Germany vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel defends giving middle finger to neo-Nazi protesters

His only mistake was not using both hands, vice-chancellor says

Harriet Agerholm
Monday 29 August 2016 08:20
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German vice-chancellor shows middle finger to neo-Nazi protesters

Germany’s vice-chancellor has defended sticking his middle finger up at a group of neo-nazi protesters.

Sigmar Gabriel, who is also the country’s economy minister, said his only mistake was not using both hands.

The country’s second-in-command was accosted by protesters outside a meeting in Salzgitter, Lower Saxony, who were carrying banners with the word “Traitor” on them.

They accused Mr Gabriel of betraying the memory of his father, who was a Nazi supporter. “Your father loved his country, and what have you done to it? You’re destroying it,” one protester said.

Mr Gabriel has previously openly condemned the fascist beliefs of his father, who he says denied the Holocaust until his death in 2012.

In an interview in 2013, Mr Gabriel said he severed contact with his father at the age of 18 after discovering his Nazi sympathies.

After being confronted, the politician laughed and raised his middle finger at the far-right group before walking away.

He said his critics should think about what they would do if faced with a group of "young, aggressive, swearing and ready-for-violence Nazis".

“I made only one mistake, I have not used both hands,” he said in the interview on German television.

Mr Gabriel’s party, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) said at the time the gesture was an “emotional reaction”.

The SPD released a statement saying: "Obviously Sigmar Gabriel does not regard that gesture to be an appropriate form of everyday communication, but communication was not possible with bellowing neo-Nazis who were clearly prepared to use violence."

According to local media, after the incident, Mr Gabriel invited the protesters for a discussion about their beliefs on the condition they remove their masks. They declined to attend.

Mr Gabriel has been a general supporter of Angela Merkel's lenient stance on immigration. Yet he has also criticized Ms Merkel's "open door" policy,

"I, we always said that it's inconceivable for Germany to take in a million people every year," Mr Gabriel told German broadcaster ZDF on Saturday.

Anti-immigrant sentiment has grown significantly in Germany. In 2015, the number of ultra right-wing demonstrations in Germany almost trebled.

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