Germany: Xenophobic party apologizes for racist coloring book after sharp criticism
The populist, right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party earned sharp criticism for handing out a children's coloring book at an event in the town of Krefeld in the Rhineland. The book did not contain fairytale pictures, but drawings that critics found to be racist, xenophobic, and full of stereotypes.
The Westdeutsche Zeitung newspaper has reported that police are investigating the case. The AfD initially rejected the criticism, but then apologized on 20 February for printing the coloring book and called its distribution an "organizational error".
In the book, entitled Nordrhein-Westfalen zum Ausmalen ("North Rhine-Westphalia for Coloring"), there is, for example, an illustration of people in a car with Turkish flags holding guns. Another page shows a drawing of people with bones in their curly hair who are swimming in a pool as little girls (without such hairstyles) flee the water.
That same illustration also shows a woman in the water in a completely veiled and covered state, holding a knife. The coloring books were distributed in early February at the Krefeld event by the AfD faction seated in the legislature of Germany's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia.
After the content of the coloring book was publicized by the German media, the AfD was subjected to a wave of criticism. For example, other political parties represented in the state legislature spoke up and said they believed the coloring book is racist.
The case has been investigated since 18 February as one of suspected felony incitement to hatred by the German Police as well. On 20 February the state legislature in Düsseldorf announced it will investigate whether the AfD faction used money to produce the coloring book in contravention of the rules.
The party first called the criticism an "attack on freedom of artistic expression and satire" and said the coloring book was "a volume of art with sketches satirically expressing the state of the country". As of 20 February, however, the party had reversed course.
In a statement, the AfD has since apologized for the publication. Euronews reported the statement said the commissioned books had "unfortunately been published prematurely".
"While the majority of the sketches remained within the scope of the project mandate, there are unfortunately also a few that are definitely not in order and therefore, of course, do not correspond to the group's opinion," Euronews cited the AfD party's statement as saying. "We would like to make it clear that the entire project is ended immediately and without replacement."
The local AfD group leader Markus Wagner also apologized for his previous assessment of the books, saying they "should not have been published in this form". In a statement released on 20 February, Wagner admitted that "the assessment I made yesterday was a mistake".
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