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AfD's multiple scandals

Germany
24.09.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
AfD starts Bundestag career with multiple scandals under its belt
The party set to become one of the largest opposition groups in the German legislature - perhaps even the official opposition to the governing coalition - has one of the more colourful histories of any party to ever make it into the Bundestag.
GALLERY
Berlin (dpa) - The Alternative for Germany (AfD) sprang to life as a eurosceptic party focused more on economic questions. Debate about whether Germany should be bailing out Greece propelled it to within a few percentage points of entering the Bundestag in 2013.

After that, interest in the party waned until Chancellor Angela Merkel opened Germany‘s doors to a wave of refugees in 2015. That move sparked rage among the German right and helped turn the AfD into a party marked by its anti-immigrant bent.

But, cobbled together as the party is - with many of its members new to politics - the AfD has made headlines not so much for its policy proposals, but rather for a string of gaffes and shocking statements.

NAZI SYMPATHY

Leading AfD member Bjoern Hoecke caused a stir in January when he gave a speech attacking the legitimacy of Berlin‘s Holocaust memorial.

Even for many AfD members, his comments - referring to the memorial as a "monument of shame" and calling on the country to stop atoning for its Nazi past - were seen as a step too far, and the party tried to remove him. However, that effort has so far failed.

Using language harking back to Nazi Germany, the firebrand politician had told the party‘s youth wing that the country‘s ubiquitous culture of remembrance left Germans feeling like "a brutally conquered people."

WHAT IS GERMAN CULTURE?

Alexander Gauland, the AfD‘s 76-year-old leader, is facing possible charges of racial incitement after he called for a Turkish-German politician to be "disposed of" in Anatolia.

Germany‘s political establishment railed at Gauland‘s comments about Aydan Ozoguz, a German-born government commissioner for migration, who had said in an interview that there was no evidence of a specifically German culture beyond the common language.

"That‘s a statement by a German-Turk. Let‘s invite her to Eichsfeld and tell her what‘s specific to German culture. After that, she‘ll never come here again, and we‘ll be able to, thank God, dispose of her in Anatolia," Gauland responded. 

Even Merkel, who usually remains mum on the AfD‘s day-to-day controversies, condemned Gauland‘s comment as "racist."

Gauland says that he stands by his remarks.

LEAKED EMAIL

Gauland‘s co-running mate, Alice Weidel, has also come under fire for allegations that she is the author of a racist email.

In the email dated February 24, 2013, Weidel reportedly alleged that Merkel‘s government was attempting to "destroy Germany‘s bourgeois society by flooding [the country] with Arabs, Sinti and Roma" and that Germany needed to retain its "genetic unity."

"These pigs [in the government] are nothing more than marionettes of the victors of World War II," she allegedly wrote in the email.

Gauland and others said the coverage was a concerted effort by the media and government to discredit Weidel ahead of the election.

However, Die Welt newspaper has stuck by its source, stating that the recipient of the email - a former acquaintance of Weidel‘s - had provided a statement under oath as to the email‘s authenticity.

At the same time, Weidel was slammed with reports that she had employed a Syrian refugee illegally as household help. Weidel denies the charges, and Weidel‘s lawyer said that she had "friendly contact" with a Syrian woman, who had also been a guest in her house.

"DEUTSCHLAND DEN DEUTSCHEN"

Several AfD members found themselves in hot water in June after instant message transcripts filled with nationalistic messages and a plan to clamp down on the media came to light.

At one point in the chat, Andre Poggenburg, a state AfD party leader, used the phrase "Deutschland den Deutschen" (Germany for the Germans), an expression generally associated with the extreme-right National Democratic Party.

At another point, an AfD member, who is also reportedly a federal police officer, talked about the need for strict controls on the media should the AfD ever take power.

"We have to undercut the media, otherwise it will be hard. Along with taking power, we have to set up a committee to review all journalists and editors, and sift through them. Bosses have to be fired. Media that is against the people has to be forbidden."

Poggenburg has stood by his "Deutschland den Deutschen" comment, saying there was nothing problematic about it.

"Obviously a country should ‘belong‘ to those people who have lived there a long time, who have spent decades or even generations putting down roots there and become members of society."

 

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