German Jewish leaders voiced concerns about the surge in support for far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the last state elections in Thuringia.
“The fact that a party like the so-called Alternative for Germany can experience such success in a state election shows that our whole political system is coming apart at the seams,” said Charlotte Knobloch, former president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. “Anywhere where a party like that celebrates success, is a place with real problems,” she added.
The current president of the same council, Josef Schuster, agreed with those sentiments, dismissing what he called the “excuse of the protest vote.” AfD voters unequivocally expressed “racist sentiment,” he said.
“Whoever votes for the AfD votes for an anti-democratic Germany,” he claimed.
Although the Left party won the greatest number of votes, the AfD came in second after managing to more than double their vote share. They also pushed German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party into third place.
Charlotte Knobloch, now president of the Israeli Cultural Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria (IKG), also said that the result indicates the “steady erosion” of democratic culture.
“Many of the electorate have used their votes to support a party who have for years downplayed the horrors of the Nazi era, who are openly nationalistic and have spread messages of hate against minorities, including the Jewish community, and who have prepared the breeding ground for exclusion and extreme right-wing violence,” she said.
The election came mere weeks after after two people were shot following a failed far-right attack on a synagogue in the city of Halle, located in Thuringia’s neighbouring state of Saxony-Anhalt.