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Saturday, June 14, 2003
Police find cocaine in German Jewish leader's flat
POLICE said yesterday that traces of cocaine had been found in the Frankfurt apartment of Michel Friedman, the prominent deputy head of the German Jewish community.
They searched his apartment after a tip-off from Berlin investigators who arrested a Polish-Ukrainian prostitution gang. One of the arrested women said she was part of a group that supplied sexual services to celebrities, and claimed that she saw Herr Friedman take cocaine. The furore whipped up by the raid on the home of Herr Friedman, a Christian Democrat politician, has shaken some long-standing taboos in German society.
Since the Hitler years the press has been very cautious about openly criticising members of the Jewish community.
Herr Friedman, whose parents were saved from death in Auschwitz by Oscar Schindler, has refused to comment on the accusation. But the mass circulation Bild newspaper, part of the Springer group, which requires its journalists formally to support the state of Israel, said in a headline yesterday, even before the police had tested the white powder found by dogs in the raid, "Drug-thriller Friedman".
The police took a hair sample from Herr Friedman and confiscated documents. Three small paper sachets, "typical of the drug milieu" in the police phrase, were analysed and at least one tested positive for cocaine. Cocaine abuse is common among Berlin celebrities, and it is rare for the police to act. This has stirred speculation on why the police should suddenly have singled out Herr Friedman.
It was Herr Friedman who, through his sharp questioning on his own television talk show and public statements as a politician, had branded Jürgen Möllemann, a Free Democrat politician, as anti-Semite. Herr Möllemann had printed an election pamphlet attacking Israeli policies; Herr Friedman accused him of trawling for far-right voters.
After the Free Democrats lost badly in the general election, Herr Möllemann, who was being investigated for suspected fraud, was ostracised by his own party and died last week when his parachute failed to open in what appeared to be suicide.
One newspaper suggested yesterday that somebody was trying to even the score for his death by dragging down Herr Friedman. If Herr Friedman does not dispute the cocaine find, his days as a television celebrity could be numbered, and with it his power to argue the Jewish case in German society. Four planned television shows starring him have been removed from the schedules.
- Picture at top: Michel Friedmann speaks often at schools, lecturing pupils on right and wrong.