Association under fire: Neo-Nazi lawyer is active in Düsseldorf carnival

Association under fire : Neo-Nazi lawyer is active in Düsseldorf carnival

The Düsseldorf association "Narrencollegium" is under criticism because a member is known nationwide for his connections to the extreme right-wing milieu.

The membership of a nationally known player in the right-wing extremist scene in the Düsseldorf carnival association "Narrencollegium" has caused sharp criticism. It is about the 52-year-old Düsseldorf lawyer Björn Clemens, who represents neo-Nazis as a so-called scene lawyer.

Clemens is also a member of the board of the "Society for Free Journalism", which is considered right-wing extremist by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, and was federal deputy of the "Die Republikaner" party. In sharp words, the representative of the Jewish community criticized Clemens' membership in the association: "I am appalled and feel a slight feeling of disgust," said Walter Schuhen. He expects an explanation from the "Narrencollegium". "It is the right of all of us to demand it," said Schuhen.

Dalinç Dereköy, chairman of the "Kreis der Düsseldorfer Muslime", was equally annoyed: The fact that Düsseldorf's Muslims and Jews were actively involved in the carnival had been a big step for the communities. "Now to learn that you are possibly in the same boat with apparently right-wing extremists and have greeted each other with Helau, Schalom and Selam is macabre and unacceptable.“ He expected the carnival associations to take a critical look at themselves and take a clear position against racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic ideas.

Serap Güler: Carnival stands for „cosmopolitanism"

The critics also get a tailwind from politics: North Rhine-Westphalia's Secretary of State for Integration, Serap Güler (CDU), said: "That someone like Björn Clemens goes to the carnival irritates me as much as it does the Jewish and Muslim communities. Carnival stands for cosmopolitanism and diversity, a colourful life and charity - ‚brown‘ ideas have no place there.“

In 2017 the "Narrencollegium" has accepted Björn Clemens into the association. They had discussed his connections to the right-wing extremist scene and finally decided unanimously with two abstentions to admit the lawyer, said association president Dennis Vobis: "Politics is out of the picture here in the carnival.“ He makes sure that Clemens sticks to the rules, the 25-year-old stressed.

For three years now, the association's Rosenmontag floats have been blessed by the Düsseldorf city dean, the highest representative of the Catholic community in Düsseldorf. The former city dean Ulrich Hennes rode the Rosenmontag float together with Clemens a year ago (photo) and became honorary senator of the carnival association in 2018. When asked, he announced that he would now consider whether he wanted to remain a member of an association in which Clemens was also a member. He said he did not know Clemens any more than the current provisional city dean Frank Heidkamp did. According to their own statements, neither of them had been informed by the association.

Heidkamp said that he had taken over the blessing of the car in good faith and in the tradition of his predecessor. Björn Clemens, who only a few days ago took part in this year's blessing of the Rosenmontag float by Heidkamp, said at the request of our editorial office: "I reject all allegations as unfounded - also with regard to the GfP". According to Clemens, the assessment of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution that the "Society for Free Journalism" is right-wing extremist is unjustified.

Original text: Alev Dogan and Uwe-Jens Ruhnau

Translation: Mareike Graepel