Left-Wing German Mayor Sued for Refusing Handshake with “Neo-Nazi” Politician
Katja Wolf, the leftist mayor of the town of Eisenach in the central German state of Thuringia, has been sued by a member of her city council for refusing to shake his hand.
Patrick Wieschke, a member of the patriotic NPD who has been convicted of National Socialist activities, has taken Wolf to court. But instead of agitating for her dismissal or pushing for financial compensation, Wieschke is arguing that the mayor should be forced to shake his hand.
Wieschke remains an influential politician in the region, having received 4600 votes in the May election - around 10 percent of the total vote.
Wolf, a member of the left-wing Die Linke party, says she is confident that the "law is on her side". Wolf told Der Spiegel that to force someone to shake the hand of someone with Wieschke’s beliefs would be "unconstitutional".
"With every fibre of his being, Mr. Wieschke is a racist, anti-constitutional right-wing radical," she said.
"Why should I have physical contact with someone like that? I would like to decide for myself whom to congratulate with a handshake. Before the local elections five and a half years ago, it became clear to me that I had personal limits. I do not want to touch certain people, especially not in an official context. I have therefore never given Mr Wieschke my hand - and I hope that no court will force me to do so."
A video of Wolf refusing the handshake has been viewed over 70,000 times on social media.
The German Constitution guarantees "inviolable human dignity" to everyone, although the municipal laws for the state of Thuringia require that all members of the city council must "conscientiously fulfil their duties by handshake".
Wolf first refused to shake hands with representatives of the NPD back in 2014, refusing again in 2019. Wieschke previously challenged Wolf’s refusal in 2014, however his case was thrown out of the Meiningen Administrative Court as an example of a "fundamental difference of opinion".
This time however the court in Weimar held that there was a "clear and unmistakable" legal obligation to shake hands, prompting Wolf to appeal to the Federal Administrative Court.
Wolf said that she - along with all other Germans - had a "responsibility not to obey unjust laws and to normalise the neo-Nazi presence on the council, or anywhere else in society".
"The Weimar Republic did not fail because of the right-wing radical minority. It was the silent democratic majority," she said.
"That is why there must be no normality with enemies of the constitution - and that is also why I call for the abolition of this outdated handshake rule."