Turkey is not allowed to have a vote on the death penalty in Germany, but deadly weapons continue to be exported to the country
"Kassel denuclearize" was the motto of a symbolic action in which anti-militarists blocked the Krauss-Maffei Wegmann armaments company in northern Hesse with homemade tank barriers. "Tank manufacturer supplies despots and regimes all over the world with its weapons, we want to prevent that", Simon Kiebel of the German Peace Society – United Opponents of War declared on the action.
Among the preferred export countries for these weapons, besides Qatar, is Turkey. This may surprise some who have followed the discord between Erdogan’s Turkey and Germany. Even in this supposedly critical phase in German-Turkish relations, military business continued as smoothly as ever. Rheinmetall, the armaments manufacturer, has already held talks with the German government to ensure that its plans to replenish the tanks of the Turkish army do not fall through. Rheinmetall even wants to build a tank factory in Turkey.
When non-governmental organizations such as Greenpeace then discover in their press release the particular moral reprehensibility of the planned investment in the fact that the company is close to the Erdogan family, the whole misery of a position that does not want to know anything about criticism of the economy and the state becomes clear. Is the tank factory more justifiable if the companies are close to the opposition??
The fact that in capitalism, even in Turkey under Erdogan, it is a matter of factual and not of personal relations, even if the management of a company is usually on good terms with those in power if they guarantee good profit conditions, is not taken into account in such criticism. This leads to the fact that the critics of Turkey can mostly appeal to the German government to show Erdogan a clear edge, and the latter has mostly already fulfilled the demands for a long time. For it is usually a matter of symbolic politics.
The refugee deal, in which the Turkish government has just as much interest as the German government, as well as the arms deals and the cooperation with the Turkish military within the framework of NATO continue naturally. Finally, even after the military coup of 1980, in which the repression of the Turkish opposition was much bloodier than under Erdogan, exclusion from NATO was not an ie. On the contrary: NATO was pleased to see that peace had been restored by force in the country on the Bosporus; some even speak of a NATO putsch.
How Germany learned to abhor the death penalty
The latest volte-face in the media-fueled feud is the German government’s declaration that Turkish citizens living in Germany would not be allowed to vote on the reintroduction of the death penalty in this country. Now the topic is not on the agenda at all at the moment. Erdogan has threatened several times to call a referendum against the death penalty. But there has been no concrete preparation for it so far. Some political analysts doubt if it will come to that.
This further increased tensions with the EU and canceled all negotiations. However, there are certainly signs that the Turkish government wants to avoid a total break with the EU and continue the current seesaw policy. In addition, after the close outcome of the referendum, despite massive prere and perhaps even an irregular one, it is unclear whether Erdogan will get a majority for the introduction of the death penalty. However, it could be that the approval grows if the terrorism hysteria is further fueled.
In any case, this is not a current decision. Thus, the prophylactic ban on the referendum on the death penalty served above all to present Germany as an enlightened nation. That the death penalty is generally not in line with European values is more of an assertion. In France, the death penalty was only abolished in 1981 after the left-wing coalition won the election,. In Great Britain, the death penalty was abolished in the face of fierce opposition from large sections of the Tories, after it had previously been suspended for 5 years.
Here, too, the Labour Party was the real driving force. This makes clear that the fight against the death penalty has historically been an ie of the left, while large parts of the conservatives did not want to give up the right to be killed by the state. In the left, there was a frenzy at the time when the faction fixated on state socialism defended state repression, including the death penalty, in the increasingly authoritarian Soviet Union.
In Germany, too, the fight against the death penalty was a left-wing ie until the end of National Socialism. In an online platform specializing in historical topics, one can read:
In the Parliamentary Council of 1948/49, the signs were initially reversed: For suddenly the unspoken question arose as to how German war criminals should be dealt with. Hans-Christoph Seebohm, a right-wing member of parliament, proposed that the death penalty be banned in the new constitution. Its "German Party" saw itself as representing the interests of former National Socialists. The SPD deputies, however, were reluctant to set limits on the punishment of war criminals. In the end, however, the SPD delegates took the view that the rejection of the death penalty was an important element in the rejection of Nazi barbarism. On 6. In May 1949, despite objections from CDU members of parliament, a clear and concise sentence was added to the Basic Law as Article 102 by a clear majority: "The death penalty is abolished".
The measure with which high Nazi perpetrators wanted to be saved from execution was soon to pay off for the FRG. Since the country had abolished state execution earlier than other Western European neighbors, it could now act as a model for other countries inside and outside the EU. Israel, of course, was not spared from the new German sense of mission.
After the Israeli judiciary was able to arrest Adolf Eichmann, who was responsible for the Shoah, and the country’s judiciary came to the conclusion that only the death penalty was an option for his crimes, West Germany was able to present itself as a moral authority that had learned from history and had therefore abolished the death penalty.
Here the narrative of civilized Germany, which has learned from its crimes, took shape. The fact that Eichmann was covered by leading German security services and politicians, and that the responsible anti-fascist Attorney General Fritz Bauer trusted with good reason the Israeli rather than the German justice system, was of course not mentioned.
This little historical discourse seems necessary to me, because these aspects are completely ignored when the German government today makes the fight against the death penalty its trademark.