The fossilised world of Germany's student-duelling clubs was in turmoil yesterday after the national umbrella organisation was shown to have adopted a Nazi-style race code demanding the banning of members with foreign parents on the grounds that they were insufficiently "Aryan".
Germany has over 100, mostly right-wing, student duelling clubs or Burschenschaften, which claim an almost exclusively male membership of around 10,000. Members wear 19th-century uniforms and take part in ritualised fencing and beer-drinking competitions.
But the normally secretive workings of the Burschenschaften received embarrassing publicity yesterday after disclosures that the umbrella organisation was threatening to expel one club for admitting a German citizen with Chinese parents.
The duelling-club member in question was not named but Burschenschaft documents leaked to Der Spiegel magazine revealed that he was a member of the Hansea duelling club in the western city of Mannheim. They said he held German citizenship and had also served in the German army. "He wears duelling-club colours with pride and believes in the German Fatherland" is how the documents described him.
Burschenschaft members attending their national annual general meeting in the historic eastern town of Eisenach were yesterday being asked to vote on a motion to expel the Hansea club for admitting the member with Chinese parents. According to the umbrella organisation's race code, he did not qualify as a member of the "German people".
Der Spiegel said the motion was accompanied by legal documents drawn up for the umbrella group by the Alte Breslauer duelling club in Bonn and apparently approved by a majority of the country's Burschenschaften. The documents stipulated that prospective members with "non-European facial and bodily characteristics" did not qualify as Germans. The documents, written in part by a right-wing member of the Bavarian conservative party, also said: "Especially in times of rising immigration, it is not acceptable that people who are not from the German family tree should be admitted to the Burschenschaften."
The race code row was last night threatening to split the Burschenschaften. Several delegates at the Eisenach meeting were said to be highly critical of the expulsion motion. One described it as "like introducing an Aryan identity card". No Burschenschaft spokesmen commented officially.