Despite a controversy that began with claims that his deputy was behind an anti-Semitic flyer 35 years ago when he was a high school student, the governor of the German state of Bavaria said on Sunday that he will permit his deputy to remain in office.
Hubert Aiwanger needs to regain the trust of the Jewish community and other groups, according to Governor Markus Soeder, a prominent member of Germany’s center-right opposition.
However, Soeder said it would be “disproportionate” to fire his deputy and coalition partner. In just over a month, there will be a state election in Bavaria. Political rivals criticized Soeder’s decision harshly, and a Jewish leader responded cautiously.
According to a story published on August 25 in the newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Aiwanger was suspected of creating a typewritten flyer soliciting entries for the contest “Who is the biggest traitor to the fatherland?
Among the items listed was a “1st prize: A free flight through the chimney at Auschwitz.” Aiwanger, 52, claimed over the weekend that he did not write the flyer but that one or more copies had been discovered in his school bag. In order to prove that he had written it, his older brother came forward.
Aiwanger has apologized and acknowledged making unspecified mistakes in his youth, but he has also painted himself as the victim of a “witch hunt.”
He maintained that tone on Sunday, claiming that his opponents’ “smear campaign” to undermine his conservative party had failed. The crisis management of the deputy governor has come under heavy fire, including from Soeder.
Aiwanger was required to respond to a thorough questionnaire by Soeder on Tuesday, and his deputy turned in the answers on Friday.
On Saturday night, Soeder claimed he spoke with Aiwanger for a considerable amount of time.