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AfD figure under fire for Hitler comments

August 2, 2018

An AfD state youth leader called the German officer who attempted to assassinate Hitler a "coward" and "traitor." The Facebook post has landed him in hot water within the right-wing populist party.

Lars Steinke, AFD walks down the street carrying party reading material
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/S.Pförtner

The right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) on Thursday tried to distance itself from comments made by a regional party youth leader who labeled a German officer who tried to kill Adolf Hitler a "traitor."

Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg attempted one of the best-known assassination attempts on Hitler on July 20, 1944 in a bid to take over the government and end the war. The bombing narrowly failed and Stauffenberg and other members of the plot were executed.

Read more: AfD: What you need to know about Germany's far-right party

The daily Welt reported that the head of the AfD's youth wing in Lower Saxony wrote on his private Facebook page that Stauffenberg was a "traitor."

He also wrote that the plot to assassinate Hitler was "the shameful attempt of a coward" to "save his own hide from the coming victors," a reference to the Allies bearing down on Germany from all sides at that point in the war.

According to Welt, Steinke wrote that "the war was – contrary to today's propaganda – not a war primarily against Hitler, but against Germany and the German people," and that Stauffenberg was "no hero."

Read more: Hitler 1944 assassination plot: descendants urge Europe to stand united in face populism

Steinke's comments were private and not publically visible, but Welt said it had a screenshot of the statement. The regional politician confirmed the comments to the German daily.

AfD leaders call for Steinke's removal

AfD leaders were quick to condemn the comments and call for the removal of Steinke from the party.

It's not the first time comments about Germany's Nazi past or immigrants that have opened the populist party up to criticism.

Alexander Gauland – the co-leader of the AfD landed in hot water who himself earlier this year described the Nazi regime as "just bird shit in more than 1,000 years of successful German history" called for Steinke to be ejected from the party.

Read more: Nazi 'bird shit' and the limits of free speech in Germany

"Such statements are baseless nonsense. Stauffenberg is a hero of German history. Steinke has disqualified himself from the AfD, he should be excluded," Gauland said through AfD spokesman Christian Lüth on Twitter.

Jörg Meuthen, another AfD leader, called Steinke's comments "completely unacceptable" and "show an absurd understanding of history and have absolutely no place" in the party.

The AfD in Lower Saxony described the youth leader's post as "absurd" and not reflective of the views of the party.

The leaders of the AfD are set to take up the matter next week.

The AfD won around 13 percent of the vote to become the third largest party in the German parliament last year. The party is now polling at 17 percent.

cw/kms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)