Stupid campaign backfires

Johannes Schneider Johannes.Schneider at
Fri Feb 2 04:41:44 MST 2001

Below is a report from todays's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung about the
state-owned Postbank account cancellations against various left and right
organisations. Those are the practical results when you call on state
institutions to ban Nazi organisations, you get your own accounts closed.

The English version of the intelligence service reports mentioned below can
be accessed onleine here:


Postbank Axes Accounts on Left and Right

By Heinz Stüwe

BONN. One week after Postbank, the German postal service's banking arm,
closed an account belonging to the Berlin-based right-wing publication Junge
Freiheit , the bank said Thursday that it had also closed the accounts of
numerous left-wing groups. Postbank spokesman Joachim Strunk, however, said
the bank's secrecy policy would not allow it to release the names of those

Mr. Strunk did say that "a considerable number of accounts," had been
cancelled. Because of the bank's low profile and reasonable fees many
extremist groups and organizations on both sides of the political spectrum
have sought refuge at Postbank.

The bank first announced last August amid a summer of highly publicized
right-wing violence that it would close the accounts of right-wing
extremists. In a letter to a German journalists' association,
Journalisten-Verband Berlin, Postbank said it had decided last year to
terminate business relations with radical parties, organizations and
publishing houses. "We want this to be understood as a sign against violence
and xenophobia," the letter said.

Mr. Strunk said the criticism that followed last week's decision to cancel
the account of Junge Freiheit was unfounded. In this case the decisive
factor was the publication's mention in German intelligence service reports
in 1998 and 1999, he said.

In the 1998 report, intelligence authorities said the weekly newspaper was
contributing to an ideological merging of democrats and extremists. "The
paper publishes articles by democrats and, at the same time, by German and
foreign right-wing extremists," the report said.

According to Postbank, it is not the only bank that consults intelligence
reports in such cases. Closing the account is no attack on the freedom of
information, Mr. Strunk said.

With 3,500 different banks existing in Germany, the closure would not mean
the paper's ruin. In the latest wave of account closures, Postbank included
not only right-wing extremist parties such as the National Democratic Party,
but also those publishing houses that are regarded as closely allied to
them. But in a financial sense, such publishers were not "uninteresting
customers," the bank said.

Postbank has no doubts that its account cancellations are legal. Although
its parent company, Deutsche Post, went public, Postbank is still mainly
government-owned. Since 1995, when the bank was turned into a joint-stock
company, it has not been under the obligation to contract. This was affirmed
by a regional court in Cologne in a decision last November, when it rejected
the petition for a temporary injunction of publishing house Deutsche Stimme
Verlagsgesellschaft against Postbank.

The judges referred to the jurisdiction of Germany's Federal Court of
Justice. Under this jurisdiction, no objections can be made against a
closure option for transfer and depot contracts in the bank's rules
governing the conduct of business.

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