One of the leaders of the nationalist Alternative for Germany party (AfD) has been accused of attempting to trivialise the Holocaust after he described the crimes of Hitler and the Nazis as “a speck of birds*** in 1,000 years of glorious German history”.
Alexander Gauland was condemned by Holocaust survivors’ groups and voices from across the political spectrum in Germany on Sunday for the comments which he made at a meeting of the AfD’s youth wing, the Young Alternative.
“Yes, we plead guilty to those 12 years,” Mr Gauland said of the Nazi era. “But we have a glorious history and one, my friends, that lasted a lot longer than those damned 12 years.
“Hitler and the Nazis are just a speck of birds*** in over 1,000 years of glorious German history.”
The International Auschwitz Committee, a Holocaust survivors’ organisation, described the comments as “undignified and unbearable”.
“For Auschwitz survivors, Gauland’s coolly calculated and inflammatory statements are just repulsive,” Christoph Heubner, the group’s executive vice-president said.
"Fifty million dead in the Second World War, the Holocaust, the doctrine of ‘total war’: to call it all birds*** is a slap in the face for victims, and a relativisation of what was done in Germany’s name,” Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the chairman of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrat party (CDU) said.
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“Anyone who supports the AfD has to consider what they’re really buying into behind the bourgeois mask.”
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There is reportedly anger even inside the AfD over Gauland’s remarks. “The problem is that the statement was no birds***. This sort of fiasco keeps the AfD a fringe party because it puts people off,” an unnamed party figure told Bild newspaper.
The 77-year-old Mr Gauland is one of two joint AfD leaders. Bild quoted insiders as suggesting he is being overshadowed by the other leader, Alice Weidel, and may have made the remarks in a calculated attempt to boost his profile.
It is not the first time he has courted controversy. Last year he made headlines when he said: “If Britain has the right to be proud of Churchill then we have the right to be proud of the proud of the achievements of German soldiers in two world wars."
There was also public anger after it emerged the rarely used first verse of the German national anthem was sung at the AfD youth wing event.
The verse, which begins Deutschland, Deutschland, über alles, or “Germany, Germany, above all” is considered taboo because it was adopted by the Nazis.