Social Democrats (SPD) said the move by the far-right party "smeared" the memory of former Chancellor Willy Brandt. The SPD leader sought atonement for Nazi Germany's crimes and a reduction in Cold War tensions.
Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) criticized the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) on Wednesday for displaying former SPD Chancellor Willy Brandt on its electoral campaign posters.
German daily Der Tagesspiegel first reported on the posters in the eastern state of Brandenburg, which is scheduled to hold elections on September 1.
The posters show Brandt captioned with his quote: "Dare to be more democratic!" Underneath the caption is the AfD's logo alongside "Vote for the AfD!" and "We're writing history!"
Brandt was chancellor from 1969 to 1974. Many Germans remember him for kneeling in Warsaw in 1970 to commemorate the victims of the Warsaw Uprising during World War II.
He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971 in part for seeking closer ties with East Germany and other Communist countries during a tense period of the Cold War.
Read more: The SPD: Germany's oldest political party
'Opposite' of what Brandt stood for
Acting SPD co-leader Manuela Schwesig said the AfD was "smearing" Brandt's legacy by using him for their campaign.
On Twitter, SPD General Secretary Lars Klingbeil wrote that Brandt championed "peace, freedom and unity" in contrast to the AfD's support for "division" and "rabble rousing."
Brandt fled Nazi Germany after his citizenship was revoked and spent most of World War II as a refugee in Sweden.
SPD deputy leader Ralf Stegner cited Brandt's lifelong battle against right-wing groups and said he fought for a "noble" Germany.
"The AfD represents the opposite," he said.
Polls show the AfD and German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives (CDU/CSU) running neck-and-neck in Brandenburg. The party is also polling strongly in Saxony and Thuringia, which are also scheduled to hold state elections later this year.