Protesters shouting 'Nazis out!' march on AfD election party
John MACDOUGALL (AFP)
Thousands of left-wing demonstrators shouting "Nazi pigs!" and other anti-fascist slogans descended on the headquarters of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in Berlin protesting their historic break into parliament on Sunday.
In a bombshell for the German establishment, the anti-Islam, anti-immigration AfD captured around 13 percent of Sunday's vote, making it the country's third biggest political force and marking the first time a hard-right party has held seats in the Bundestag since World War II.
Protesters in the streets chanted "all Berlin hates the AfD!", "nationalism out of people's heads!" and "Nazi pigs" as supporters of the far-right party celebrated their historic victory at a club on the famous Alexander Platz in the heart of the city.
Dozens of police officers blocked off the club's entrance and made a handful of arrests over "small incidents," a police spokeswoman said.
An i24NEWS correspondent at the scene posted video footage showing AfD supporters laughing and taunting protesters from a balcony during the victory celebration. But the crowd demonstrating against the AfD continued to grow throughout the night.
Smaller protests were held in other German cities, including Cologne in the west, where around 400 people gathered, and in the northern port city of Hamburg, where demonstrators were marching towards the party's local headquarters.
Germany's financial hub Frankfurt also saw protests.
The hard-right party's top candidate Alexander Gauland pledged to "change this country" and "reclaim our country and our people" after winning historic first seats in parliament.
The four-year-old party with links to the far-right French National Front and Britain's UKIP has been shunned by Germany's mainstream.
It is now headed for the opposition benches of the Bundestag lower house, dramatically boosting its visibility and state financing.
- Jewish groups denounce AfD gains -
Worries about the first far-right party entering parliament since WW2 have drawn plenty of Nazi comparisons, and Jewish groups were quick to express their displeasure at AfD's gains.
The World Jewish Congress (WJC) sharply denounced what it termed the “disgraceful” reactionary party AfD which is “recalling the worst of Germany’s past”.
“It is abhorrent that the AfD party, a disgraceful reactionary movement which recalls the worst of Germany’s past and should be outlawed, now has the ability within the German parliament to promote its vile platform," WJC President Ronald S. Lauder said in a statement.
“Anti-Semitism - both on the far right, and with its new mask of anti-Zionism on the far left – is rising across the globe, including in parts of Germany," he continued.
“Amid these disturbing trends, Chancellor Merkel has shown remarkably strong signals of dedication to protecting the Jewish citizens of her country and cracking down on hateful rhetoric and action," he said, congratulating her on securing a fourth term and calling her “a true friend of Israel and the Jewish people.”
“The World Jewish Congress is encouraged by Chancellor Merkel’s dedication and confident that she will continue with these crucial efforts in support of the Jewish community and the State of Israel, and resist any attempts to the contrary within her own parliament," he concluded.
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) issued a similar statement, saying that "AfD positions on refugees, migrants and Muslims tarnish Germany’s good record confronting its Nazi past."
"AJC will fight this racist agenda," it added.
Despite accusations of anti-Semitism within its ranks stemming from comments made by party member Björn Höcke's which referred to the Berlin Holocaust memorial as a “monument of shame”, the party has repeatedly claimed to be one of the only defenders of Jewish life in Germany.
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