German far-right AfD in disarray after Nazi remark – BBC News

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  • Author, Jess Parker
  • Role, BBC News, Berlin

A top far-right German politician says he will pull back from campaigning for the upcoming EU elections – although he will remain his party’s lead candidate.

The latest controversy comes after the Alternative for Germany (AfD)’s Maximilian Krah told journalists that SS members weren’t automatically “criminals”.

“It depends. You have to assess blame individually. At the end of the war there were almost a million SS. Günter Grass was also in the Waffen SS,” he told La Repubblica and the Financial Times, referring to the German novelist who wrote The Tin Drum.

“Before I declare someone a criminal, I want to know what he did.”

The SS, or Schutzstaffel, were a Nazi paramilitary group active in the 1930s and 1940s. Among other crimes against humanity, SS members played a leading role in the Holocaust, the genocide of six million Jews and others during World War Two.

In response to the remarks, France’s far-right National Rally (RN) announced it would no longer sit with the AfD in the European Parliament.

RN leader Marine Le Pen told French radio that “it was urgent to establish a cordon sanitaire” between the parties.

“Cordon sanitaire” is a term used by some political parties to reject cooperation with movements viewed as too extreme. It is often used by French politicians to rule out working with Ms Le Pen’s RN.

“It’s time to make a clean break with this movement,” she added.

In February, AfD leader Alice Weidel met with RN leaders Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella in an attempt to heal a rift between the parties.

Image caption, Marine Le Pen said she rejected mass deportations of citizens based on their ethnic origin

The RN had distanced itself from the AfD following revelations about the German party holding a secret meeting in a villa on a lake outside of Berlin where mass deportations of non-ethnic Germans – including German citizens – were allegedly discussed.

At the time, Ms Le Pen said she rejected mass deportations of citizens based on their ethnic origin.

Ms Weidel denies the party ever planned to take such a step. “No-one wants that. That would be unconstitutional and, as far as I’m concerned, a breach of human rights,” she told the Wall Street Journal.

Announcing his decision to step back from campaigning, Mr Krah wrote on X: “The AfD must maintain its unity.”

“For this reason, I will refrain from making any further campaign appearances with immediate effect and resign as a member of the federal executive board.”

Mr Krah has been under pressure in the lead-up to this year’s EU elections, which will take place between 6 and 9 June.

In April, one of his staffers was arrested by German police on suspicion of spying for China.

And German prosecutors have opened an investigation into Mr Krah over alleged payments from Russia and China, which he denies.

The AfD has slipped in the polls this year. But the party is still polling second or third nationwide, and first in some states due to vote in local elections later this year.

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