Germany’s largest far-right party has rebranded itself so successfully that it’s attracting large shares of the national population, including some Jews, despite party members’ record of making anti-Semitic remarks and trivializing the Holocaust.
A small number of German Jews gathered Sunday to launch their own group within the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, calling themselves the “Jews in the AfD.”
The populist AfD has been surging in voter polls and, in one recent survey, ranked as the second-most popular political party in the country behind Chancellor Angela Merkel’s. It’s become so hard to ignore the AfD that a senior member of Merkel’s party in the state of Saxony recently signaled willingness to form a coalition with it. But many consider the party’s inroads with Jewish Germans to be the most striking sign of the AfD’s success—striking, too, because it mirrors the rebranding efforts of far-right parties in several other European countries.
In the city of Wiesbaden near Frankfurt, 19 people met to join the new group, according to media reports. They showed their support for a party that is often accused of anti-Semitism, but which the AfD said will actually protect them from the anti-Semitism they fear is flowing into the country along with Muslim immigrants. (Between 2010 and 2016, the number of Muslims living in Germany rose from about 3 million, or 4 percent of the population, to nearly 5 million, according to data from Pew Research Center.) Meanwhile, about 250 people, many of them Jewish, protested in Frankfurt against the formation of the new group. “You won’t get a kosher stamp from us,” said Dalia Grinfeld, a Jewish student union leader at the protest, according to The Guardian.
Although the AfD has repeatedly claimed it has nothing against Jews, its members have a record of making anti-Semitic comments or declining to condemn those who do, and associating with anti-Semites. Last year, the party’s Björn Höcke called Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial a “memorial of disgrace” and said Germans should stop feeling so guilty over Nazi atrocities. Alexander Gauland, one of AfD’s co-leaders, recently said that “Hitler and the Nazis are just a speck of bird shit in over 1,000 years of successful German history,” a remark that the German president condemned as an attempt to “deliberately reopen old wounds, and foment hatred.” In August, prominent AfD members were caught on camera marching beside neo-Nazis at …read more
Source:: The Atlantic – Global