Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, on Sunday told Welt am Sonntag that the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party features extremist tendencies.
Schuster sees right-wing extremism as posing the “greatest danger” to Germany and its Jews.
“In my view, the AfD is much more closely interwoven with right-wing extremism than it appears,” Schuster told the newspaper. “The party incites fears and promotes a climate of exclusion of minorities.”
Founded in April 2013, the AfD party won seven seats in the European election in 2014. By October 2017, AfD had representation in 14 of the 16 German state parliaments, and became the third-largest party in Germany after the 2017 federal election, winning 94 seats in the Bundestag. The party has been described as German nationalist, right-wing populist, and Eurosceptic (critical of the EU). AfD is now Germany’s main opposition party.
Since 2015, the AfD has been working with extremist groups such as Pegida. AfD members have expressed racist, anti-Islamic, anti-Semitic, and xenophobic views associated with neo-Nazism.
Schuster warned German political parties against forming a coalition with the AfD, which he believes would result in a tilt towards the extreme right in rhetoric and, even more dangerous, in policies.
According to Deutsche Welle, the number of anti-Semitic attacks in Germany increased by over 10% from 2017 to 2018. Official figures suggest the number of anti-Semitic crimes increased from 1,504 in 2017 to 1,646 in 2018, with the number of violent cases increasing from 37 to 62 over the same period.
Germany’s anti-Semitism commissioner in May warned Jews not to wear yarmulkes in public spaces.