Governing politicians call the ultra-right Alternative for Germany "spiritual arsonists"
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (Christian Social Union in Bavaria - CSU) and some other German politicians are blaming the rise in antisemitism there on the country's strongest opposition party, Alternative for Germany (AfD) because, through their rhetoric, some politicians in that anti-immigration group are abetting the dissemination of hatred towards Jewish people. Seehofer and others expressed that view after a right-wing radical attacked a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle on Wednesday, killing two people.
The AfD, which has been perceptibly taking votes away from the governing conservative bloc of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the CSU, strictly rejects the allegations. Bavarian State Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann (CSU) told the Bayern 2 radio station: "The first thing is that we must protect ourselves against these horribly violent people, and the second thing is there are spiritual arsonists here, including recently some representatives of the AfD who have attracted attention to themselves in a shameless manner."
Herrmann specifically named the AfD's boss in Thuringia, Björn Höcke. "Höcke is one of those spiritual arsonists who wants to disseminate more antisemitism again in our country," he is convinced.
The German Interior Minister shares that perspective. "That's exactly how I see it," Seehofer said when asked by journalists whether he agrees with Herrmann's remarks and those of others in the same vein.
Some of the speeches made by AfD poltiicians, according to Seehofer, can actually be called "spiritual arson", and the 47-year-old Höcke has previously drawn attention to himself by making many controversial statements. The AfD boss called the Holocaust memorial in the center of Berlin a "monument to shame" and said it was necessary to make a 180-degree change of direction in the politics of commemorating the past.
Currently a crucial component of that commemoration is exactly such remembrance of the murder of six million Jews by Nazi Germany, for which the Federal Republic of Germany still feels responsible to this day. According to Michel Friedman, a former leader of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the behavior of some AfD politicians is leading to a coarsening of society.
"Hatred for Jewish people and for people in general has found its political home in the biggest opposition party in the Federal Parliament," Friedman said in an interview with the public broadcast television station ZDF. A former German Foreign Minister, Sigmar Gabriel (Social Democratic Party - SPD) tweeted that "The Halle attack demonstrates that radicalization of language leads to radicalization of actions," without specifically naming the AfD, whose politicians he had already previously called Nazis.
The head of the Social Democratic club in the Federal Parliament, Rolf Mützenich, said he believed the attacker in Halle was a right-wing terrorist who could have felt encouraged by representatives of the AfD, among others, who belittle and deny what the reign of Nazi terror perpetrated; the AfD has clearly rejected such allegations. German MP Alice Weidel, who heads the AfD group in the Federal Parliament, said the people who are, in her view, "abusing" the abhorrent crime committed in Halle to, in her view, "defame" the political competition, are allegedly "dividing society and weakening its democratic basis".
The AfD has officially condemned the Halle attack as a "monstrous crime". Police registered 1 799 antisemitic felonies in Germany last year, 19.6 % more than in 2017, when there were 1 504.
The extreme right is behind the vast majority of those crimes (89.1 %). By all accounts the Halle attacker was also motivated by an antisemitic, extreme-right ideology.
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