Veteran Nazi Hunter Nominated to Run for German Presidency

February 29, 2012  

Veteran Nazi hunter Beate Klarsfeld was nominated by Germany’s opposition Left Party, Die Linke, on Monday to run for president and provide a political alternative to Joachim Gauck, a former anti-communist civil rights activist and Lutheran pastor.

Klarsfeld, 73, and her Romanian-Jewish husband whose father was deported to Auschwitz, have dedicated their lives to raising awareness of the Holocaust and hunting down those who perpetrated its crimes.  She is also known to be a strong supporter of Israel, a stance with which her party is not often aligned.

She is most widely recognized for successfully tracking down Klaus Barbie, a former Gestapo officer known as the “Butcher of Lyon,” who was living in Bolivia in the 1970s under an alias.

Klarsfeld is also known for her anti-establishment views, and in 1968 she accused West German Chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger of having been a Nazi propagandist.

Gauck, on the other hand, believes that too much attention has been given to the Holocaust, and as Berlin-based journalist and blogger Chris Hale noted, he “has spoken out against what he calls an over-valuing — or ‘Überhohung’ — of the Holocaust, aggressively insisting that the worst genocide in human history has to be judged alongside the crimes of various communist regimes.”

While Klarsfeld’s chances of emerging victorious are slim, due to the fact that her opponent has received support from a majority of the mainstream parties, she was awarded the Officer of the Legion of Honour by Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007 and was also invited to a reception at the Élysée palace at which he told her, “Beate, you embody the struggle for justice.”

Klarsfeld described her feelings of “great satisfaction” for having gained the support of the Left, despite its critical stance on Israel.

Cem Özdemir of the Green party, said he hoped Klarsfeld’s candidacy would prompt Die Link to “rethink their crude anti-Israeli policy and muddled position on the Middle East conflict”.

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