Germany's right-wing AfD seeks to expel state leader over Holocaust remarks

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Germany's AfD may expel member for Holocaust remarks

The leaders of Germany's nationalist AfD have asked that Thuringia state party leader Björn Höcke be removed from his position. Höcke caused a stir for his harsh criticism of Germany's culture of Holocaust remembrance.

After weeks of waffling over controversial remarks that Thuringia state party leader Björn Höcke made about Holocaust remembrance, the national leadership of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) reportedly decided on Monday to expel him from the party.

Höcke's inflammatory rhetoric has made him no stranger to national headlines, but statements he made in January regarding Germany's long-enshrined dedication to memorializing the victims of Nazism were what finally landed him in hot water with his party superiors.

Speaking to a group of young AfD supporters in Dresden, Höcke called the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin a "monument of shame." He then added: "These stupid politics of coming to grips with the past cripple us - we need nothing other than a 180-degree reversal on the politics of remembrance."

Höcke later backpedaled slightly, clarifying that he had meant to suggest that Germany was too bogged down by its own shame. Local and national AfD leaders distanced themselves from him, with party chief Frauke Petry calling him a "burden for the party" for his "unauthorized solo actions," but it seemed that he was being allowed to stay.

Responding to the call for his ouster, Höcke said: "It is with deep worry about the unity of the party that I learned of the decision of the federal governing board." Speaking from Thuringia's capital, Erfurt, he added that he awaited the decision of the state arbitration panel "calmly."

Leadership wants Höcke out

Following a telephone conference between leaders Monday morning, the AfD decided to remove Höcke from the party's ranks permanently. A spokesman said that the party had conducted a "legal appraisal and political assessment" of Höcke's speech and decided he should not be allowed to represent the party any longer.

Now it is up to an arbitration committee of the AfD in Thuringia to rule on the leaders' request.

Founded as a euroskeptic protest party in 2013, the AfD has become increasingly successful in the past year as its program has shifted to more nationalistic and anti-migrant themes. Last year, for example, the party officially adopted a passage into its manifesto that declares "Islam does not belong in Germany."

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es/tj (AFP, dpa)