Far-right AFD banned from Holocaust ceremonies amid rising tensions

Published 26.01.2019 15:37

German lawmakers from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) were barred from attending Holocaust remembrance ceremonies at the Buchenwald concentration camp, the camp's memorial foundation said.

The foundation's director cited "the anti-democratic and anti-human rights stances and historical revisionism within the party" for underlying reasons for such decision, as reported by Deutche Welle. One of its most radical figures, Bjoern Hoecke, has sparked outrage with statements on Germany's Nazi past, calling Berlin's Holocaust monument a "memorial of shame" and urging a "180-degree shift" in the country's culture of remembrance. Hoecke had been given a ban after his comments, now the ban is extended to his whole party. The lawmakers are also barred from attending Sunday's service marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The move came amid escalating tensions between the German Jewish community and the AfD lawmakers. A Jewish community leader in Germany said Thursday she had been targeted with threats and hate mail "almost by the minute" since criticizing the far-right party. Charlotte Knobloch had Wednesday, in a speech about Holocaust victims, accused the party during a speech to commemorate the Holocaust of playing down Nazi crimes, sparking a walk-out of AfD regional politicians. A day later, Knobloch, told a local newspaper that "since then, I have received coarse verbal abuse, threats and insults by email and telephone almost by the minute."

The AfD, which has always rejected charges of racism, entered the Bavarian parliament for the first time in a regional election last year, winning 22 seats to become the fourth largest party, on a par with the center-left Social Democrats. The rise of the AfD, which has representatives in all of Germany's 16 regional assemblies, has alarmed Jewish leaders who accuse it of contributing to a rise in anti-Semitism. The AfD also entered the lower house of the federal parliament in Berlin, the Bundestag, for the first time in a national election last year, drawing support from a broad array of voters angry with Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision in 2015 to welcome almost a million, mainly Muslim asylum seekers. Last week, the country's domestic intelligence agency said it was putting the Alternative for Germany under increased observation amid concerns it was flirting with extremism. The domestic intelligence service BfV said it would be examining public comments by AfD members and its links to extremist groups, but stopped short of putting the party as a whole under covert surveillance.

BfV's chief added that the party's youth section and a party faction linked to a prominent leader in eastern Germany, Bjoern Hoecke, would be scrutinized even more closely because there was sufficient evidence to indicate they could be classified as "extremist organizations." AfD has said it is exploring legal action against the BfV.

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