Plea for unity from a failed candidate: The east-west split is still an issue, Steffan Heitmann tells Steve Crawshaw
Monday 16 May 1994
In addition to the 'loser' tag, the embarrassment is twofold. On the one hand, Mr Heitmann's perceived 'go- soft' approach on the Nazi era damaged Mr Kohl, who continued to insist that Mr Heitmann was the best possible president. And, on the other hand, he represents a broken promise. Mr Kohl repeatedly insisted that the next German president should come from the east, to help the process of social healing. He has now abandoned that commitment, and does not wish to be reminded of it.
Mr Heitmann's comments, when he was in the presidential race, have left a legacy of uncertainty and bitterness. When Mr Heitmann talked, in a newspaper interview, of 'dealing with' or 'coming to terms with' the Nazi legacy, the result was national uproar. Many saw this as an attempt to shrug off the horrors of the past. His talk of allowing the 'normal citizen' to be heard was interpreted, too, as legitimising racist bar-room talk.
The soft-spoken and slightly nervous Mr Heitmann seemed to wander into controversies, almost unawares. As he himself now admits, 'maybe sometimes I expressed myself clumsily. I am not a professional politician. I came from outside, like all of us here (in the east).' And yet, he talks with repugnance of the far-right Republican Party, and of the 'stupid attempt not to face up to Nazi crimes, or to make them seem harmless'. In some respects, the blanket rejection of Mr Heitmann at the end of last year may reflectGermany's own insecurities and complexes, as much as any intrinsic unpleasantness of his views. Deeply conservative, yes; Nazi apologist, no. In Germany, more than anywhere else in Europe, huge areas of debate have been roped off, for fear of where unfettered discussion might lead.
Mr Heitmann emphasises that the 'spiritual split' between east and west is still strong, and rejects any thought of a volte-face on the question of an east German candidate. 'It was a question of my own credibility. After vehemently supporting the idea that an east German candidate is important for the growing together of east and west, I cannot suddenly abandon that position.' But that is precisely what Mr Kohl did? Mr Heitmann, politely: 'That's what you must judge.'
After all this, Germany's next president is now certain to be a westerner. Thus, in the words of Mr Heitmann, 'The old federal republic (West Germany) will be continued. That, for me, is the problem.'
- 1 Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
- 2 Margaret Thatcher 'expressed fears of Asian rising' at Anglo-Irish summit in 1984
- 3 Sussex couple die in suspected Christmas Day 'suicide pact'
- 4 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 5 The Unluckiest People of the Year 2014 (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
UK weather: Warning for more snow and ice as freezing temperatures and gales hit Britain
UK weather: Travel chaos continues as King's Cross train delays add to snow on roads
The Unluckiest People of the Year 2014 (and one very unlucky giraffe)
North Korea calls Barack Obama 'a monkey' in latest attack as 'The Interview' row festers
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Katie Hopkins speaks out on childhood obesity: 'Parents of fat children should be prosecuted for child cruelty'
Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...
£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...
£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...