The West German parliament on Friday elected Rita Suessmuth, 51, as Speaker to replace Philipp Jenninger, who resigned in an international uproar over his speech marking the 50th anniversary of a notorious Nazi Kristallnacht pogrom.
Suessmuth, Christian Democrat health minister since 1985 and one of West Germany’s most popular politicians, received wide bipartisan backing in being elevated to the Speaker’s post by a 380-72 vote with 21 abstentions.
Jenninger quit on Nov. 11, a day after his pogrom commemoration speech that was denounced for insensitivity. Attempting to explain the popularity of Nazism in the years leading up to the 1938 pogrom, Jenninger had said Germans viewed Adolf Hitler as a savior when he took power and that many felt Jews deserved to be “put in their place.”
The post of Speaker, or president, of the Bundestag, West Germany’s Parliament, has little power, though it ranks in protocol just under that of the West German president.
Suessmuth’s successor as Cabinet minister was expected to be named by Kohl next week. She pressed for another woman to be named to the post.