BERLIN – A founder of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, which is likely to make it into parliament after the September 24 election, said his country should be proud of its soldiers who served in both world wars.
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Alexander Gauland was speaking at a party meeting on September 2, but the video of the speech was only published Thursday on BuzzFeed’s German site. The address is now available on YouTube as well.
“People no longer need to reproach us about these 12 years. They don’t relate to our identity nowadays,” Gauland said about the years of Nazi rule from 1933 to 1945. “If the French are rightly proud of their emperor and the Britons of Nelson and Churchill, we have the right to be proud of the achievements of the German soldiers in two world wars.”
Gauland said no other European country has dealt with its past mistakes like Germany, but he did not criticize German soldiers of World War II who took part in crimes against humanity, including the Holocaust. “We have the right to reclaim not just our country, but also our past,” he said.
Gauland’s remarks were quickly condemned by German politicians and once again stirred debate about neo-Nazis’ influence in his party. In its campaign for the general election, Alternative for Germany is sticking with its anti-immigration message. Polls show the party entering the Bundestag for the first time; it has representatives in the European Parliament and in 13 of the country’s 16 state parliaments.
In January, Björn Höcke, the head of the party in the eastern state of Thuringia, described the Holocaust memorial in the center of Berlin as a “monument of shame.”
This week, federal prosecutors are reportedly considering whether to indict Gauland for other statements he has made. At an election rally last month, Gauland derided Aydan Ozoguz, the minister for immigration, refugees and integration, whose parents were born in Turkey. Gauland said she should be “disposed of” in Anatolia, the region that covers more than half of modern Turkey.
Last year Gauland insulted a member of the German national soccer team, Jérme Boateng – whose father is from Ghana – saying the Germans appreciate him as an athlete but “would not want to live next door to someone like him.”
This year Gauland called on Germany to follow U.S. President Donald Trump and ban the entry of Muslims to Germany. Gauland has also said that “not everyone who holds a German passport is a German.”