BERLIN — German Police on Wednesday said they were investigating the theft of a far-right leader’s clothes as he went for an evening dip in a small lake near his home outside Berlin.
Alternative for Germany, or AfD, party co-leader Alexander Gauland told the dpa news agency that after he emerged from the water to find his clothes gone, witnesses told him the thief had yelled out “this is no swimming area for Nazis.”
Gauland spoke after a photo started circulating on social media Tuesday showing him in his bathing suit walking with a police officer.
Potsdam police said the theft occurred last week and that “political motivation” cannot be ruled out.
Alexander Gauland, the far-right AfD leader, got his clothes stolen while swimming in a lake near Berlin last week and walked in his swimming trunks to a local police station. The robbers reportedly shouted: “No swimming for Nazis!” #Gauland #AfD #Germany https://t.co/0O5Jl6xyFf pic.twitter.com/Hqj8JKB3el
— Handelsblatt Global (@HandelsblattGE) June 6, 2018
On Saturday, Gauland told a gathering of the party’s youth wing that the Nazi era was “speck of bird poop” in German history, drawing condemnation across the mainstream political spectrum.
He said Germans must take responsibility for 12 years of Nazi rule but argued that “Hitler and the Nazis are just a speck of bird poop in more than 1,000 years of successful German history.”
Gauland’s comments were defended by many in the party, which entered the national parliament in last year’s election on anti-migrant and anti-establishment sentiment and is now the biggest opposition party.
But there were some dissenting voices. A group representing party moderates, the Alternative Center, said in a statement late Sunday that Gauland’s comment sounded at best ambiguous and “this should not happen to a politician who has a minimum of instinct and sense of responsibility for our history.” It called for a public apology.
On Monday, Gauland asserted in a statement that he had used the words “bird poop” to express his “deepest contempt for Nazism.”
“I regret the resulting impression,” he added. “It was never my intention to trivialize or deride the victims of this criminal system.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said Monday “it is shameful that we have to deal with such comments by a lawmaker in parliament” and that the government strongly rejects any downplaying of the Nazi era.