“Just because we are Jewish, doesn’t mean we have to be pro-refugees and migration,” the JAfD co-initiator and now newly-elected Vice President Artur Abramovych, told a press conference on Sunday. Abramovych wore a kippah [a Jewish skullcap] “to be more easily recognised by journalists,” he later told i24Europe.
AfD deputy leader Beatrix von Storch – the granddaughter of Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk, Hitler’s wartime finance minister – and Joachim Kuhs, the leader of the party’s Christian faction, were among those invited to speak at the launch in Wiesbaden.
But the 19 Jews supporting the AfD, met with mass protests from other Jews, including almost every officially representative organisation in Germany as well as the World Jewish Congress.
The small pro-AfD group convened in Wiesbaden while hundreds of demonstrators attended a counter-rally in nearby Frankfurt with all major Jewish-German groups united in their criticism.
The mayor of Frankfurt, Uwe Becker told Israeli daily Haaretz that he was “shocked to hear that Jews might consider supporting a party that calls the Holocaust ‘a speck of bird shit in over a thousand years of successful German history'”.
According to Becker “the AfD has mutated from a movement that was criticising EU policy into a neofascist party.”
But the AfD has come out as a staunch supporter of Israel. Von Storch hit back at the accusations in an interview published on Sunday by the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
She accused the German Central Council of Jews of being like the “official churches” dismissing them as “part of the establishment”.
The small group initially wanted to hold the event in Offenbach but had to abandon the plan when the Jewish owner of the original venue backed out saying he would have nothing to do with the group. After the group received additional threats, they were advised by the police to move to another location.
The counter-rally in Frankfurt was organised by the Jewish Students Union of Germany. “We do not need to wait and see what JAfD is doing, because they already decided to be members of an anti-Semitic, racist, populist group,” Dalia Grinfeld President of the Union said.
“If Jews join the AfD in banning circumcision and kosher slaughter and denying the holocaust – it’s not a question of what they will do, but how much damage it will cause the vast majority of Jews in Germany.”
The World Jewish Congress has co-signed a joint declaration with the Central Council of Jews in Germany on the same day as the launch of the JAfD to condemn the party as a “racist and anti-Semitic party” and a “threat to Jewish life in Germany.”
The declaration is entitled No Alternative for Jews. “The AfD is not a party for Jews… the AfD is a party in which hatred of the Jews and the denial of the Shoah have a home,” the declaration reads. “The AfD is anti-democratic, inhumane and in many parts, right-wing extremist.”
The JAfD will be based in Berlin, with Wolfgang Fuhl as the deputy chair. Fuhl explained that all of the group’s founding members were already AfD voters at the time of the JAfD’s creation.
German broadcaster Deutche Welle reported that the JAfD has elected Vera Kosova, a Jew originally from Uzbekistan, as chairperson. The AfD is the biggest opposition party in Germany with more than 90 seats in parliament.
The small group of pro-AfD Jews intend to advance a Jewish agenda and marginalise Jewish critics within the party, they say.
In a television interview, Israeli lawmaker Yehuda Glick explained that the benefit of Jews joining anti-immigration protest parties like the AfD was that they would be able to attack anti-Semites from within.
One of the faction’s founding members, Fuhl, told Haaretz that he did not agree with the AfD’s ban on kosher slaughter rituals, something that Grinfeld had previously also condemned.
“You won’t get a kosher stamp from us,” said Grinfeld at the protest.
Wir Juden lassen uns nicht von der #AfD für ihre antisemitischen und rassistischen Ideologien und Vorhaben instrumentalisieren! Kommt am 7. Okt zur #AfNee Kundgebung nach #Offenbach. #keinkoscherstempel für #jafd pic.twitter.com/pj8OCZrKAd
— Dalia Grinfeld (@DaliaGrinfeld) September 26, 2018
The deputy parliamentary group leader of Angela Merkel’s CDU party, Stephan Harbarth, said the AfD was being “hypocritical” in an interview with Sunday’s edition of German tabloid Bild.
“Whoever calls the Holocaust a speck of bird poo in German history does not fight anti-Semitism but mocks its victims, and definitely does not stand on the side of the Jews,” he said.
Addressing the youth division of the AfD at a conference in Seebach, Thuringia, in June this year, co-leader of the party Alexander Gauland said: “Only those who acknowledge history have the strength to shape the future.
“Hitler and the Nazis are just bird shit in more than 1 000 years of successful German history. Yes, we accept our responsibility for the 12 years … [but] we have a glorious history — and that, dear friends, lasted longer than the damn 12 years.”
AfD member Björn Höcke had earlier described the Holocaust memorial in Berlin as a “monument of shame,” while former executive member Gunnar Baumgart reportedly said that the gas Zyklon B was used to save the Jews and not kill them during the Holocaust.