A senior member of the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) triggered outrage on social media on Wednesday after condemning Germany’s “culture of remembering Nazi crimes,” news website The Local reported, and saying that the country should rewrite its history books to focus more on its own victims.
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The AfD's anti-immigrant rhetoric has won support among Germans worried about the registration of some 1.1 million asylum seekers in the country in 2015. But the right-wing party has set its sights on more than the rejection of refugees, with Jews getting caught in the cross-fire.
"This laughable policy of coming to terms with the past is crippling us. We need a 180 degree turnaround in our policy of memory," Bjoern Hoecke, the party's leader in the eastern state of Thuringia, said in his speech to the group “Young Alternative Dresden.” The eastern city of Dresden is the cradle of the anti-Muslim PEGIDA movement.
Re-education imposed on Germany after 1945 largely pulled up Germans' roots, Hoecke said. "There were no German victims any more, only German perpetrators," Hoecke claimed.
“Instead of bringing up the new generation with the great philanthropists, the world famous, groundbreaking philosophers, of which we have many maybe more than any other people in the world and instead of exposing our students in schools to this history, the history - German history - is made into something rotten and ridiculous,” The Local quoted the politician as saying.
Comparing the bombing of Dresden by the Allies to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Hoecke further stated that both the bombing of German cities and de-Nazification had “cleared out our roots.”
Citing Germany’s “stupid coping policy,” Hoecke went on to criticize the way the country memorializes the war, saying "Germans are the only people in the world who plant a monument of shame in the capital," referring to the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin.
The comments, which prompted a wave of anger on social media, highlight the radical views held by some members of the AfD. With polls putting it on 12-15 percent, the party is tipped to win seats in the federal parliament in September's election.
Social Democrat (SPD) and Greens lawmakers condemned Hoecke's speech as shocking and demanded that AfD leaders clearly distance itself from this and apologize to Jewish groups.
"No influence for the neo-Nazi mob," tweeted one of the SPD's deputy leaders, Ralf Stegner.
Dieter Graumann, a former president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany told Bild newspaper Hoecke's speech was "outrageous" and it was a scandal for such a poisonous mentality to come from a politician in a party set to win seats in parliament.
Diether Dehmn, of the radical Left party, said he was reporting Hoecke to the police for incitement and that Hoecke was emboldened by a Constitutional Court ruling on Tuesday which rejected a ban on the far-right National Democratic Party.
AP contributed to this report.