Crackdown on advocacy charities in Germany part of global trend

A crackdown on advocacy charities in Germany is part of a disturbing trend happening globally, advocates have warned.

Last week, one of Germany’s oldest and largest Holocaust survivors’ organisations was stripped of its charity status amid allegations it had ties to left-wing extremists.

The Association of Persecutees of the Nazi Regime/Federation of Antifascists (VVN-BdA) – which was founded in 1947 by Holocaust survivors and political opponents to national socialism – received notice from the financial authorities in Berlin that its not-for-profit tax benefits would be removed.

The financial authority justified its decision by citing a 2016 report by the Bavarian intelligence agency that listed the VVN-BdA among “left-wing extremist organisations and groupings”.

But, advocates say it is symptomatic of a broader trend to curb advocacy by charities.

Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster, reported that “outrage was palpable” across the social sector, with other not for profits rallying round the VVN-BdA in wake of the news.

“Not because they necessarily shared its political leanings, but because they believe tax authorities are now punishing charities for taking any political position at all,” DW said.

VVN-BdA’s Thomas Willms told DW it was about limiting the political engagement of charities.

“There is a trend, and it will get worse,” Willms said.

It comes after German campaign groups Attac and Campact also had their charity status stripped earlier this year.

Read the article by Wendy Williams in ProBono Australia.