The Möllemann File
UPDATE: June 5, 2003 -- Möllemann died today in a parachuting accident, believed to be suicide.
More later. Frankfurter Allgemeine has the story.
Who is Jürgen W. Möllemann? for more background click here
A good editorial from Die Zeit that puts the Möllemann phenomenon in its larger context is translated into English here
March 17, 2003 Möllemann has officially resigned from the FDP. He will, however, retain his seats in both the Bundestag and the NRW Landestag, where he will be an independent "liberal". No announcement yet on his new party.
March 12, 2003 The Möllemann File has been on hiatus since it became apparent last October that Möllemann would lose his main positions of influence. Stripped of his FDP party titles, he still has a seat in the Bundestag, but was expelled from the FDP's Bundestag faction. (He avoided expulsion from the FDP's NRW Landestag faction by a single vote).
The most interesting revelation from the pre-publication reviews is that Möllemann claims that the Israeli Mossad blackmailed Westerwelle to prevent Möllemann from becoming foreign minister. Westerwelle's response: "The book should be titled „Off his rocker“ („Durchgeknallt“) instead of Klartext)". Tagespiegel agrees, and wonders who should be called first: a doctor or a lawyer. In the meantime, Möllemann seems to be getting ready to launch a new populist party in time to compete in the 2004 local elections in some of the former East German states.
October 20 Bild Facing a Monday morning deadline to disclose his funding sources or be voted out of office by the party, Möllemann flees to his vacation home in the Canary Islands.
October 18 Der Spiegel It turns out that the campaign flyer attacking Sharon and Friedman (reported on September 17) was paid for with illegal contributions of unknown origin. 840,000 Euros divided among 145 donations of 8,000 - 10,000 Euros apiece. Under this violation of campaign finance laws, Möllemann could face up to three years in prison. An extract of the relevant laws is posted here There are increasing calls within the party to expedite Moellemann's ouster.
October 9 Der Spiegel The party conference may be held at the earliest in November, per doctor's orders.
October 6 Der Spiegel On the eve of the special party conference where he will face a leadership challenge, Möllemann is checked into a hospital with a cardiac arrhythmia. The party conference is postponed.
September 29 Die Welt It appears that a majority of state party delegates has already lined up against Möllemann for the October 7 no-confidence vote. Kinkel: "Möllemann's escapades have injured the soul of the party ...Westerwelle must and will win the duel"
September 28 Die Welt The FDP abandons Project 18.
September 27 Der Spiegel Jamal "world Zionist conspiracy" Karsli sues Spiegel and Friedman for calling him an anti-Semite. Andreas Pinkwart is picking up steam in his bid to unseat Möllemann as NRW party chair. Westerwelle rejects Möllemann's offers of reconciliation, saying "we no longer believe anything he says". Möllemann dismisses suggestions that he will form a new party.
September 26 Bild Lambsdorff questions Möllemann's state of mind, asking "Is he normal?", and calls him a ticking "time bomb". Westerwelle rejects Möllemann's offer of reconciliation. Gerhardt believes that Westerwelle will prevail in ousting Möllemann at the October 7 NRW party meeting. Some of Möllemann's supporters threaten to form a new party if he is ousted.
September 24 Der Spiegel The Grand Dame of the FDP, 81-year-old Hildegard Hamm-Brücher, a party member for 54 years, resigns the party (for the second time?) in protest over Möllemann's anti-Israeli statements. Möllemann tries to make up with Westerwelle and co-operate at least within the NRW, if not on the federal level. Meanwhile, the vice-chair of the NRW party, Andreas Pinkwart, challenges Möllemann for the leadership with Westerwelle's support. A showdown is scheduled at a special party conference on October 7. Stern quotes Möllemann as questioning Westerwelle's leadership, calling him a "lightweight". Möllemann denies the report.
