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German AfD: Revival of far-right a 'threat to Jewish life'

August 5, 2023

Germany's antisemitism commissioner has spoken out about the surge in support for the Alternative for Germany. The far-right party is meeting in Magdeburg to finalize its list of candidates for the 2024 EU elections.

A wide shot of the audience with a giant AfD logo on the stage at the party conference in Magdeburg, Germany on July 28, 2023
The far-right AfD has been holding its conference in the eastern city of MagdeburgImage: dts Nachrichtenagentur/IMAGO

The German government's antisemitism commissioner, Felix Klein, has expressed concern about the resurgence of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) as polls suggest the party currently has the backing of a fifth of voters.

The AfD is holding a conference in the eastern German city of Magdeburg this weekend to finalize the list of its candidates and manifesto for the 2024 European elections in Magdeburg.

What did antisemitism commissioner Felix Klein say?

"I'm worried that a party like that would achieve such approval," Klein told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper in remarks released on Saturday.

The latest Deutschlandtrend poll for public broadcaster ARD, published Thursday, suggested if elections were held now, 21% of German voters would back the AfD. That compares to 10.3% two years ago.

Founded in 2013, the AfD grew quickly to become the third-largest party in the Bundestag, the lower house of German parliament, in the 2017 federal elections, but by the 2021 election the far-right party had dropped to fifth place.

Germany's antisemitism commissioner Felix Klein holds up the "National Strategy Against Antisemitism" report
Felix Klein was appointed as Germany's antisemitism commissioner in 2018Image: Wolfgang Kumm/dpa/picture alliance

Since then, issues like the cost of living crisis, large-scale immigration and the costly energy transition have turned voters against the three-party coalition led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Despite voter dissatisfaction, a YouGov poll published on Friday showed the majority of Germany remains opposed to AfD, with 58% saying they are against the party taking part in any coalition government.

Klein accused the AfD of condoning antisemitism and backing forces that have sought to downplay the Holocaust — the Nazi genocide of 6 million Jews or two-thirds of Europe's Jewish population — during World War II.

He accused the party of wanting to ban the kosher slaughter of meat.

"If the AfD wants to curtail Jewish dietary laws, that is a threat to Jewish life," Klein told the newspaper.

Klein, who was appointed as the government's antisemitism commissioner in 2018, then turned to next year's election in the eastern state of Thuringia, where the AfD has the support of more than a third of voters, according to a recent poll.

He called for candidates to be scrutinized for their position on democracy before they can take party in the vote, adding that while the AfD is a legal party "there are indications that anti-democratic forces are at work."

Dealing with the German far-right AfD on a local level

Spy agency warns of 'extremist factions' within AfD

The chief of Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), warned this week that the AfD is treading a more radical path, noting how the far-right party has been taken over by extremist factions.

BfV head Thomas Haldenwang told DPA news agency that various AfD candidates have voiced right-wing extremist conspiracy theories.

The AfD promptly brought court proceedings against Haldenwang and demanded an emergency injunction, prompting the spy agency to temporarily refrain from further criticism of the party as the case proceeds.

New EU law will help tackle antisemitism

Klein also spoke in support of the European Union's Digital Services Act, which takes effect this month. He said it would be a "decisive turning point in the fight against antisemitism."

He said the new law requires internet platforms like Facebook and X, formerly known as Twitter, to not only delete unlawful content but provide information about those publishing such information to the police.

"This will make investigations much easier," Klein said.

AfD readies for European Parliament elections

Last weekend, the AfD voted to join a far-right bloc in the European Parliament, which will boost EU funding for the party as well as networking opportunities with other conservative parties.

This weekend, the party's conference continues in the eastern city of Magdeburg, where some 530 delegates will select candidates for next year's European Parliament elections.

Protesters rise up against far-right AfD party

The selection process has already generated controversy in Germany as several members have made anti-EU remarks. 

A draft AfD electoral program published in June called for the "orderly dissolution of the EU."

Some AfD officials have called for Germany to leave the EU, in what is called "Dexit," combining the words  Deutschland and exit.

mm/sms (AFP, dpa, EPD)

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