Holocaust Survivor Receives Threats After Criticizing Germany's Far-right AfD Party

Threats come days after Jewish community leader accused the AfD of 'downplaying the crimes' perpetrated by the Nazis, leading to a walkout by 22 members in the Bavarian parliament

Charlotte Knobloch, Holocaust survivor and former head of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, speaks at the Bavarian Parliament in Munich, Germany, January 23.
Peter Kneffel,AP

A German Jewish leader has been receiving verbal threats since she criticized Germany’s strongest right-populist party in a Holocaust Remembrance Day address.

“Since then, almost every minute, I have received wild insults, threats and insults by email and telephone,” Charlotte Knobloch, 86, head of the Jewish community in Munich and upper Bavaria, told the Augsburger Allgemeine on Thursday.

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In her address to the Bavarian parliament on Wednesday, Knobloch, who survived the Holocaust in hiding with a Christian family, accused the Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, of “disparag[ing] [democratic] values, downplaying the crimes of the National Socialists and keeping close ties with the far-right extremist scene.”

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Eighteen of the AfD’s 22 members in the Bavarian parliament walked out of the room, while legislators from mainstream parties stood to applaud Knobloch, who has long been openly critical of the party.

Afterward, Bavaria’s state premier, Markus Soder, called the AfD action “disrespectful.” In response, AfD Bavaria’s co-leader, Katrin Ebner-Steiner, in a Facebook post charged Knobloch with “abusing a memorial service for the victims of Nazism” in order to criticize AfD.

Ebner-Steiner’s spokesperson said that the party leader also has been receiving threatening emails since the controversy erupted and police are investigating.

Meanwhile, an Insa opinion poll by the Bild newspaper released over the weekend showed that the AfD had dropped to 13 percent from 14.5 percent in popular support and is in fourth place after the Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Socialists, followed by the Green Party and the Social Democratic Party.

Germany’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution recently designated the AfD a “review case” for political extremism; the government will increase its surveillance of the party.