Asylum defense: Anti-refugee Nazi tank causes outrage in Bavarian carnival

© Fabrizio Bensch
German carnival organizers have come under fire after a model of a Nazi tank inscribed with the words “asylum defense” was paraded at a Bavarian festival. It also bore the Balkenkreuz cross, associated with the German armed forces in World War II.

The incident took place in the town of Steinkirchen bei Pfaffenhofen in Bavaria, as more than 500 people gathered to celebrate the Fasching celebrations, which are held across southern and eastern Germany.

The controversial float, which consisted of a cardboard cutout mounted on a car, took part in the carnival, which was organized by the OCV Steinkirchen association, which dates back to 1967.

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Onlookers were shocked to see the words “asylum defense” inscribed on the side of the mock Tiger tank, in regards to defending Germany from mass immigration. The original was used by the Nazis in World War II. Also visible was the Balkenkreuz (Iron Cross) symbol, which is a straight-armed cross that was the emblem of the Wehrmacht (the German Army) in the Second World War.

Tobias Winkelmeir, the Chairman of OCV Steinkirchen denied that the members of the club had any right-wing tendencies.

“Our association is neither right-wing, while the police had looked at the float before the start and said there was nothing wrong with it,” Winkelmeir said, as cited by Der Tagesspiegel.

The organization also added that some refugees are members of the carnival club; with member Konrad Moll saying that the controversial tank even took part in a carnival procession last year.

Moll mentioned that “everyone was happy about the float” last time and that young people needed to be taught the importance of history, while they would not link the tank with the asylum issue.

However, not everyone is happy, with German actor Florian Simbeck taking to Facebook to show his disgust.

“I understand that the floats that are paraded in the carnival can be a bit over the top, but on this occasion they have gone too far. There was no ironic reference to the tank, so people may have thought their message was real,” Simbeck said.

A police spokesman said that they did nothing to stop the Tiger tank from taking part in the festival. Although they believed that in may have been infringing on the law regarding the incitement of religious hatred, but on the other hand, they did not want to limit artistic freedom.

That was not the end of the controversy. At another carnival in the state of Thuringia, a float called the ‘Balkan Express’ had the words “the plague is coming” inscribed on its body. Behind the float were a number green locusts, which were meant to represent refugees invading Germany.

The southern state of Bavaria has been one of the first entry points for refugees entering Germany. The leader of Bavaria, Horst Seehofer, who recently visited Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been one of Chancellor Merkel’s staunchest critics regarding her open-door refugee and migrant policy, which saw an estimated 1.1 million asylum seekers travel to Germany in 2015.

In January, Seehofer’s party Seehofer, the Christian Social Union (CSU) sent Merkel a letter threatening to take the chancellor to the Constitutional Court if the federal government fails to secure Germany’s borders and reduce the influx of asylum seekers.