German populists to discipline member for Holocaust remarks

BERLIN (AP) — The nationalist Alternative for Germany party said Monday it will take “internal measures” against a prominent member for his comments suggesting ending the country’s tradition of acknowledging and atoning for its Nazi past, but stopped short of expelling him from the party.

The AfD party said its executive board found that the statements from Bjoern Hoecke last week “hurt the party’s reputation.” It said the party is examining “all legal and political aspects” involved in disciplinary measures. It didn’t elaborate on what measures were being considered.

Hoecke, who leads the populist party in the eastern state of Thuringia, told supporters that the Berlin memorial to the millions of Jews killed in the Holocaust is a “monument of shame” and said Germany should take a “positive” attitude toward its history.

Hoecke said in a statement that he welcomed the decision not to initiate proceedings to remove him from the party, but didn’t back down from the comments, saying only that they were being “misused by some party friends for internal power struggles.”

“I sincerely hope that the AfD will not be destroyed by such power struggles, and that it will be able to preserve the pluralism of opinion that has made it so strong in such a short time,” he said in reference to known strains among top AfD leadership.

Shortly after the announcement of measures against Hoecke, AfD national co-chair Joerg Meuthen, who is also the party’s leader in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, sent out a statement evoking much of the same tone of Hoecke’s statements, questioning German funding for a memorial at a former Nazi camp in France.

The Memorial National de Gurs is built on the site of the former Gurs camp in southwestern France, which first held refugees but later held about 17,000 Jews, many of whom were deported to Auschwitz and other death camps.

Meuthen suggested the funding for the Gurs memorial would be better used for “the maintenance and preservation of significant Jewish cemeteries and memorial sites in Baden-Wuerttemberg.”

His state co-chairman Rainer Podeswa added in the same statement that the AfD rejects “a one-sided emphasis on the dark history, while at the same time suppressing our historical achievements.”

“People growing up should have the opportunity to also identify positively with our country and its history,” he said.

The AfD hopes to enter national Parliament in this fall’s elections and current polls show it with about 12 percent support.