September 23 Der Spiegel Möllemann resigns as vice-chair of the federal party. Will retain his positions in NRW for now, but faces a leadership challenge from his deputy Andreas Pinkwart. Senior CSU official Jörg Schönbohm blames Möllemann and Westerwelle for contributing to the Black/Yellow defeat. Lambsdorff and Brüderle also point fingers at Westerwelle
September 22. Election Day Tagesschau As of 2100 Germany time, Red/Green has a slim majority. FDP is at 7.4% of the vote, far short of Mr. 18%'s aspiration. Der Spiegel As expected, the FDP governing committee demands Möllemann's resignation. He will give his answer on Monday morning
September 21. Frankfurter Allgemeine Möllemann is turned away from a campaign event in Bad Godesberg Thursday evening. Die Welt Lambsdorff says that Möllemann has caused "considerable damage" to the party. He will be asked to resign immediately after the election on Sunday evening. If he refuses to resign a special federal party committee meeting will be convened on Monday morning to vote him out. The only thing that could save him is an extraordinarily strong result in Nordrhein-Westfalen. The story includes excerpts from Möllemann's open letter to his party where he defends himself.
September 19. Die Welt asks the question "Why is he doing this?" and concludes that he's trying to strengthen his position in the party at the expense of his colleagues. Die Welt also reports that "one of Westerwelle's closest allies", speaking under condition of anonymity, says "If the FDP doesn't do noticeably better in Nordrhein-Westfalen than it does in the rest of the country then Jürgen Möllemann is politically dead" and either way "his resignation would be a gift to the party". Meanwhile, Möllemann himself doesn't understand why anybody is making a fuss over the flyer. "Everywhere I go it's resonating favorably" Der Spiegel Westerwelle finally dissociates himself from Möllemann. This site gives the latest results of the various election polls.
Schwäbisches Tagblatt Justice Minister Herta Däubler-Gmelin likens George W. Bush to Hitler
September 18. A new poll in Frankfurter Allgemeine gives the Union a slight advantage: Union - 37.3%, SDP - 37%, FDP - 10.1%, Greens - 7.2% and PDS 4.4%. Die Welt attributes the slight shift to the Union to Baghdad's acceptance of UN inspectors. Reuters says that Möllemann's flyer will probably scare off middle-of-the-road voters. Der Spiegel says that the only FDP leader who has come to Möllemann's defense is Wolfgang Kubicki, his counterpart from Schleswig-Holstein.
September 17. Der Spiegel Möllemann sends out a campaign flyer,
blaming the war in Israel on the fact that the Sharon government sends
tanks into refugee camps, and implying that Möllemann would be able to
help bring peace to the Middle East and avoid German involvement in a war
there, if it weren't for Michel Friedman's interference and defense of
September 16. Der Spiegel The Union is looking at their weak position in the polls, which they attribute partly to Schröder's subtle appeal to anti-American sentiment vis-a-vis the Iraq debate. They see their last chance is to produce an emotional appeal of their own, and they will play up their restrictive immigration policy, which Möllemann has recently rejected. If the Union wins with the help of this policy, will Möllemann still want to join the government?
September 13. Der Spiegel: Red/Green is leading in the polls, 47% to 44,5%, partly on the basis of Schröder's position against military action in Iraq.
September 9. In an interview with Der Spiegel, Möllemann says that the FDP would join a coalition with whichever partner had the "most liberal ideas", and that could be either the Union or the SDP, even though he doesn't like the Union's immigration and civil rights program or the SDP's health policy. And he won't necessarily insist on being the federal health minister, he might be willing to serve as the education minister in NRW, even though the SDP and Greens are in charge there. And even if the SDP wins the federal election, they'll most likely go with the Greens and not the FDP, and if the Union wins the federal election, Stoiber has already ruled out Möllemann's chances to serve in his government. But Möllemann says that the FDP will choose its own ministers [fat chance] and Stoiber's opposition actually helps Möllemann. [I kid you not]... Meanwhile, the polls say that the Red/Green coalition is gaining on the Union/FDP.
