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AfD lawmaker that criticized Berlin's Holocaust monument gets 'private' memorial

Blocks are placed on a property adjacent to Alternative for Germany lawmaker Bjoern Hoecke’s home in the village of Bornhagen, eastern Germany, Wednesday, Nov. 22 2017
Swen Pfoertner/dpa via AP
Höcke evoked public outrage when he bemoaned the existence of the memorial while addressing AfD supporters

A German politician that dubbed Berlin's Holocaust memorial “a monument of shame” now has a constant reminder of Nazi crimes outside his window. A group of activists unveiled Wednesday an offshoot of the memorial erected adjacent to the home of Alternative for Germany (AfD) lawmaker Björn Höcke.

For the past ten months the artists collective Center for Political Beauty (ZPS) orchestrated the laying of 24 large cement block on the lot next to Höcke's home in Bornhagen, Thüringia. The blocks are meant to resemble the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, located near the famous Brandenburg Gate, that constants of 2,700 such slabs.

In January, Höcke evoked public outrage when he bemoaned the existence of the memorial while addressing AfD supporters in Dresden.

“The Germans are the only people in the world to plant a monument of shame in heart of their capital,” he said, adding that Germany should memorialize the German victims of the Second World War rather than the Jews.

Swen Pförtner (dpa/AFP)

Following his remarks, the populist party's executive board voted in favor of ousting Höcke from its ranks, but his status is still under review.

“Because Höcke is a 'secret admirer' of the monument, we are going to build it right in front of the house,” said the artists in a video documenting the construction.

“He called for a 180-degree turn of the German policy of commemoration. We rotated the monument around 180 degree, nothing changed,” noted Thilda Rosenfeld of the ZPS.

Their version of the “memorial of shame” is meant to shine a spotlight on the growing normalization of fascism in Germany, she told i24NEWS, but first and foremost, it is a message to Höcke.

“Even his own party sees similarities to Hitler, which they described in detail in the request for expulsion,” stressed Rosenfeld. “We want to prevent that a Nazi such as Höcke gets any possibility to govern in the German State.”

The co-initiator of the Berlin Holocaust Memorial, Lea Rosh, applauded the initiative as well, calling it a “glorious punishment” for Höcke. The Memorial Foundation in Berlin refused to comment on the action.

The activists also claimed that they are using their presence in the area to “monitor” the far-right politician. They announced that they would be willing to end their project if Höcke will be willing to “fall to his knees before the memorial – in Berlin or Bornhagen and asks for forgiveness for the German crimes of World War II,” similar to the gesture of German Chancellor Willy Brandt at the Warsaw ghetto memorial in 1970.

AfD officials stated that Höcke intends to take legal action against the ZPS, but activists stress that the monument sits on private property. So far, they were able to raise through crowdfunding over €80,000 for the long-term maintenance of the replica monument. Their original goal of €28,000 ($32,000), meant to support the site for two years, was reached within four hours on Wednesday.

Wednesday evening a group of AfD supporters gathered outside the monument and confronted the activists. Rosenfeld said they threatened journalists and ZPS team members in an attempt to prevent them from accessing the monument.

“We have no reason to to be afraid of legal actions, everything we do is within the legal framework, but violent protesters are indeed a danger,” she added.

The party fraction in Thüringia denounced the project and called out the state's Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow for not acting against the initiative and “publicly participating in a smear campaign” against Höcke.

One AfD lawmaker reportedly already filled criminal charges against the ZPS, claiming that the alleged surveillance of the politician and his family constitutes an “absolutely unjustifiable” incursion into his private life.

Also AfD chairman Jörg Meuthen called it “disgusting that such a thing can be possible in Germany at all” and assured that his party will make every effort “so that these so-called artists are held accountable”.

Polina Garaev is i24NEWS' correspondent in Germany.

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