German Jewish Leader Calls Far-right AfD's Berlin Victory a 'Nazi Renaissance'

Holocaust survivor says the far-right party 'is unable to distance itself credibly from neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers' after it gained seats for the first time in Berlin's parliament.

People hold flags in Erfurt, central Germany, Wednesday, March 16, 2016, during a demonstration initiated by the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party against the immigration situation.
Jens Meyer, AP

A German Jewish leader called on Sunday the victory of the country's far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in Berlin a "Nazi renaissance" after AfD gained seats for the first time in that state’s parliament.

The anti-immigrant, Euro-sceptic party that has been plagued by controversies over anti-Semitism in its ranks now has seats on legislatures in 10 states, after several state elections this year. The party was founded in 2013.

Winning Sunday’s election in Berlin overall was the Social Democratic Party, which retained power over the party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Christian Democratic Union, by a vote of  21.6 percent  to 17.5 percent.

AfD's party chairman and top candidate celebrate after the first exit polls were published in Berlin, Germany, September 18, 2016.
Michael Kappeler, AP

The elections are seen as a litmus test for Merkel’s controversial refugee policy, with more than 1 million asylum seekers having entered the country from war-torn countries in the Middle East and Africa.

AfD party leaders were jubilant at the prospect of occupying 25 seats out of 160 in the state parliament of Germany’s capital.

German Jewish leaders are already expressing concern. The head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, told German news media Sunday that the results were worrying.

Former council president Charlotte Knobloch, who heads the Jewish Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria, issued a statement Sunday urging Germany’s “Democratic parties to make good use of the time between now and the next elections in 2017 to stop the Nazi renaissance.”

Also in Sunday’s election in the capital, the Left Party came in third with 15.7 percent of the vote, followed by the Green Party with 15.1 percent, and the AfD with 14.1 percent. The Free Democratic Party will return to the legislature with 6 percent. According to early reports, no other parties broke the 5 percent barrier necessary to gain seats on the parliament.

Three additional states will hold elections in the first half of 2017, followed by national parliamentary elections in September.

Knobloch, who survived the Holocaust in hiding as a child in Bavaria, called AfD “a party that incites against minorities in a disgusting manner, that wants to make National Socialist terminology and approaches acceptable again, that is unable to distance itself credibly from neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers,” and said its gains in state parliaments are a “true nightmare.”

She warned that if the established parties don’t manage to gain support by the national elections next year: “I fear for the good and peaceful future of our country.”