Germany’s Jewish umbrella organisation and a host of other Jewish groups have joined to condemn the right-populist party Alternative for Germany – and to decry a new group that purports to represent Jews in the party.
The Central Council of Jews in Germany in a statement issued on Sunday said the AfD — which opinion polls show is gaining popularity – is racist and anti-democratic and “not an alternative for Jews.”
At least 17 other international and German Jewish organisations, including the American Jewish Committee, the Claims Conference, WIZO and Germany’s rabbinical programs, co-signed the statement, which was released the same day that the controversial group calling itself “Jews for the AfD” was launched in Wiesbaden.
Central Council head Josef Schuster claimed in the statement that the party – which alleges friendship for Israel and concern for the welfare of Jews in Germany – actually “supports anti-Jewish hate and Holocaust relativising or even denial.”
Noting that AfD leaders recently marched alongside neo-Nazis and hooligans in an anti-migrant demonstration in the city of Chemnitz, during which refugees and a Jewish restaurant owner were attacked, Schuster called the party inhumane and “in large parts right-wing radical.”
The “Jews for the AfD” group, which currently has 19 members, reportedly was founded by Dimitri Schulz, who was born in the former Soviet Union in 1987 and reportedly has described himself as having grown up in a “Christian-Jewish family.” He does not belong to the Jewish community of Wiesbaden, his home city, according to news reports.
The new group is chaired by Vera Kosova, who emigrated to Germany from Uzbekistan. Deputy chair is Wolfgang Fuhl. According to the Deutsche Welle news agency, the group will be based in Berlin. Kosova told reporters Sunday that the party has distanced itself from
Meron Mendel, head of Frankfurt’s Anne Frank anti-racism education center, called the new group an unfortunate “PR coup” for the AfD, which claims to be the only party that deals directly with anti-Semitism from Muslims. Germany has seen an influx of more than one million refugees of Muslim background since mid-2015. The AfD has made political hay out of its anti-Muslim stance, capitalising on fears in the general population.
Germany’s Jewish student union, JSUD, also condemned the JAfD and the party it backs. Some 250 Jewish students demonstrated against the new group in Frankfurt on Sunday. Dalia Grinfield, president of the student organisation, told reporters the AfD would “not get a kosher label from us.”