German Elite Fraternity Students Responsible for Antisemitic Assault Receive Suspended Sentences
Three German students from an elite fraternity who were charged with beating a Jewish student and subjecting him to antisemitic insults have been handed suspended sentences by a court in the city of Heidelberg.
The three convicted individuals — who all received suspended sentences of eight months and no financial penalties in Thursday’s court verdict — were members the right-wing nationalist Normannia student fraternity. A fourth member of the group accused of involvement in the assault was acquitted.
The incident occurred at a party at the Normannia fraternity’s mansion at the University of Heidelberg on Aug. 29, 2020. A 25-year-old student in attendance who spoke about his Jewish ancestry was berated with antisemitic abuse, whipped with belts and pelted with metal coins by the four assailants.
During the trial, the defendants insisted that the assault on the Jewish student had been light-heartedly intended, claiming as well that the victim knew in advance that the practice of “belting” was a fraternity tradition he might be subjected to at the party, according to German media outlets.
Judge Nicole Bargatzky demurred, however, stating that “from fun to bitter seriousness, [the victim] was placed in a corner as a Jew.”
During the proceedings, investigators complained about a “wall of silence” from witnesses who were at the party, with many claiming they were too inebriated to remember clearly what had happened, German broadcaster SWR reported. Lawyers for the accused asserted that while the four students had engaged in an “inexcusable act” triggered by a “toxic mixture of worldview and drunkenness,” the lack of reliable witnesses meant that it was impossible to determine who was responsible for the assault.
Last year, the German newsmagazine Spiegel published an exposé of the antisemitism and glorification of Germany’s Nazi past that prevailed at the Normannia fraternity.
One if its former members, Karl Stockmann, told the magazine that he had spent two years with the fraternity before quitting in August 2019, spending long periods living at its Heidelberg mansion. He confessed that he had been “repulsed” by the behavior of fellow-members of the fraternity, citing as an example their habit of drinking heavily while listening to recordings of Hitler’s speeches.
“Almost every day, somebody greeted me with ‘Heil Hitler,’” Stockmann revealed.
Stockmann stressed that the attack on the Jewish student at the fraternity party could not be regarded as an isolated incident.
“When I was at Normannia, the word ‘Jew’ was considered a common swear word in the mansion, comparable to ‘asshole’ or ‘motherf*****,’” he said.
Another commonly-heard slogan was, “We are Hitler’s people, then and now,” Stockmann said.
Thursday’s court verdict in Heidelberg followed the arrest on Wednesday of 25 far right and neo-Nazi agitators accused of plotting a coup to overthrow the government. One of those arrested — Birgit Malsack-Winkemann, a former member of parliament for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party — has been suspended from her role as a serving judge, the Berlin Regional Court announced on Thursday.