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

Now live
00:37 mins.
13.02.2017

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."

How radical is Europe's right?

Frauke Petry, Alternative for Germany (AfD)

The leader of the Alternative for Germany, Frauke Petry, said police could use guns as a last resort to prevent illegal border crossings, pointing out "that's the law." What began as a euroskeptic party has turned into an anti-establishment and anti-EU force, claiming up to 25 percent of votes in German state elections in March 2016 and taking second place in Chancellor Angela Merkel's home state.

How radical is Europe's right?

Marine Le Pen, National Front (France)

Many believe Brexit and Donald Trump's victory in the US presidential elections could give new impetus to France's National Front. Established in 1972 and now led by Marine Le Pen, who took over from her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in 2011, the National Front is a nationalist party that uses populist rhetoric to promote its anti-immigration and anti-EU positions.

How radical is Europe's right?

Geert Wilders, Party for Freedom (The Netherlands)

The leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom, Geert Wilders, is one of Europe's most prominent right-wing politicians. He was convicted in December for asking a crowd in 2014 if they wanted more or fewer Moroccans in the country, but no penalty was imposed. His party is considered anti-EU and anti-Islam. It is leading polls ahead of next year's parliamentary elections and currently holds 15 seats.

How radical is Europe's right?

Nikos Michaloliakos, Golden Dawn (Greece)

Nikos Michaloliakos is the head of Greece's neo-fascist party Golden Dawn. He was arrested in September 2013 along with dozens of other party members and charged with forming a criminal organization. Michaloliakos was released in July 2015. Golden Dawn won 18 seats in parliamentary elections in September 2016. The party holds anti-immigrant views and favors a defense agreement with Russia.

How radical is Europe's right?

Gabor Vona, Jobbik (Hungary)

Hungary's anti-immigration, populist and economic protectionist party Jobbik aspires to be in the government by 2018. Now Hungary's third-largest party, it won 20 percent of votes in the last elections held in 2014. It wants a referendum on EU membership. Jobbik also advocates criminalizing "sexual deviancy," submitting a bill targeting homosexuals in 2012. Jobbik is headed by Gabor Vona.

How radical is Europe's right?

Jimmie Akesson, Sweden Democrats

After Trump's election, Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson said in an interview with Swedish TV: "There is a movement in both Europe and the United States where the establishment is being challenged. It is clearly happening here as well." The Sweden Democrats call for restricting immigration, are against allowing Turkey to join the EU and want a referendum on EU membership.

How radical is Europe's right?

Norbert Hofer, Freedom Party (Austria)

Norbert Hofer of Austria's nationalist Freedom Party lost the recent presidential runoff by a mere 30,000 votes, after being front-runner in the first round. Former Green party leader Alexander Van der Bellen won 50.3 percent of the vote, with Hofer gaining 49.7 percent. The Freedom Party's leader campaigns for the strengthening of the country's borders and limiting benefits for immigrants.

How radical is Europe's right?

Marian Kotleba, People's Party - Our Slovakia

The leader of the hard-right People's Party - Our Slovakia, Marian Kotleba, has said, "Even one immigrant is one too many." On another occasion, he called NATO a "criminal organization." This Slovak party favors leaving the EU as well as the eurozone. It won 8 percent of the vote in March 2016 elections, securing 14 seats in the country's 150-member parliament.

es/tj (AFP, dpa)