Far-right German Leader After Election Surge: Jews Have Nothing to Fear

Co-leader of AfD responds after party blasted for 'anti-Semitic statements and playing down evil of Nazi regime'

Alexander Gauland, top candidate of the anti-immigration party Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD) speaks during a news conference in Berlin, Germany, September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay
Julian Stratenschulte/AP

A top official with the far-right Alternative for Germany says Jews have nothing to fear from his party's third-place election finish that took it into parliament.

The comments Monday from co-leader Alexander Gauland came after several major Jewish groups expressed dismay and concern Sunday about the strong showing of Alternative for Germany, or AfD.

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The Anti-Defamation League also called the AfD result a "disturbing milestone," saying "its leaders have made anti-Semitic statements and played down the evil of the Nazi regime."

Gauland told reporters, however, "there is nothing in our party, in our program, that could disturb the Jewish people who live here in Germany."

He added that he hadn't met with Jewish leaders, but was "ready at any time" to do so.

International and domestic Jewish groups on Sunday expressed alarm at the far-right AfD's success in Germany's parliamentary election, with the European Jewish Congress urging other parties not to form an alliance with the AfD.

"We trust that centrist parties in the Bundestag will ensure that the AfD has no representation in the coming governing coalition," the EJC said.

"Some of the positions it has espoused during the election campaign display alarming levels of intolerance not seen in Germany for many decades and which are, of course, of great concerns to German and European Jews."

The surge in support for the AfD is the biggest challenge the country has faced in its post-war history, the Central Council of Jews in Germany said. "For the first time, a right-wing populist party with strong overlap with the right-wing extremist scene ... has been voted into the Bundestag," the group said.

"We expect our democratic forces to expose the true face of the AfD and lay bare its empty, populist promises," it added.

A statement from the New York-based World Jewish Congress quoted its president, Ron Lauder, as saying, "It is abhorrent that the AfD party, a disgraceful reactionary movement which recalls the worst of Germany’s past and should be outlawed, now has the ability within the German parliament to promote its vile platform."

Lauder lauded Merkel's record of support for Jews, calling her "a true friend of Israel and the Jewish people."