A far-right German party has caused outrage after it requested to receive data on the number of Jews living in the city of Dortmund as well as their breakdown according to districts, Germany’s Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported over the weekend, giving rise to disturbing memories of the past amongst the city’s Jewish population.
Dennis Giemsch, the sole city council member of Die Rechte (“The Right”) party, made the inquiry on Thursday along with a list of other requests for various data from city officials, saying it was needed “for political work.”
Dortmund Mayor Ullrich Sierau rejected the request outright, calling it “inhuman.” Germany’s Central Council of Jews also spoke out in alarm, saying the inquiry reeked of “heinous, perfidious anti-Semitism.”
The Daily Mail reported that the document submitted by Giemsch has been forwarded to the Interior Ministry in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia for legal review as it considers whether to ban the relatively new party.
Die Rechte, formed two years ago, calls for the “preservation of the German identity” and was formed by Christian Worch, reported by the UK’s Independent to be a neo-Nazi proud of his father’s work in the Waffen SS during World War II.
German lawmakers have long sought to abolish far-right parties such as the National Democratic Party (NPD), considered by many to be a racist and fascist party, but have not yet found the legal grounds to do so. Die Rechte has been touted as a possible successor to the NPD, though it claims to be less radical than its larger counterpart and to adhere to the German constitution.
In September the NPD was booted out of parliament in Saxony, one of only two German states where it had lawmakers. The resulting loss of some 2.5 million euros ($3.3 million) each year in public funding, which critics have said the NPD used to finance campaigns in other states, could crush the party that was regarded just a few years ago as a magnet for neo-Nazi sentiment in Germany and a threat to the country’s post-war reputation.
In September German police interrogated two boys who were photographed making Hitler salutes as part of a secretive neo-Nazi fan club. The teenagers from the Landsberg School near Leipzig, a city in eastern Germany’s Saxony state, would secretly share their right-wing jokes and extremist propaganda in private with other classmates using the mobile phone application WhatsApp, police said.
Prosecutor Andreas Schieweck, 59, confirmed that authorities were investigating the allegations, which include references to Hitler as a “fantastic person.” Members also began chats with each other using the banned expression “Deutschland – Sieg Heil!”, or Germany! Hail Victory!
Making the Hitler salute or using Third Reich symbols like the swastika is illegal according to German law.
The class has since made a public statement apologizing for their actions, describing it as a joke that got out of control.
AP contributed to this report.