August 5. He's back! Although Möllemann has been out of the papers most of the summer, he resurfaced in today's Die Welt. "The Heavens send Möllemann back onto the political stage". He promises 75 parachute jumps throughout Germany's vacation resort areas. "No tourist will escape us.". He will focus his efforts on his home state of North Rhine Westphalia, where the FDP will hold 1800 different campaign events, "because that's where the election will be decided". The FDP is still aiming for 18% of the vote, even though the latest poll still puts them at 9%
July 18. Die Zeit has a short item mentioning the letter we received for Möllemann from Abu Dhabi (see our July 9 entry below) (print only, not online; p. 2)
July 9. Möllemann hasn't been making much news in the last few weeks. But his activities from earlier this year have endeared him to certain folks. This website received an e-mail from an institute in Abu Dhabi called the Zayed Centre for Coordination and Follow-up . The email was intended for Möllemann, but was addressed to this site. The sender apparently didn't read the commentary on this site and didn't read the disclaimer of non-affiliation at the bottom of this page. The e-mail contained this letter, praising Möllemann for his "impressive stances regarding the Jewish anti-Semitism claims" and his "sincere efforts in promoting ties between Arabs and Germans". The letter goes on to invite him to travel to Abu Dhabi at the Centre's expense to speak "on one of the topics related to the controversy on Semitism [sic]". The Zayed Centre's other recent speakers include perennial fringe American presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche and Thierry Meyssan, French author of a discredited conspiracy theory book about the September 11 hijackings.
July 9. Der Spiegel CDU foreign affairs spokesman Karl Lamers, in one of his last interviews before leaving the Bundestag, takes a cue from Möllemann and says that "the Israeli government's methods are objectively causing terrorism" and that one "must make a precise distinction between legitimate resistance --even with violent means --against illegitimate rule, and illegitimate terrorism". Lamers apparently lost a power struggle within the CDU for preeminence in the field of foreign policy. [Israel has been subjected to terrorism since it was founded, under the current government and under every other government. So it's hard to argue that the current government is doing anything special to "cause" terrorism other than simply existing. But yes, it is important to make a distinction between legitimate resistance and illegitimate terrorism. One can imagine an alternative universe where the Palestinians only goal was to end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and they only attacked military targets to force an end to the occupation of those territories. It would have been easier to make the argument that that resistance was legitimate. And in that alternative universe the outcome almost certainly would have been a peace treaty years ago and two states living side by side today. But that alternative universe never came to be, because the Palestinian goal has always been the elimination of Israel. The strategy has always been to attack civilians not only inside Israel but also anywhere in the world where they happen to be (remember München 1972?) -- to maim, kill, terrorize and demoralize them, and to eventually make them go away. Anybody who condones the attacks against Israeli civilians as "legitimate resistance" is either a fool, or wishes to see Israel disappear, or both. One can understand why the CDU might have chosen somebody other than Lamers to represent its foreign policy]
June 29. Der Spiegel This very website gets a brief write-up of its own. Search for Möllemann.
June 27. Boston Phoenix American journalist Seth Gitell visited Germany this month and filed this report, under the headline "Heil Hate: the reflowering of anti-Semitism". About Möllemann and more.
June 26. Die Welt Performance Artist/Activist Christoph Schlingensief starts an anti-Möllemann campaign. Establishes satirical web-site http://www.aktion18.de/ that wraps Möllemann in Nazi slogans and imagery. Organizes demonstrations, burns Möllemann in effigy and appeals for "volunteer suicide bombers to blow themselves up at the next FDP event". Green party legislator Cem Özdemir joined Schlingensief on stage at a rally where the latter shouted "Kill Möllemann". Möllemann is demanding an explanation from the Green Party. Sueddeutsche Zeitungeditorial about the dropping of charges against Möllemann: The state's attorney said: "Mr. Möllemann used the same type of arguments that were used by the Nazis." This is a moral indictment, not a criminal one. Freedom of speech extends very far. Prosecutors can't do everything. Some things the voters must decide.
June 24. Der Spiegel Green legislator Claudia Roth's charges against Möllemann for "incitement" and "slander" are dropped for "insufficient grounds"
June 20. Reuters Möllemann's protege, the twice party-less legislator Jamal Karsli, has filed legal action against the officers of the Jewish Council for slander and defamation of character, for calling Karsli an anti-Semite.
June 19. Der Spiegel Christian Democrat/CSU candidate for Chancellor, Edmund Stoiber, leading in the polls, rules out Möllemann as minister in a Stoiber government.
