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Former IDF soldier on far-right German list fails to win parliament seat

Marcel Yaron Goldhammer, a Jewish male model, doesn’t make cut in Berlin as AfD’s support slips to 10.3%, a drop from 2017

Marcel Goldhammer visits the Acorpolis in Athens, Greece, in 2015. (Courtesy of Goldhammer)
Marcel Goldhammer visits the Acorpolis in Athens, Greece, in 2015. (Courtesy of Goldhammer)

Marcel Yaron Goldhammer, a dual German-Israeli citizen and a former soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, who ran on the ticket of the far-right AfD, or Alternative for Germany, has failed to win a seat in the German parliament.

AfD came fifth in Sunday’s German elections, down from its previous showing, after it failed to get its core issue — migration — onto the campaign agenda this year.

Goldhammer, 34, was the party’s number 6 candidate in Berlin. The party picked up three seats there, down from four in the previous election.

Goldhammer, a male model, belongs to a growing minority of Jews in Western Europe who have joined the ranks of the populist right because of its nationalist ideals and its opposition to Muslim immigration. They believe left-wing movements threaten the future of European culture, as well as that of the continent’s Jewish minority.

A former supporter of outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union party, or CDU, Goldhammer grew up in Germany in a “culturally Christian home,” as he defined it in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

But his life took an unexpected turn when he came out as gay at the age of 15.

“My mother had a hard time with it. It became hard to continue living at home,” he said.

Marcel Goldhammer (left) Julian Potthast and Robert Eschricht at an Alternative for Germany event in Berlin, on June 14, 2021. (Courtesy of Goldhammer)

So he left for Berlin, where he completed his high school studies while living at a housing project for teenagers in similar situations. He was pursuing a career as an actor when his interest in religion brought him in contact with a Reform Jewish community.

He decided to convert, completing the two-year process in 2005. Upon visiting Israel for the first time, Goldhammer “fell in love,” he told Israel Hayom, an Israeli newspaper, in an interview. “I knew I wanted to live there.”

He immigrated to Israel in 2013, shortly before the 2014 Gaza War between Hamas and Israel.

Completing his army service in the Israel Defense Forces spokesperson’s unit, Goldhammer put down roots in Tel Aviv. But his partner, a Chinese national, wanted to live in Europe, so they returned to Germany, where he now works as an actor and model.

Germany’s center-left Social Democrats won the biggest share of the vote in a national election on Sunday, narrowly beating outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Union bloc in a closely fought race that will determine who succeeds the long-time leader at the helm of Europe’s biggest economy.

The Social Democrats’ candidate Olaf Scholz, the outgoing vice chancellor and finance minister who pulled his party out of a years-long slump, said that the outcome was “a very clear mandate to ensure now that we put together a good, pragmatic government for Germany.”

A supporter of Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) wears a sign reading “God loves the AfD and the AfD loves God” during the party’s final election campaign event in Berlin, on September 24, 2021, two days before the September 26 general elections. (Tobias Schwarz/AFP)

Despite getting its worst-ever result in a federal contest, the Union bloc said that it too would reach out to smaller parties to discuss forming a government, while Merkel will stay on in a caretaker role until a successor is sworn in.

Election officials said early Monday that a count of all 299 constituencies showed that the Social Democrats received 25.9% of the vote, ahead of 24.1% for the Union bloc. No winning party in a German national election had previously taken less than 31% of the vote. The environmentalist Greens came third with 14.8%, and the pro-business Free Democrats took 11.5% of the vote.

The Left Party was projected to win only 4.9% of the vote and risked being kicked out of parliament entirely. The far-right Alternative for Germany received 10.3%, about 2 percentage points less than in 2017, when it first entered parliament.

Despite the projected outcome, AfD party co-leader Tino Chrupalla said that he was “very satisfied” by the result and welcomed the heavy losses for Merkel’s Union bloc.

AfD said four years ago that it would “hunt” Merkel, who said in 2018 that she would not run for a fifth term. Other parties have ruled out any cooperation with AfD.

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