German far-right wants place on board of Berlin’s national Holocaust memorial
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German far-right wants place on board of Berlin’s national Holocaust memorial

AfD, whose member Bjoern Hoecke criticized the monument, insists on right to a seat after entering parliament

Germany's Holocaust memorial for the murdered Jews of Europe in the heart of Berlin (CC BY-SA Chaosdna/Wikipedia)
Germany's Holocaust memorial for the murdered Jews of Europe in the heart of Berlin (CC BY-SA Chaosdna/Wikipedia)

Now that it has made it into the Bundestag, Germany’s strongest right-wing populist political party is insisting on claiming its place on the board of the foundation for the national Holocaust memorial in Berlin.

The initiator of the foundation and memorial itself, Lea Rosh, has rejected the idea out of hand, the Tagesspiegel newspaper reported. But the president of the parliament, Wolfgang Schäuble, has not yet commented on the bid.

The right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party entered the Bundestag last September with 94 seats, after coming in third place with 12.6 percent of the vote in the German federal elections. The party’s popularity is based largely on its anti-refugee policy.

It is now invoking the law passed in 2000 that established the Holocaust memorial foundation, which stipulates that each party in the parliament is entitled to proportional representation on the board of trustees. The AfD would be entitled to one seat.

The national Holocaust memorial in Berlin was dedicated in May 2005. It consists of 2,711 concrete slabs called “stelae,” arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field, resembling a cemetery.

According to its website, the foundation’s aim is to ensure “that all victims of National Socialism are remembered and honored appropriately.” Its tasks include developing special exhibitions, organizing lectures and seminars, and creating accompanying publications.

Last year, AfD legislator Bjoern Hoecke of the former East German state of Thuringia, criticized the memorial as well as Nazi guilt, saying that “Germans are the only people in the world who plant a monument of shame in the heart of the capital.”

Bjoern Hoecke in the Thuringia state parliament in 2016. (CC BY-SA Olaf Kosinsky via Wikimedia Commons)

In response to that statement, a group of German artist-activists built a replica of the national Holocaust memorial outside Hoecke’s home in the village of Bornhage. They reportedly have offered to remove the installation if Hoecke “fall(s) to his knees” in front of it and asks for forgiveness for Germany’s crimes against humanity, recalling the gesture of then-chancellor Willy Brant in 1970 at a memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Now, AfD party leaders have told the Tagesspiegel that the AfD will claim its place on the board, after the Bundestag faction considers who might be their best choice.

Rosh, the board’s deputy chair, said in November that she finds the AfD platform anti-democratic and she opposes their entry onto the board, particularly following Hoecke’s statement about the memorial.

This week, Rosh, who is not Jewish, told the Tagesspiegel that inclusion of the AfD is “not only bad, but impossible.”

She is asking Bundestag President Schäuble to look into legal options to barring the party from claiming this entitlement. As Bundestag president, Schäuble is also automatically chair of the foundation for the Holocaust memorial.

He has not taken a public position on the issue.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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