June 18. Stern: Christian Democrat legislator and former Federal Labor Minister Norbert Blüm takes a play from Möllemann's playbook and accuses Israel of conducting a Vernichtungskrieg (war of annihilation), repeating a charge he made several weeks ago. [Now there's nothing wrong with legitimate criticism of Israel, of course, but the word Vernichtungskrieg has a special place in the Germany vocabulary, as it was the label that Hitler applied to his own campaign to eradicate the Soviet Union. Blüm claims that he criticizes Israel as a friend. But since few people in Israel are likely to take advice from a German poltician who makes hysterical comparisons to Hitler, one wonders what Blüm is hoping to accomplish]
June 17. Der Spiegel A candid conversation with Möllemann, who "considers the anti-Semitism debate to be closed. He now wants to enjoy the results of the controversy he created" He claims he didn't mean to blame Sharon and Friedman for fostering anti-Semitism, it only slipped out. At the same time he also "underestimated" the resolve of the Jewish council and the broad public reaction. Nevertheless, he's convinced that he will increase the FDP's share of the vote and will largely take credit for that. Der Spiegel: Interview with CDU strategist Wolfgang Schäuble. The CDU is leading in the polls, which implies that the FDP is a natural partner in the next coalition government. Schäuble: "The destructive and unnecessary discussion [regarding Möllemann and anti-Semitism] didn't benefit either the country or the FDP." But the FDP did not discredit itself as a potential coalition partner. "It's not my intention to either attack or defend the FDP for its mistakes...if you're worried about what the FDP does, then vote for the CDU"
June 15.Möllemann has put the brakes on his more outrageous statements, but he managed to make his point. The Frankfurter Allgemeine tells of a campaign speech he gave on healthcare policy (he's also the FDP spokesman on that issue). But, wink, wink the hearty applause he received had little to do with his calls for increased competition in the health insurance sector. Die Zeit gives the inside scoop on Möllemann's "German-Arab Friendship Society", which apparently doesn't allow its members to be friends to both the Arab world and Israel. Legislators from both the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats are being forced out or are resigning from the Society, complaining of "Stalinist tactics".
June 14. Ha'aretz: In advance of a visit to Israel, FDP Bundestag leader (and possible next foreign minister) Wolfgang Gerhardt reiterates strong support for the Jewish state and strongly condemns Möllemann and Karsli.
June 12. Der Spiegel: Labor Union IG-Bau kicks Möllemann out of the union. The official reason is that as a business-owner and employer, he doesn't qualify for membership. The unofficial reason is Möllemann's recent statements, which union officials consider anti-Semitic. Süddeutsche Zeitung More on the FDP fence-mending meeting with the Jewish Council, plus Möllemann's denial that he made the previously reported statements on "Christians and Moslems".
June 11. Frankfurter Allgemeine (English)FDP Central Committee (sans Möllemann) tries to mend fences by meeting with Jewish Council leaders, who still feel that the FDP lacks credibility as long as Möllemann is vice-chairman. Die Welt organized a chronology of stories from its archive (dating to August 2001) on the FDP and Möllemann, under the headline "The FDP Wants to Become a Leading Party"
June 10. Die Welt : Möllemann's supporters are floating the idea that he will accept the job of Federal Health Minister (should the FDP join the ruling coalition after the election) as a quid pro quo for silencing the anti-Semitism debate that he started. Sources at the top of the party say that he might as well "bang his head against the wall", he is no longer suitable for a ministerial post. Der Spiegel: Möllemann agrees to play nice, no more attacks on Friedman, other Jews, or senior members of his own party. Westerwelle:"It is a clarifying day and a clarifying party committee meeting". But don't expect the controversy to die down any time soon. Speaking off the cuff at a public forum, Möllemann says, referring to talk-show host Friedman: "No Christian or Moslem in a position like Friedman's would get to have such a television show". The Der Spiegel article continues to mention that the pollsters have found that the only way for the FDP to double its vote share to reach its target of 18% would be to appeal not on a "cognitive level" but on an "emotional" level. Westerwelle: "We must speak the language of the people" Möllemann knows exactly what he's doing. Insinuations against minorities are always good for appealing to somebody's emotions.
June 9. Der Spiegel: Satire magazine Titanic embarasses a local FDP chairman in Thuringia. Disguised as members of the FDP youth league, the magazine's writers create bogus anti-Semitic FDP posters, and trick the local chairman into getting his picture taken in front of the posters, smiling and shaking hands with the phoney FDP activists.
June 7. Der Spiegel : Möllemann in open war with elder statesmen (and women) from his own party. Each one asking the other to leave. A video with Möllemann's apology in the NRW parliament, and Paul Spiegel's charge of "duplicity". Möllemann's antics may be costing the FDP some votes, but he is not without supporters.
