Reports of Holocaust denial in German Pirate Party’s ranks lead to meeting with Israeli embassy.
KIEL, Germany – The German Pirate Party shook up the political establishment in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein by winning 8.2 percent of the vote on Sunday and securing seats in the state legislature. In a Saarland state election in March, the party received 7.4% of the vote.
Before the election, Israel’s Embassy in Berlin contacted the Pirate Party to discuss its concerns about reports of Holocaust denial within the party’s ranks.
- Pirate Party activist – Photo REUTERS/Thomas Peter
The growing success of the Pirates – who advocate unrestricted Internet access and sharing – across Germany’s political landscape prompted Israel’s Embassy to schedule a meeting with its top candidate, Torge Schmidt, in the German state of Schleswig- Holstein in April.
Schmidt told The Jerusalem Post an Israeli diplomat asked for a meeting with him to “get to know” him and the party.
Schmidt said the diplomat wanted to know the Pirates’ position on the Holocaust and denial of the murder of six million Jews.
Schmidt said he told her that the Holocaust was “horrible” and it should never be repeated.
A spokesman for Israel’s Embassy in Berlin confirmed to the Post via email that the meeting occurred.
He wrote, “The Israeli Embassy conducts a close dialogue with all political parties in Germany, both on [the] federal and state level. In that framework we are establishing also a dialogue with the Pirates party which has become a significant political power in Germany.
That dialogue is based on the basic fundamentals of Israeli- German relations.”
The Pirates issued a declaration condemning Holocaust denial at their national party conference in late April.
According to the resolution, the denial or playing down of the Shoah, “violates the principles of our party.”
A Pirate Party candidate seeking a position on the national board called for criminal penalties in Germany to be lifted against Holocaust denial. He eventually did not appear on the list of designated candidates.
A second Pirate, Dietmar Moews, who sought to be a candidate, criticized “world Jewry” and caused a large section of Pirates at the national meeting to boo him and walk out of the convention center.
The Berlin-based office of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) called on the Pirate Party leadership to condemn the anti-Semitism within its ranks.
“Anti-Semitic and historical revisionist statements should have no place in a Democratic party,” said Deidre Berger, the head of the AJC office. “We expect that the Pirates, like all others, remain committed to the Democratic consensus.”
Berger welcomed the statements of Marina Weisband, a leading Pirate politician, who said that the party must combat in stronger terms right-wing extremism, anti-Semitism and racism. Weisband, a 24- year-old German Jew, stepped down as party leader in late April to pursue her psychology degree. She is viewed as a rising political star and frequently appears in the German media to discuss the Pirates. Her political activity helped bring the Pirates into the Berlin state government.
Pirate Party leaders in Kiel told the Post that the party seeks greater openness on the Internet and in government and is willing to pursue foreign military intervention if certain conditions are met.
The 30-year-old Pirate politician Patrick Ratzmann, from Kiel, said people say “we are merely an Internet party. That is not true. We are a party that uses the Internet.” He stressed that Pirates want to promote “democracy understanding” in the school system and a participatory learning process.
Wolfgang Dudda, a customs police official and Pirate party politician who is set to enter the state parliament in Kiel, told the Post that “We have a historic responsibility toward Israel. It is [an] obligation for us.
And we will not give that up.”
After the election victory in Kiel, he wrote the Post via email, noting “In a hard and unfair, especially at the end, election campaign from the other parties, the power of democratic renewal based on experience and percent brought a victory to the Pirate party.”
Dudda, who is well-versed in foreign policy issues and fighting right-wing extremism in Germany, said the Pirates see a “responsibility for intervention” in conflicts and the party is not a pacifist party. He cited conflicts like Rwanda to prevent genocides and international disputes which allow for the creation of democracy.
Dudda stressed that the party’s aim is to create greater transparency in the government.
That message has resonated among the high numbers of voters who turned out to support the Pirates.
Schmidt, the top Pirate candidate in Schleswig-Holstein, told the Post that members voiced criticisms of German author Günter Grass’s poem last month, which attacked Israel as a main threat to global peace and largely defended the Islamic Republic of Iran. Grass lives in the city of Lübeck in Schleswig- Holstein.
It is unclear what the Pirate’s national policy toward the Iranian nuclear weapons crisis is.
Pirate politician Angelika Beer, a former Green Party member in the EU parliament, has raised the eyebrows of EU political observers.
Beer is controversial because she pursued strong diplomatic contacts with the Iranian regime as an EU MP and was viewed by anti-Islamic Republic groups as placating Tehran’s political leadership.
Dudda and Ratzmann distanced themselves from a statement from Pirate party Lübeck candidate Manfred Vandersee, who called on his Facebook page for the state to cut off funds to the Central Council of Jews in Germany.
Dudda said that Vandersee “made a mistake.” He said Vandersee seeks to stop state funds for all religious institutions and he did not clearly think through his statement.
Dudda said the Pirates are a “social market” party that does not want to see “workers played off against each other.”
He said 50 percent of the party’s members are self-employed.
The Pirates have attracted members from the older established German party’s like Greens, Social Democrats and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union.