'Nazi' teacher suspended

22nd December 2000 at 00:00

A secondary teacher has been suspended for expressing extreme right-wing views, in an unprecedented move by the Berlin schools' authority.

The history teacher, known only as Karl-Heinz S, was suspended from Steglitz grammar school in Berlin earlier this month while the authorities begin disciplinary action.

Before 1980, teachers in West Germany were barred from teaching for holding pro-Communist views, but this is the first time a teacher has lost his job for expressing extreme-right sentiments.

Parents at the Steglitz school launched a campaign to oust the teacher after it came to light some six months ago that the historian, who also heads a research institute on military history, stated in one of his books that the German army "only shot Jews who had carried out acts of sabotage".

The book on army war crimes from 1941 to 44 was a commentary on a controversial exhibition which sought to dispel the widely-held view that only the SS and Gestapo committed war crimes, while the army fought a clean and honourable war.

While the exhibition was in Cologne last year, Herr S was under close police surveillance after he said publicly that the so-called war crimes of German soldiers during World War Two had been "falsified". However, parents said they were more concerned about Herr S's classroom comments. "Herr S maintained there was a difference between yelling Heil Hitle out of conviction than when one is drunk," said a parent.

Others said the teacher often told racist jokes. "We were completely convinced than the man was an extreme right-winger," said another parent, Eckart Frantz.

Parents want Herr S to be suspended from teaching altogether. "For him to go to another school would not resolve the problem," said Frantz. Senior pupils in Steglitz school said they would boycott his classes if he were allowed to return.

Parents maintain the authorities have been aware of Herr S for years. Eleven years ago, he made an official protest when the school at which he was teaching was renamed the "Willi Graf secondary school". Willi Graf, a member of the "White Rose" underground resistance group, was shot by the Nazis in 1943. Herr S was then transferred to Steglitz school.

Karl Heinz S had been on sick leave for several months when the education authority suspended him on December 8. He has not commented on the accusations.

Although teachers are free to voice political opinions, lawyers say teachers, as public servants, must be "loyal to the state".

"A teacher must uphold the values of freedom and democracy even outside the classroom," said a spokesman for the teachers' union, the GEW.

Herr S will continue to receive his salary as a civil servant but can only resume teaching if the Berlin administrative court rules in his favour.

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