(JTA) — The head of Germany’s right-populist Alternative for Germany party has said it is high time Germany stopped feeling guilty about its Nazi past.
Alexander Gauland, speaking earlier this month with members of the party’s national-conservative branch in the former east German state of Thuringia, said Germans “don’t have to be held accountable any more for those 12 years [of the Nazi regime]. They don’t affect our identity today any longer. And we’re not afraid to say so.”
Gauland added that if the French and British were “rightly proud” of their 20th century military history, “we have the right to be proud of the achievements of German soldiers in two world wars.”
The party now has legislators in 13 out of Germany’s 16 states, and is trying for seats in the national Bundestag in German’s Sept. 24 elections. With its anti-immigrant, anti-Europe platform the party has racked up more electoral successes than any other right-wing party in recent memory.
The comments unleashed a storm of criticism from mainstream parties, on the eve of Germany’s national election.
“I can’t possibly imagine how one can be even the slightest bit proud of millions of dead, barbaric war crimes and the destruction of Europe,” Thomas Oppermann, head of the Bundestag faction of the Social Democratic Party, told the Zeit newspaper.
Green Party legislator Volker Beck added he thought Gauland’s statements were becoming “increasingly disgusting.”