AfD members
AfD membersReuters

Jewish leaders in Germany on Monday reacted with alarm after a candidate from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party won a local election for the first time, JTA reported.

Robert Sesselmann, a lawyer and regional lawmaker, won the election for district administrator in Sonneberg in the central state of Thuringia, near the border with Bavaria. Sesselmann won 52.8 percent of the vote, according to the electoral office.

Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, was quoted by JTA as having said that the election “could open the floodgates” for a party that espouses xenophobic and anti-democratic values.

“Not every AfD voter has extreme right-wing views,” Schuster told the weekly Jewish newspaper Jüdische Allgemeine. “But they voted for a candidate whose party is extreme right-wing, according to the State Office for the Protection of the Constitution.”

Charlotte Knobloch, head of the Jewish community of Munich and Upper Bavaria, commented on the election as well, saying in a statement that those AfD voters “are knocking out another pillar of support for stable democracy in Germany.”

AfD, which was formed in 2013, entered Germany’s national parliament with 12.6% of the vote in 2017, and is currently level in the polls with Chancellor Olaf Scholz's Social Democrats as discontent with the government grows.

The party has a history of controversial statements, particularly surrounding the Holocaust. 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, however, that Jews should not fear the strong election showing by AfD and indicated that he was ready to meet with German Jewish leaders “at any time.”

The AfD is polling even better in the former communist East German states of Thuringia, Brandenburg and Saxony, which will see regional elections next year where the AfD is hoping to score major breakthroughs.