Germany’s Far-Right Party AfD Compares Itself With Nazi Victims At State Opening Of Parliament


German Parliament (by Jorge Royan via Wikimedia Commons)

At the first sitting of Germany‘s newly-elected parliament on October 24 the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) immediately made its presence felt by drawing a comparison between itself and the victims of the Nazi regime.

The 19th session of the German lower house of parliament (Bundestag) is the first in which a far-right party has a major presence. With 92 seats, the AfD is the third-largest party after the Christian-Democrats and the Social-Democrats.

At the beginning of the sitting, the AfD filed a motion requesting to change a parliamentary rule that prevented one of its lawmakers from giving the opening speech. Traditionally the oldest lawmaker holds the opening speech at every state opening of parliament. However, on June 1st the Bundestag had voted to change the rule to give the honour of the first speech not to the oldest lawmaker, but to the one who has served longest in parliament.

The AfD’s motion was unanimously rejected by all other parties and Hermann Otto Solms of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) proceeded to hold the first speech at the sitting.

Bernd Baumann, the AfD’s group leader in the lower house, criticized the new rule, alleging that it is aimed at ostracizing his party.

“When it became apparent that the AfD would be represented in parliament, the old Bundestag decided that not the oldest lawmaker, but the one who has served the longest should open the first sitting. With this trick you wanted to exclude the AfD,” Baumann was quoted by the German magazine Der Spiegel as saying.

Baumann remarked that since 1848, when the first elected parliament of Germany convened in Frankfurt’s St Paul’s Church (Paulskirche), it has been tradition in Germany that the oldest lawmaker open a new session. “There was only one exception,” he said. “In 1933  Hermann Göring broke the rule because he wanted to exclude political enemies, at that time Clara Zetkin.”

Clara Zetkin, a member of the Communist Party, was prevented from giving the first speech at the opening of parliament in March 1933 after Göring abolished the age rule. However, Bauman’s statement is not entirely accurate because Chancellor Konrad Adenauer had already occasionally abolished the rule in the post-war era.

If the age rule had not been changed, the first speech at the opening of parliament would have been given by the 77-year-old AfD lawmaker Wilhelm von Gottberg, a former vice president of the Federation of the Expellees (Bund der Vertriebenen, BdV). The BdV is an organization founded in West Germany in 1957 to defend the interests of ethnic Germans expelled from Central and Eastern Europe during and after Word War II.

Gottberg is a revisionist who has been accused of antisemitism. For instance, in a 2001 article he wrote that “in more and more countries the Jewish ‘truth’ about the Holocaust is protected by the law.”

The AfD was founded in April 2013 as an anti-euro party during the Greek debt crisis. The party vowed to promote Germany’s exit from the euro-zone and to end Berlin’s payments to Greece and other European countries.

Later, when the migrant crisis became one of the most controversial topics in Germany and Europe, the AfD shifted to the far-right, giving a voice to conservative and anti-immigration voters.

The AfD’s political programme for the 2017 elections stated that “Islam doesn’t belong to Germany”, that migrants should be deprived of German citizenship if they join terrorist organizations or criminal gangs, that the number of asylum seekers going to Germany should be reduced and a fixed quota should be deported, threatening countries that refused to accept their citizens with the termination of German financial aid.

The AfD vowed to end the “trend towards the self-destruction” of the German people and promote the traditional family “with a father, a mother and children” in order to guarantee the “preservation of our own people (Staatsvolk)”.

The AfD also pledged to promote “German cultural leadership instead of multiculturalism” (Deutsche Leitkultur statt ‘Multikulturalismus’).

In June 2016 AfD co-founder Alexander Gauland said that the “German football team is no longer German in the traditional sense,” a reference to the fact that sons of migrants are now members of the national team. He added that “football has nothing to do with national identity anymore.”

In an earlier interview Gauland had said that people “don’t want to have someone like Boateng as a neighbour.” Jerome Boateng is Afro-German, his mother being German and his father from Ghana.

In August Gauland criticized Aydan Özoguz, a German politician of Turkish descent, for saying that “except for the language, one cannot identify a specific German culture.” At a political rally in Eichsfeld, Gauland responded: “That’s what a Turkish-German says. Invite her to come to Eichsfeld, and tell her what specific German culture means. Afterwards she will never come back here again, and we will be able, thank God, to dispose of her in Anatolia.”

In September Gauland stated that “we have the right to be proud of the achievements of the German soldiers in two world wars.” Gauland ran as one of the AfD’s high-profile candidates in this year’s parliamentary elections.

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