The head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany called on the country’s main political parties to distance themselves from the far right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) ahead of September federal elections, reported Deutsche Welle.
In a Wednesday interview with German newspaper Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung, Josef Schuster accused the AfD of sowing division and being anti-democratic.
"I think the be-all and end-all in a newly elected parliament is the existence of a clear consensus among the democratic parties – not only to not deal politically with the AfD, but also to rule out any form of cooperation with them from the outset," Schuster said. "This is also what ultimately makes Jewish life possible.”
The AfD has a history of controversial statements, particularly surrounding the Holocaust.
Party member Bjoern Hoecke caused a firestorm in February of 2017 when he suggested that Germany should end its decades-long tradition of acknowledging and atoning for its Nazi past.
AfD chairman Alexander Gauland in 2018 described the Nazi period as a mere "speck of bird poo in over 1,000 years of successful German history."
He had previously asserted that Jews should not fear the strong electoral showing by AfD and indicated that he was ready to meet with German Jewish leaders “at any time.”
Schuster also attacked the AfD’s stance on immigration. "Regardless actually of what issue they talk about, it always comes back to migration, and then the migrants are dragged through the dirt.”
Expanding on the topic of extremism, the Council president said that much of the far right and neo-Nazi activity originates in parts of the former East Germany, specifically Saxony-Anhalt and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
He criticized the former Soviet puppet state for its poor record with regard to its Jewish community, remarking that during its existence, the Holocaust, Israel and the Jewish community were topics largely not spoken about.
East Germany “kind of shifted the legacy of national socialism onto West Germany," he said.
Earlier in the month, Schuster praised the Germany government for its creation of an anti-Semitism commissioner, while also calling for the continuation of the current proactive stance against anti-Semitism when the new government takes over after September federal elections.
The AfD is the third largest party in the Bundestag. It made large gains in two state elections in September of 2019.