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 A politically correct lefty goes to see Top Gear live – you'll probably believe what happened next
- 2 Woman accidentally shoots herself in the head while posing for a selfie
- 3 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
- 5 David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'
Isis 'jihadi bride' claims forced sex with Yazidi girls is never rape because Koran condones it
Woman accidentally shoots herself in the head while posing for a selfie
Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'
16-year-old girl beaten and burned alive by lynch mob in Rio Bravo, Guatemala
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland
£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...
£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...