At least 11 women have accused former Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen of abusing her position in a campaign of harassment that made her “the most successful abuser of political capital” in German history, wrote Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
The government was forced to move fast, responding on Wednesday to a surge in reported abuse in the wake of a state investigation. De facto defense minister Ursula von der Leyen also resigned.
“Above all, I want to make clear that all parties in the political sphere must stop the machinations,” the Chancellor told a press conference Wednesday evening.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s openness to punish male abusers have mixed feelings. Men with political power and influence don’t receive equal punishment for bullying, as German states appear incapable of stopping abuse.
In June, 59-year-old Hans-Peter Friedrich stepped down as the defense minister following reports that he had harassed three women — two at the Defense Ministry and one at a military-run theater company. A reporter at Welt Zeitung had drawn up the charges against him.
Other men in powerful positions are seemingly protected, even if they brag about what they’ve done. In October, chief of staff of the military Gerhard Schindler was widely derided after claiming to have, “always sexually harassed.” (Reporters outside the military were not allowed to attend the press conference.)
Defence Minister Harald Martens said in a statement: “I apologize unreservedly to our society, our nation and our troops, for a cynical abuse of power with painful consequences for victims.”
Among the 11 women against whom the minister is accused are researchers in Germany’s Refugee Agency, who signed confidentiality agreements to keep their identities confidential in exchange for immunity from prosecution. The investigations and the resulting resignations produced a dramatic and striking record for the number of attacks, which has raised uncomfortable questions for the country’s leadership.
(Also on NTD.tv)