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Jewish council warns against AfD's 'right-wing extremism'

August 18, 2019

The president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany has sharply criticized the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, saying that it "incites fears and promotes a climate of exclusion of minorities."

A man wearing a yarmulke
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/F. Gambarini

The president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, has accused the far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party of having right-wing extremist tendencies. "In my view, the AfD is much more closely interwoven with right-wing extremism than it appears," Schuster told Germany's Welt am Sonntag newspaper. "The party incites fears and promotes a climate of exclusion of minorities," he said.

The AfD links attacks carried out by Islamist-motivated perpetrators with populist propaganda "in order to stir up hatred against minorities in general," Schuster said, pointing out that this "ultimately also creates a climate against Jews."

Read more: Extreme-right defectors deal a blow to Germany's far-right AfD

Josef Schuster
Josef Schuster: Right-wing extremism is the "greatest danger" to Jews in GermanyImage: Imago Images/localpic

Increase in anti-Semitic hate crime

Schuster sees right-wing extremism as posing the "greatest danger" to Germany and Jews living in the country.

The number of anti-Semitic attacks in Germany increased by over 10% from 2017 to 2018, which has prompted many Jews living in the country to consider emigrating. According to official figures, the number of anti-Semitic crimes committed increased from 1,504 in 2017 to 1,646 in 2018. The number of cases considered violent increased from 37 to 62 over the same period.

Germany's anti-Semitism commissioner made headlines in May when he warned Jews not to wear yarmulkes — traditional Jewish skullcaps — in public spaces. Germans showed solidarity with the Jewish community in 2018 by wearing yarmulkes on a march against anti-Semitism.

Read more: 'Zero tolerance' for anti-Semitism in Germany, says Merkel

Anti-Semitism in Germany

No to coalition with AfD?

Regional elections are scheduled to take place in the eastern German states of Saxony and Brandenburg on September 1. The AfD, which is Germany's main opposition party, is expected to perform well in the state election in Saxony. The party is polling at 25% in Saxony, behind the CDU at 28%, and ahead of the Left party at 16% and the Greens at 12%.

Schuster warned the remaining political parties against forming a coalition with the AfD, as in his view sustaining such an alliance would eventually require a rightward tilt in their policies and rhetoric.

Read more: Germany: Conflict in AfD pulling party to the right

Infographic comparing perceptions of anti-Semitism in Germany with such perceptions in the EU in general

Integration into common 'system of values' key

The head of the Jewish council also spoke out in favor of tougher measures against Islamists.

Schuster said it's not just about fighting anti-Semitism, but also about integrating into society. All people who come to Germany and live here, he said, should adhere to the nation's values, including recognition of the equal rights of men and women, opposing all forms of anti-Semitism and racism, recognizing the rule of law and accepting the diversity of sexual orientations.

"To convey this system of values is the ultimate purpose of all integration measures," he stressed.

Schuster also spoke out in favor of offering guided tours in Arabic of concentration camp memorial sites. The memorial site in Flossenbürg, Bavaria, is already considering the proposal, Schuster said. "This should be extended to all the concentration camp memorial sites."

Compulsory trips for school children to memorials dedicated to the victims of Nazi atrocities are important, he underlined.

Conflict Zone: Beatrix von Storch

sri/kl (dpa, AFP, epd, kna)

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