BERLIN (AP) — The governor of the German state of Bavaria said Tuesday that his deputy had not done enough to prove he wasn't responsible for an antisemitic flyer as a high school student and ordered him to answer a detailed questionnaire to clear himself of any possible involvement in the scandal that caused an uproar in Germany.
Daily newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported Friday that when Deputy Governor Hubert Aiwanger was 17, he was suspected of writing a printed 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 has denied that he wrote the flyer. His older brother later came forward to claim that he had written it.
In a statement on Saturday, Aiwanger also said that one or more copies of the flyer were found in his school bag and he was summoned to see the principal. He said he was threatened with police involvement if he didn’t clear up the facts and had agreed under pressure to make a presentation.
Aiwanger did not specify what the presentation entailed. But that, he said, had been the end of the matter. He also said he distanced himself “completely” from the leaflet 35 years later.
Among other things, Aiwanger did not yet explain publicly why he was carrying the flyers in his school bag.
Governor Markus Soeder on Tuesday called the flyer “disgusting” and said it was written “in the worst Nazi jargon.”
“This is not just a stupid boy’s prank or a mere youthful sin,” Soeder told reporters in Munich, adding that even the suspicion that Aiwanger was somehow linked to the flyer damages the reputation of Bavaria and the deputy governor's personal credibility.
He said a meeting earlier on Tuesday with Aiwanger, who is also Bavaria's economy minister, did not fully clear up what exactly happened.
“We listened to Hubert Aiwanger today. We questioned him. But today’s statements are definitely not enough for a final assessment and clarification," Soeder said. "Many questions remained and remain open.”
Therefore, Soeder announced, Aiwanger would be asked to answer 25 detailed questions in writing.
Germany's leading Jewish group, the Central Council of Jews in Germany, also sharply condemned the text of the flyer.
"It denigrates the millions of victims of the Shoah in a despicable manner,” the council's president, Josef Schuster, said, using the Hebrew name for the Holocaust.
In the Holocaust, the Germans and their henchmen murdered 6 million European Jews.
Aiwanger, now 52, leads the Free Voters, a party that is a conservative force in Bavaria but has no seats in Germany’s national parliament. He has served as the state’s deputy governor and economy minister since 2018, when his party became the junior partner in a regional government under Bavaria’s long-dominant center-right Christian Social Union, or CSU.
The scandal comes at an especially inconvenient time for Soeder, who is also the CSU leader. Bavaria has a state election scheduled for Oct. 8., and Soeder is hoping to continue leading Germany's southernmost state in coalition with Aiwanger and his Free Voters.
One of the two leaders of the Social Democrats, the party of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, criticized Soeder's efforts to shed light on the incident as “not enough.”
“For five days, there have been serious accusations against parts of his government. His deputy governor is said to have spread antisemitic ideas and is losing himself in justifications and evasions,” Lars Klingbeil told daily Rheinische Post. “Instead of clearing up these accusations, Soeder is now asking a few questions. That’s time-wasting, that’s not enough.”