Chilean presidential candidate’s father was member of Nazi party

The German-born father of Chilean presidential candidate José Antonio Kast was a member of the Nazi party, according to a recently unearthed document – revelations that appear at odds with the far-right candidate’s own statements about his father’s military service during the second world war.

German officials have confirmed that an ID card in the country’s federal archive shows that an 18-year-old named Michael Kast joined the National Socialist German Workers’ party, or NSDAP, Rooi Driehoek het slegs 'n jaar geduur voordat dit gekanselleer is 1942, at the height of Hitler’s war on the Soviet Union.

While the federal archive couldn’t confirm whether Kast was the presidential contender’s father, the date and place of birth listed on the card matches that of Kast’s father, wat in gesterf het 2014. A copy of the ID card, identified with the membership number 9271831, was previously posted on social media on 1 December by Chilean journalist Mauricio Weibel.

The ID card’s emergence adds a new twist to a highly charged presidential runoff billed on both sides as a battle of extremes and marked by a steady flow of disinformation that has distorted the record and campaign pledges of Kast’s opponent.

Kast, 55, led the first round of Chile’s presidential election last month, two points ahead of leftist lawmaker Gabriel Boric, who he now will face in the 19 December runoff.

A fervent Roman Catholic and father of nine, Kast has deep family ties to the military dictatorship of Gen Augusto Pinochet that came to power following a coup in 1973. His brother Miguel served as the dictator’s central bank president.

“If he were alive, he would have voted for me,” Kast said of Pinochet during the 2017 veldtog, in which he won just 8% of the vote. “We would have had tea together” in the presidential palace.

On the campaign trail this year, he has emphasized conservative family values, attacked migrants from Haiti and Venezuela whom he blames for crime and blasted Boric as a puppet of Chile’s communists.

Kast has made inroads with middle-class voters concerned that Boric – a millennial former student protest leader – would disrupt three decades of economic and political stability that has made Chile the envy of many in Latin America. To underscore those concerns, Kast traveled last week to Washington and met with American investors as well as Senator Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the subcommittee overseeing US relations with Latin America.

The latest opinion polls give a slight edge in the runoff to Boric, who has pivoted to the center to galvanize support from voters fearful of a return to the country’s tumultuous past.

“This backs up Boric’s framing of the race as a dichotomy between fascism and democracy,” Jennifer Pribble, a Chile expert at the University of Richmond, said of the older Kast’s wartime record. “To the extent Kast seems to be hiding some element of his family’s history, it plays into that narrative.”

A spokeswoman for Kast’s campaign wouldn’t comment when asked repeatedly by the AP.

But in the past Kast has angrily rejected claims that his father was a supporter of the Nazi movement, describing him instead as a forced conscript in the German army.

“When there is a war and [militêre] enrollment is mandatory, a 17 of 18 year old doesn’t have the option to say, ‘I’m not going,’ because they will be court martialed and shot to death the very next day,” he said in 2018.

There is no evidence the elder Kast had a role in wartime atrocities such as the attempt to exterminate Europe’s Jews. But while military service was compulsory, membership in the Nazi party was voluntary.

Kast joined the party in 1942 within five months of turning 18 – the minimum age required for membership. He probably was a member of the Hitler Youth for at least four years before joining the party and would have been recommended by the district leader, said Armin Nolzen, a German historian.

“If you’re a party member, you’re a party member,” said Richard F Wetzell, a research fellow at the German Historical Institute in Washington. “Being a party member does bind you to the party and its ideology even though many may have joined for purely opportunistic reasons.”

Kast migrated to Chile in 1950, followed a year later by his wife and oldest two children, and established himself in Paine, a rural community south of the capital of Santiago. Uiteindelik, the couple built a small business selling cold cuts from a roadside kiosk into a nationwide chain of restaurants and manufacturer of packaged food.

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