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German Lawmakers Expel Member Over Remark

November 14, 2003

BERLIN (AP) _ In a rare penalty aimed at ending an anti-Semitism scandal, Germany’s conservative opposition party expelled a lawmaker from its group in parliament Friday after he made remarks comparing Jews and Nazis.

Christian Democratic lawmakers voted 195-28 to boot Martin Hohmann out of their caucus, clearing the required two-thirds majority, party officials said. Sixteen members abstained and four cast invalid ballots.

The decision reflected the case’s sensitivity in Germany even 60 years after the Holocaust. It means Hohmann can no longer speak or vote for the Christian Democrats in parliament, though he remains a lawmaker and a member of the party.

``The result is unambiguous, though it shows that many colleagues struggled on a personal level,″ party chairwoman Angela Merkel told reporters. ``But I believe it is politically the right thing and without alternative.″

Hohmann was widely accused of anti-Semitic stereotyping for an Oct. 3 speech marking German Unity Day in which he compared Jews and Nazis, citing an allegedly prominent role of Jews in Russia’s 1917 communist revolution.

The scandal grew when Germany’s special forces commander, Brig. Gen. Reinhard Guenzel, was fired last week for writing a letter to Hohmann praising his ``courage″ for making the speech.

Hohmann, 55, publicly apologized but defied party demands to retract his remarks, which outraged Germany’s Jewish community and some prominent conservatives.

After two weeks of wavering, Christian Democratic leaders said they had to act because he was hurting the party’s reputation. It was the first time the party has expelled a member from its parliamentary caucus. Officials have also begun moves to expel Hohmann from the party entirely, a process that could take months.

Hohmann sent an emotional last-ditch appeal to his colleagues Thursday, insisting he never meant to hurt Jews’ feelings.

A group of Christian Democratic party members published advertisements in several national newspapers Friday urging Hohmann’s party to give him a second chance.

But Wolfgang Bosbach, the deputy Christian Democratic floor leader, expressed disappointment there were so many lawmakers who supported Hohmann in Friday’s secret vote.

``I would have wished for a different outcome,″ he said.

The party of former chancellor Helmut Kohl has governed Germany for most of the postwar era and prides itself on keeping even its far right fringe inside the democratic fold. But party leaders said Hohmann went too far.

``Sometimes you have to send a clear signal against rightist radicalism _ against convictions that have a minor place among the German people but are present nonetheless,″ Heiner Geissler, who served as Christian Democratic party secretary under Kohl, told ZDF public television.

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