deputy stay in office despite a furor that started with allegations he was responsible for an antisemitic flyer when he was a high school student 35 years ago.

Governor Markus Soeder, a leading figure in Germany’s center-right opposition, said he had concluded that it would be “disproportionate” to fire Hubert Aiwanger, his deputy and coalition partner, but Aiwanger needs to rebuild confidence with the Jewish community and others.


Bavaria is holding a state election in just over a month. Soeder’s decision drew sharp criticism from political opponents and a cautious response from a Jewish leader.

On Aug. 25, the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported that, when Aiwanger was a teenager, he was suspected of producing a typewritten flyer calling for entries to a competition titled “Who is the biggest traitor to the fatherland?”

It listed, among other things, a “1st prize: A free flight through the chimney at Auschwitz.”

Aiwanger, 52, said last weekend that one or more copies of the flyer were found in his school bag but denied that he wrote it. His older brother came forward to claim that he had written it.

Aiwanger has acknowledged making unspecified mistakes in his youth and offered an apology but also portrayed himself as the victim of a “witch hunt.” He stuck to that tone on Sunday, saying at a campaign appearance that his opponents had failed with a “smear campaign” meant to weaken his conservative party.

The deputy governor’s crisis management has drawn widespread criticism, including from Soeder.

Over the past week, there was a steady drip of further allegations about Aiwanger’s behavior in his youth, including claims that he gave the Hitler salute, imitated the Nazi dictator and had Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” in his school bag. Aiwanger described the latter as “nonsense,” said he didn’t remember ever giving the Hitler salute and did not rehearse Hitler’s speeches in front of the mirror.

On Thursday, Aiwanger said: “I deeply regret if I have hurt feelings by my behavior in relation to the pamphlet in question or further accusations against me from my youth. My sincere apologies go first and foremost to all the victims of the (Nazi) regime.”

Soeder told reporters in Munich that the apology was “overdue, but it was right and necessary.”

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