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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

An increasingly influential far-right opposition party in Germany, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), once again finds itself embroiled in controversy amid revelations that a party leader downplayed the crimes of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. These revelations come just two months after officials introduced what one lawmaker called a “Warsaw ghetto” plan for refugees.

In late January, an AfD party faction filed a motion to block payments allocated by the local parliament to fund educational field trips for German children to visit historical sites such as Nazi concentration camps in the state of Baden-Württemberg. These programs are viewed as central for teaching German youth about crimes committed by the Nazi regime. Under proposed AfD party legislation, they would be effectively abolished.

The AfD in Baden-Württemberg argued their motion was a response to bias in publicly funded educational programs that unfairly portrayed life in Nazi Germany. “We strive for a balanced view of history… a one-sided concentration on 12 years of National Socialist injustice is to be rejected,” the Baden-Württemberg AfD parliamentary faction wrote in its legal motion.

The educational school program in the AfD’s crosshairs was established to commemorate German Jews from the state of Baden-Württemberg who were deported by the Nazis to Gurs concentration camp in France. The local German state allocates approximately €120,000 ($130,000) in annual funding to the historical site where thousands of German Baden-Württemberg Jews were exterminated.

The motion filed by the local AfD party faction also calls for any references to the Nazi regime to be stricken from all class field trips, which should instead focus on “significant German historic sites” such as medieval castles.

The “Warsaw ghetto” plan for refugees

In December, a lawmaker in the AfD faction of Baden-Württemberg revealed that the party had drafted working papers to imprison all refugees and asylum seekers within Germany in what she described as a “Warsaw ghetto” plan, which would then deport individuals back to their hostile nations of origin. The mass deportation scheme stands in stark violation of federal German laws and signed U.N. international treaties. The leaked AfD working papers also called for the suspension of numerous articles to the German constitution.

Claudia Martin, the German lawmaker who left the AfD but retains her seat in local parliament in defiance of the far-right party, originally disclosed the refugee plan to German media back in mid-December of 2016. Martin explicitly compared the draft legislation to Hitler’s Madagascar Plan from 1940 after the fall of France, which was quickly discarded to implement the Holocaust in early 1942.

Also this year, local Thüringen AfD party leader Björn Höcke spurred outrage after claiming at a public rally in Dresden, “The big problem is that Hitler is presented as an absolutely evil figure… but of course we know that it wasn’t as black and white as history portrays.”

Höcke went on to state that, “We German people are the only ones in the world to build a monument of disgrace in the heart of our capital,” a reference to the Holocaust memorial in Berlin. Dresden is revered by many in the extreme far-right as a symbol of German innocence and martyrdom, its civilian deaths at the hands of allied forces a war crime.

Holocaust revisionism disguised as nuance

The head of the national AfD, chairwoman Frauke Petry, has attempted to distance herself and her party from the local faction in the Baden-Württemberg state parliament. But her suggestion to party supporters earlier this month that the crimes of U.S. forces in Nazi Germany need to be more evenly addressed have only fueled further criticism.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Petry told a crowd at a medieval castle in the Rhineland this past October that “Just as today the First World War is written about in a nuanced way and not just from the perspective of the victor… the Second World War will probably in some decades also need to be discussed in a somewhat more nuanced way than what we experience today.”

The event’s attendees reportedly erupted in applause.

As Petry sees it, the firebombing of civilians by U.S. forces in Dresden and the mistreatment of Nazis in POW camps are largely ignored by German educational programs. “One should inform them to the same degree that after World War II, the Americans allowed German war prisoners to die of hunger in the camps on the Rhine meadows,” she told one attendee, who asked whether the funding of class field trips to concentration camps and other historical sites was appropriate.

Petry has previously stated in interviews and public speeches that refugees crossing the border into Germany should be shot on sight by German police, and that immigrants and multiculturalism in Germany resembled a garbage dump. The AfD has advocated for a ban on burqas and minarets as well as on all mosques within Germany, a move one German legal expert says would constitute a gross violation of Basic Law.

The AfD holds seats in 10 of 16 German state parliaments and is currently campaigning to enter the Bundestag, the federal German parliament in the capital of Berlin. The party must secure at least 5 percent of the national vote this September to pass the required threshold for its members to achieve representation in the legislative body.

Entering the Bundestag would be an unprecedented first for any far-right political party since the end of WWII. And while its polling numbers have dipped from 16 to 8 percent nationally since last year, there remains a strong possibility that the AfD will form part of the ruling coalition government in Germany.

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