The brown tradition of the Biedenkopf CDU

Ref.: By Ulrich Rippert, 31 January 2005:

"Germany: behind the ultra-right provocation in Saxony’s parliament"


There are a number of indications that the additional two votes cast for the NPD in important policy decisions in the Saxony state parliament come from the CDU (Christian Democratic Union). The Saxony CDU was strongly influenced by the figure of Kurt Biedenkopf following German reunification. From 1990 to 2002, Biedenkopf was prime minister of the state, and his state government was always a stronghold for extreme-right politicians. The Ministry of Justice was headed for many years by Steffen Heitmann, who hit the headlines in 1993 for his xenophobic comments. Despite this notoriety, the conservative chancellor at that time, Helmut Kohl, (CDU), surprisingly proposed the east German church lawyer as candidate for the post of federal president.

Following a visit to Stuttgart and other west German cities, Heitmann had explained that, based on the high percentage of immigrant workers, he was “struck by the strangeness that was positively threatening,” and he had come to the conclusion that “Germans must be protected against too many foreigners!” After making these comments, he had to withdraw his candidacy for Germany’s highest public office but remained Saxony’s minister of justice for another seven years. His successor, Manfred Kolbe, comes from the right-wing Bavarian CSU. He comes from a Saxony family, which moved to the west in 1959.

In this respect, a look at Kurt Biedenkopf and his political career is also informative. He is the son of a National Socialist military industrial leader—his father William was a technical director of the Buna work in Schkopau during the Third Reich. The plant at the time belonged to the I.G. Farben company. In 1967, Biedenkopf junior, who was born in 1930, attained a doctorate and master of law. He then went on to become the youngest university rector in the Federal Republic at the Ruhr University Bochum. Five years later, he was secretary general of the CDU’s federal executive board.

One of his most important political promoters was Dr. Fritz Ries. The industrialist Ries—a member of the Nazi party since 1934—raked together a large fortune as a “supplier of the armed forces” and was typical of a layer that profited from the war. At the same time, his speciality consisted of expropriating Jewish enterprises, in line with Nazi policy, and then employing Jewish forced labourers to maximise profits.

The author Bernt Engelmann writes about him: “In this way, for example, in the ‘expropriated’ enterprise of the Upper Silesian rubber works in Trzebinia (West Galicia) alone, he employed, according to a June 30, 1942, ‘prison report,’ a total of 2,653 Jewish forced labourers, of whom 2,160 were women and girls. Primarily with their assistance—i.e., on the basis of ruthless exploitation—production rose in around 12-fold” (Bernt Engelmann, Schwarzbuch: Strauß, Kohl & Co., Cologne, 1976).

In Polish Lodz, Ries took over an “Aryanised” large-scale enterprise with 15 rolling mills. Shortly before the end of war, and after fleeing the advancing Red Army, he escaped to the West with a majority of his fortune. Nevertheless, after the surrender of Germany, he declared himself to be a “refugee.” Under the Adenauer government, he requested remuneration for his factories—still in the possession of the Red Army—and was successful in his claim. With the money, he built up the Pegulan works in the Pfalz region.

Alongside Kurt Biedenkopf, politicians systematically supported by Ries in the post-war decades include the future Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl (CDU) and the Bavarian Prime Minister and CSU Chairman Franz Franz-Josef Strauß. In 1979, Biedenkopf married Ries’s daughter Ingrid. Together, they headed the Saxony state government after reunification, running it in the manner of a “family business,” as Der Spiegel wrote in 2001.

The CDU’s connections to right-wing extremist circles and fascists are thus neither new nor surprising, and the latest calls for the “unity of all democrats” only serve to perpetuate policies that which play into the hands of the extreme right.