June 6. Die Welt : Karsli "voluntarily" resigns from the FDP. Möllemann apologizes to any Jewish people whose feelings he might have hurt by his remarks about Friedman. He later explains that the apology does not extend to Friedman himself.
June 5. Der Spiegel: "Open Power Struggle". Westerwelle gives Möllemann an ultimatum. The Karsli of illiberal statements has no place in the Liberal party. Either Karsli is out of the party by Monday, or Westerwelle will have lost confidence in Möllemann's ability to serve as vice-chairman of the party. Zyn: A very funny satire, "A Day in the Life" of Möllemann. The caption under the picture says: "He's not a Nazi, because his moustache is too wide". The story portrays its subject as living in a tent with four wives, eating mutton, couscous and green beans at every meal, escaping an attack from the Mossad, and warmly accepting Martin Bormann's application to join the FDP
June 4. Bild : Möllemann's colleagues in his state FDP committee vote to keep Jamal "Worldwide Zionist Lobby" Karsli as a member. (Karsli has also offended Kurdish groups for supporting Saddam Hussein policies against Iraqi Kurds) This is a serious slap in the face not only to Guido Westerwelle, but also to retired FDP leaders Lambsdorff and Genscher. The FDP share in the polls falls from 12% to 9%, far below the 18% that Möllemann is aiming for.
June 2. Der Spiegel : FDP Party delegates are starting to demand that Westerwelle should also resign along with Möllemann.
June 1. Der Spiegel : An article titled "The Secretive Business Dealings of Jürgen M." talks about Möllemann's mysterious business as an "export consultant", greasing the wheels of commerce between German firms and the Arab world. Möllemann's slogan is "Absolute Discretion", but the Social Democratic legislator who recently resigned from Möllemann's "German Arab Friendship Society", calls Möllemann's dealings a "black-box". Möllemann was forced to resign as Federal Commerce Minister in 1993 for improperly promoting a relative's business venture. More on Möllemann's business dealings in Arabia from Bayerische Rundfunk
May 31. Der Spiegel : FDP federal party committee "regrets" Möllemann's statements about Friedman, but Möllemann rules out an apology. Increasing calls among party activists for Möllemann to step down. Other politicians are resigning from Möllemann's lobbying organization, the "German Arab Friendship Society", turning it into Möllemann's "one-man show". A public opinion poll shows that 28% of likely voters agree with Möllemann's statement that Friedman contributes to anti-Semitism, 42% disagree.
May 29. Bild: Möllemann's mentor, former Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, reprimands his protege over the phone, yelling "That's enough, Jürgen". Genscher: "The FDP didn't spend 50 years working toward reconciliation with Israel just to see it all thrown away because of some thoughtless remarks" Der Spiegel Möllemann sends a public letter to the Jewish Council, admitting his remarks about Friedman were a mistake, stops short of apologizing. Insults Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping, calling him a "cucumber" [apparently has a stronger connotation in German]
May 27. Die Welt: Möllemann writes a guest editorial identifying himself with Austrian right-wing populist Jörg Haider and the slain Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn, increasingly isolated himself from mainstream politics. Haider congratulates Möllemann, who confusingly distances himself. Like Haider, Möllemann has made a deliberate strategy out of taunting Jewish community leaders. But unlike Fortuyn, who campaigned against Moslem intolerance, Möllemann panders to it.
May 25. Der Spiegel: Former FDP chairman, Otto Count Lambsdorff, calls Möllemann's conduct "dangerous, because he uses typical, very old anti-Semitic behavior patterns". Möllemann digs in his heels: "We need to talk about the things which other politicians, for whatever reason, consider taboo" He says he receives supportive e-mails: "There's a huge gap between what the political classes say and what the people feel".
May 24. Die
Zeit:A thoughtful editorial placing the Möllemann issue in its
broader context. (in English)
FDP boss Westerwelle and the federal party leadership reject the charge
that Möllemann's comments about Friedman and Sharon are anti-Semitic.
The news file will be updated from time-to-time with capsule summaries, links and occasional longer translations of items that appear in the German media. Please suggest articles for inclusion in this column. Schlagen Sie bitte Artikel für diese Rubrik vor.
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