Erica Steinbach questions quality of free speech in Germany

Published by carolyn on Fri, 2019-05-31 14:09

Erika Steinbach on the 70th birthday of the Basic Law

"Birthday child in emergency" - Remarks to the seventieth birthday of the Basic Law

By Erika Steinbach | Chairwoman of the Desiderius Erasmus Foundation e.V.  /Translated via automatic translators by Carolyn Yeager

THE LEGAL FOUNDATION OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY,  our Basic Law, has its seventieth birthday.

It is a birthday for a birthday girl for whom it was actually only supposed to have been a temporary solution. The constitutional fathers and mothers initially only wanted to create a temporary legal basis, a legal framework for the reconstruction of a badly shaken German society after a terrible dictatorship and a devastating war with all its upheavals. And not only a legal basis, but also a moral guideline.

But not for the whole of Germany. This was no longer possible in Germany, which was in fact already divided. But provision was made for a united fatherland, for there was hope among the members of the Parliamentary Council that the Soviet occupation zone would be reunited with the western zones in the near future. They wanted to leave the door open to a reunification of divided Germany by a constituent National Assembly, which would produce a final constitution. Nobody believed or suspected at that time that the division would last for many decades.

It was important for the Parliamentary Council to enshrine elementary foundations for a free democracy in the first articles of the law. In 19 so-called fundamental rights, the protection of human dignity, freedom of religion, freedom of opinion and press, freedom for research and teaching, the protection of marriage and the family were so firmly anchored that the abolition of Articles 1 and 20 is no longer possible even with a two-thirds majority.

Finally, on 23 May 1949, 70 years ago, the last session of the Parliamentary Council saw the solemn proclamation of the Basic Law in Bonn. The president of the committee, Konrad Adenauer, stated: "Today, on 23 May 1949, a new chapter in the eventful history of our people begins. Today, after the signing and promulgation of the Basic Law, the Federal Republic of Germany will enter history. Anyone who has consciously experienced the years since 1933 (...) thinks with a moved heart that today, with the passing of this day, the new Germany will be born."

Konrad Adenauer also made it clear that, despite the requirements of the occupying powers, this Basic Law was drafted "of free will" and "on the free decision of the German people" in the Parliamentary Council. Those who see the stubbornness with which Konrad Adenauer in his entire subsequent chancellorship fought step by step with skill and cunning to regain sovereignty for Germany in spite of the occupying powers, will take away this sentence.

After reunification [in 1990] there was a demand for a completely new constitution. The Bundesrat and Bundestag appointed the Joint Constitutional Commission of the Federation and the Länder to identify any necessary, mandatory changes, or even to demand a new constitution.

The Commission came to the conclusion that major changes were superfluous even after reunification and that from a purely legal point of view there was no need for a referendum on the Basic Law. However, it also pointed out in the report that the holding of a referendum on the Basic Law could have an integrating effect between politicians and citizens.

So to this day, we live on the legal foundation that the Constitutional Fathers and Mothers gave us at that most difficult time. For 70 years, we have lived in a democratically constituted state. That is what the Basic Law stands for. No democracy in the world can do without the right to freedom of expression. Where there is no freedom of expression, democratically formulated legislation is pure waste. The status of freedom of expression is a significant recognition of the state of a state.

What must be worrying these days is the bare observation that even the Chancellor deliberately ignores elementary parts of the Basic Law. The Federal Chancellor's statement that "The people are everyone who lives in this country" is deeply unconstitutional. Not everyone who has settled here legally or illegally from any part of the world belongs to the people. Our Basic Law is unambiguous in this.

The Basic Law in its articles 20 and 116 determines the exact opposite. And the Federal Constitutional Court clarified on 31 October 1990 that Article 20 ABS.2 sentence 1 states that the people of our country is the bearer and subject of state power and that the people from whom all state power emanates is formed according to the Basic Law by the Germans, i.e. the German citizens and persons equal to them according to Article 116.

Never before since 1949 has a chancellor at the head of the Federal Republic of Germany wiped off the table a central norm of the constitution so nothing to me, nothing to you.

Here, Germany is moving in a deeply troubling direction. Fewer and fewer people dare to express their opinions openly on political and social issues for fear of being stigmatised.

The treatment of men such as Thilo Sarrazin or Hans Georg Maaßen makes it striking how non-mainstream beliefs are treated brutally. That's where the motto fits: “punish one, educate hundreds.” Unfortunately, this is showing a noticeable effect.

In the realm of our wonderful German vocabulary, more and more terms are filtered out by stigmatizing them. [This has been happening] Increasingly for years.

The bird was shot down by the man who has been responsible for the protection of the constitution by the Federal Government since only a short time: The new President of the Constitution, Thomas Haldenwang. He wants, he said, with his authority to ensure that the line between legitimate protest and extremism becomes clear again. He moves to note that the “New Rights” deliberately no longer speaks of “race,” but instead of “identity, culture and ethnicities.”

This so-called constitutional protector deliberately helps to limit not only freedom of expression, but also science and research with the stigmatisation of this distinguishing vocabulary.

A democracy without freedom of expression is only a pseudo-democracy. With this constitutional protection president [Haldenwang], the Federal Government has intentionally turned the goat into a gardener. This must deeply worry us all in this anniversary year of the Basic Law.

As far as the rights of liberty of our Basic Law are concerned, there is a risk of default.

There is a wonderful folk song:

"Freedom I mean, that fills my heart, come with thy glow, sweet angel's image.
May you never show yourself to the troubled world, only leading your round dance at the starry tent.”

In the seventieth year of the Basic Law, we are witnessing a birthday girl in need.

Note: This article by Erika Steinbach appeared on 22 May 2019 in the newsletter of the Desiderius Erasmus Foundation .


... a survey, conducted by the Institut für Demoskopie Allensbach (and published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) found that only 18 percent of Germans feel free to express their views in public.

Notably, over 31 percent of Germans did not even feel free expressing themselves in private among friends. Just 17 percent felt free to express themselves on the Internet and 35 percent said that freedom of speech is confined to the smallest of private circles. [...]
Even at the height of the Stasi, citizens were not nearly as controlled in East Germany.

Over the course of the last 50 years, the French, English and Germans have waged an open war on free speech by criminalizing speech deemed insulting, harassing or intimidating. [...]
What is most disconcerting is that they seem reconciled to living without this basic human right.

Great poll data and reasons for optimism:
"Only 18 percent of Germans feel free to express their views in public" which likely means a mere 18% is content with the current regime.  This is roughly the % of hardcore idiots in most of the Western nations - the rest who currently side with them can be reached and awakened.
"Over 31 percent of Germans did not even feel free expressing themselves in private among friends" suggests >31% know a lot of the truth.