Holocaust memorial director welcomes move to exclude AfD from Bergen-Belsen board | News | DW | 12.02.2018
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Holocaust memorial director welcomes move to exclude AfD from Bergen-Belsen board

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) is set to be excluded from a foundation that oversees the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp memorial. The foundation's director told DW the move was "the lesser of two evils."

The director of the foundation that oversees the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp memorial has greeted a proposal that would bar members of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party from serving on its board of trustees.

"The AfD is a revisionist party that does not conform to our purpose of honoring the victims," Jens-Christian Wagner, the head of the Lower Saxony Memorials Foundation that oversees the camp site, told DW.

Nazi Germany was responsible for the systematic extermination of an estimated six million Jews. Some 50,000 people lost their lives in the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen; among them was the acclaimed diarist Anne Frank.

A number of AfD politicians have been accused of Holocaust denial — a criminal offense in Germany.

Read more: Controversy over far-right AfD member joining former concentration camp board

Keeping them out

Any party represented in Lower Saxony's state parliament currently has an autonomic right to send an appointee to the foundation's board. After the AfD won seats in October following regional elections, Wagner proposed changing the law.

Holocaust survivors also expressed their alarm at the prospect of politicians affiliated with Holocaust deniers having any involvement in the Bergen-Belsen memorial.

State lawmakers from the four other parties — the Christian Democrats (CDU), Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) — responded with a bill that would reduce the number of board seats reserved for state politicians to four. It would also require a parliamentary vote for each appointment.

The bill is expected to become law in the coming weeks.

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

'Lesser of two evils'

Wagner said he would have preferred reducing the total number of political appointees to one or two. Only allowing four parties out of five represented in the parliament to send appointees, he said, could bolster the AfD's own narrative of being the "victim."

Since winning seats at the state level and entering Germany's lower house of parliament last fall, the AfD has accused the media of one-sided coverage and criticized mainstream parties for refusing to work with its representatives. Nevertheless, Wagner thinks excluding the AfD is a wise decision.

"It's a question of what is the lesser evil: Either give the AfD the opportunity to present itself as the victim or have a party on the board that publically argues against the foundation's mission," he said.

"I would rather do without the AfD."

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