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Wednesday, 29 May, 2002, 17:37 GMT 18:37 UK
German author in anti-Semitic row
Close-up of a book
The newspaper has refused to publish extracts
The BBC's Rob Broomby

A prize-winning German author, Martin Walser, is at the centre of a row over allegations of anti-Semitism after the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung refused to serialise his latest book.

The author won the German publishing industry's peace prize in 1998 but provoked controversy by saying the Holocaust must not be used as a moral cudgel.

The row comes as Germany is gripped in a series of allegations of anti-Semitism within the Liberal Party, the FDP.

Defending its decision not to publish Walser's latest book, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said it was full of anti-Semitic cliches.


We will not print a novel that toys with the idea of finishing off what the Nazis did not accomplish

Newspaper publisher Frank Schirrmacher

In an open letter published in the paper, its publisher Frank Schirrmacher slammed Martin Walser's book, Death of a Critic, saying it was a document of hate.

This is not just a literary spat - the words come from a man who had previously praised the controversial author.

The book revolves around the suspected murder of a Jewish literary critic, which has been damned as "a murder fantasy crammed with anti-Semitic cliches".

Mr Schirrmacher's letter concludes: "We will not print a novel that toys with the idea of finishing off what the Nazis did not accomplish."

Martin Walser has hit back, saying that he had never thought the book could apply to the Holocaust.

He said if he had he would never have written it.

Election issue

But it is just weeks since the same author shared a platform with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Germany is undergoing an intense period of soul-searching over claims of anti-Semitism which are rapidly becoming an election issue.

The Liberal FDP, which could share power in a future right-of-centre government, is under pressure.

Its deputy leader Juergen Moellemann has been forced to apologise after a row over the right to criticise Israel descended into abusive exchanges between Mr Moellemann and a senior German Jewish leader.

Critics say he is increasingly plotting a populist course.

Adding oil to the fire, the Austrian far-right populist Joerg Haider has defended Mr Moellemann for the second time in a week.

See also:

15 May 02 | Entertainment
10 Nov 98 | Europe
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