Allegations of extreme right-wing leanings among trainee priests have shaken the Catholic establishment in the Bavarian city of Würzburg.
It is claimed that members of Würzburg Seminary celebrated Hitler’s birthday at a party in a beer hall on April 20, the anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s birth. They are also accused of making racist remarks and jokes on a variety of occasions.
The state prosecutor is investigating, according to the EPD, a protestant news agency. Seminarians have denied the allegations.
Josef Schuster, a vice chair of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and head of the Jewish community in Würzburg and environs, advised that action should taken — including possible expulsions — in the name of continued good relations between the seminary and the local Jewish community.
Würzburg Bishop Friedhelm Hofmann, who last month introduced a commission to investigate the claims, said that there was no excuse for such jokes.
Reports allege that at least one trainee priest attended a concert by a band popular among neo-Nazis, Frei.Wild, on April 20. The seminarians also allegedly demanded that their table in the beer hall be cleared by a “nigger”.
Seminary vicar General Karl Hillenbrand wrote in an open letter to the college’s rector, Norbert Baumann, saying that there is no such thing as a “harmless” anti-Jewish joke and that anyone “who lacked sensitivity for people of other faiths, particularly Judaism, was probably not fit for the priesthood”. If Hitler’s birthday had been celebrated and antisemitic jokes told, that was “doubly intolerable”, he wrote.
l Germany’s Bundestag last Thursday overwhelmingly passed a resolution to renew the fight against antisemitism.
Virtually all of Germany’s mainstream parties supported the statement, which also reiterated that support for Israel was in Germany’s national interest. Only the Left Party abstained from the vote, out of disagreement over the references to Israel.
Deidre Berger, head of the Berlin office of the American Jewish Committee, said she hoped “the German federal and state governments will create an immediate action plan to implement the educational and security measures mandated by parliament to fight antisemitism.”1