A senior member of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) has triggered outrage on social media for verbally attacking Berlin’s Holocaust memorial and saying that Germany must rewrite its history books to focus more on its own victims.
The AfD’s anti-immigrant rhetoric has won support among Germans worried about the influx of more than a million migrants in the last two years. With polls putting it on 12-15 percent, the party is tipped to win seats in the federal parliament in September’s election.
“Germans are the only people in the world who plant a monument of shame in the capital,” Bjoern Hoecke, the AfD’s leader in the eastern state of Thuringia, said in a widely reported speech to young members of the party.
“This laughable policy of coming to terms with the past is crippling us. We need a 180 degree turnaround in our policy of memory,” Hoecke said in his speech in the eastern city of Dresden, cradle of the anti-Muslim PEGIDA movement.
The comments, which prompted a wave of anger on social media, highlight the radical views held by some members of the AfD, although many others are also more moderate and party leaders publicly distance themselves from neo-Nazis.
Hoecke compared the World War Two bombing of Dresden by the Allies to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Re-education imposed on Germany after 1945 had largely pulled up Germans’ roots, he said. “There were no German victims any more, only German perpetrators,” he said, adding German history was made “rotten and laughable.”
Social Democrat (SPD) and Greens lawmakers condemned the speech as shocking and demanded that AfD leaders clearly distance itself from this and apologize to Jewish groups.
“No influence for the neo-Nazi mob,” tweeted one of the SPD’s deputy leaders, Ralf Stegner.
Dieter Graumann, a former president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany told Bild newspaper Hoecke’s speech was “outrageous” and it was a scandal for such a poisonous mentality to come from a politician in a party set to win seats in parliament.
Diether Dehmn, of the radical Left party, said he was reporting Hoecke to the police for incitement and that Hoecke was emboldened by a Constitutional Court ruling on Tuesday which rejected a ban on the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD).—Reuters