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German politician courts further controversy with new party sporting nazi symbol

Andre Poggenburg, former chairman of the Alternative for Germany party (AfD) in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, delivers a speech at the Political Ash Wednesday rally of the AfD in Guesten, central Germany, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016.
AP Photo/Jens Meyer

A German far-right politician once again courted controversy this week after using a Nazi symbol in his breakaway party logo.

42-year old Andre Poggenburg was the Alternative for Germany party (AfD) chief in the Burgenland county of the central state of Saxony-Anhalt before quitting.

The trigger for Poggenburg's departure from the party was its decision to ban him from holding any party office in the next two years.

The AfD Federal Executive Committee punished Poggenburg over a tweet he posted on New Year's Eve that read: "To the fellow citizens of our community a healthy, peaceful and patriotic 2019!" 

"This is a desperate attempt to gain attention," stated a party official at the time about the tweet. "This choice of words is unacceptable." 

The sanction was surprising, given the relatively mild character of the New Year's greeting as opposed to some of Poggenburg's statements in the past.

In March last year, Poggenburg made headlines for calling Turkish people “camel drivers” and immigrants that held dual citizenship a "homeless mob".

Poggenburg announced the creation of a new party on Friday, which will run in the central German states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg. Named 'Aufbruch Deutscher Patrioten' (German Patriot Uprising), the party aims to be a new "patriotic party for Central Germany".

The politician, whose Twitter profile says he is "against multi-culturalism, Islamization, gender mania and inclusion," has come under fire for using the blue cornflower as his party logo.

Rumoured to be German Kaiser Wilhelm I's favorite, the flower became a symbol of pan-German nationalism, one of the pillars of Nazi ideology.

Party members in Austria used it as a way to recognize each other before Germany's annexation of Austria in 1938, as the Nazi party was then outlawed in the country.

Austria's FPO, the far-right movement which has become increasingly popular over the years, and is a member of the ruling coalition, used the flower as a party symbol for many years until it abandoned it in favor of the edelweiss in 2017.

Poggenburg justified AdP's use of the blue cornflower in a flyer distributed over social media.

"This special flower is a symbol of German romanticism and the favorite flower of Queen Luise," said the flyer, referring to the mother of Kaiser Wilhelm I, a nationalist heroine.

"It is for us the flower of the dawn of renewal and therefore predestined as a recognition of our new patriotic party," the statement concluded.

Tobias SCHWARZ                       (AFP)

The far-right has experienced rising popularity in Germany in recent times.

The catchall movement has capitalized on popular concerns with immigration and discontent with the political class, bringing together unlikely allies.

In a country where extreme-right ideology is bound to awaken ghosts of a troublesome past, the launch of Jews for AfD (JAfD) for example, came as a surprise. There are some things in common. A concern with Islamic extremism. Chancellor Angela Merkel's policies.

"It doesn’t matter how nice she is, in the end, her policies are those of a Jew hater,” JAfD member said.

On the other hand, an elected representative slated for a trip to Israel was disinvited by the Jewish state's Federation of Local Authorities earlier this month, due to links with the AfD.

Firebrand politics, controversial statements, and now the use of Nazi symbolism is likely to create further tensions between Germany's growing extreme-right and its detractors.

Last week, AfD politician Frank Magnitz was severely beaten and left unconscious by three unidentified attackers in the coastal city of Bremen, with the movement squarely blaming elements on the far left.

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