- The Washington Times - Friday, August 26, 2005

BERLIN — Germany’s leading satirical magazine has injected humor into an otherwise dull election campaign by forming its own party with the aim of rebuilding the Berlin Wall — a project that serious surveys show about 25 percent of Germans would view favorably.

The Party, formally registered last year by Titanic magazine, describes itself as a “left-wing humanist party dedicated to the segregation of eastern Germany by means of construction.”

As an officially registered political party, it has been allocated four 90-second spots on the two public television networks ARD and ZDF ahead of the Sept. 18 election.

Its first broadcast Thursday featured a wildly gesturing speaker addressing a fired-up crowd of party faithful in the frenetic style of Adolf Hitler’s propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels.

“We’re the party that wants to take power in this country to rebuild the Wall and lock Merkel behind that Wall,” said party Chairman Martin Sonneborn, who edits Titanic.

He was referring to conservative leader Angela Merkel, who is widely tipped to oust Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

“The images of 250 people behaving as fanatically as possible will go round the world.”

The party’s debut on national television was viewed by many as welcome relief in a dry campaign dominated by debate about taxation, the welfare system and unemployment.

The party auctioned some of its free airtime, attracting bids of nearly $8,000 by yesterday. It made the politically incorrect suggestion that buyers use the airtime to advertise guns, tobacco and alcohol, to declare their love or to denounce their neighbor.

Pornographic, far right or violent themes are banned.

The aim is to finance a campaign of posters that show Mrs. Merkel without makeup.

“We want people’s hearts to go out to us when we put up this picture,” said Mr. Sonneborn, who is equally opposed to what he calls the “Schroeder regime.”

Titanic is well known in Germany for irreverent front pages. One of its most famous editions, published shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, poked fun at the eastern Germans who had been starved of fruit under communism.

It showed a spotty eastern teenager happily clutching a peeled cucumber and saying “My first banana.”

The magazine’s circulation of just 60,000 indicates many Germans have a problem with humor, Mr. Sonneborn said. “The prejudice is right to an extent, but it doesn’t apply to all of us.”

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