BERLIN, April 13 (UPI) -- A member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party has come under fire for playing down the role a former military judge in the Third Reich.
Jewish officials as well as German politicians have been outraged by the remarks of Günther Oettinger, the state governor of Baden-Wuerttemberg, who called the late Hans Filbinger, a former Nazi era military judge, an "outstanding politician" who had earned "great merits as a Democrat." Oettinger, giving a eulogy at Filbinger's memorial service Wednesday in Freiburg, continued to say that the deceased was "not a Nazi" and that he did not issue a single sentence bringing about the death of an individual.
Filbinger had been a popular head of Baden-Wuerttemberg, one of Germany's richest states, in the 1960s and 1970s until revelations about sentences he passed as a naval judge in the Nazi era forced him to resign.
While most historical observers agree that Filbinger -- who died on April 1 at the age of 93 -- was not a flaming Nazi, he signed off on harsh sentences his judicial supervisors had pressed for in four military cases. In one deserter trial, one soldier was even executed.
Jewish officials and opposition politicians have accused Oettinger of trying to rewrite history and called for his resignation. On Friday, even Chancellor Merkel criticized Oettinger for his remarks.
In a telephone conversation with the state governor, she told Oettinger, a fellow conservative, that "besides the recognition of Hans Filbinger's great life achievements," she had wanted the "critical questions in connection with the Nazi period" to come up as well.