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German politician under fire over call to rehabilitate Nazi race term

Co-chair of right-wing Alternative for Germany condemned for ‘dangerous arson’ after asking that ‘völkisch’ get ‘positive connotation’

Frauke Petry, chairwoman of the AfD, points her finger at the gathering of the right-populist AfD (Alternative for Germany) after the closing of the state elections in the German federal states of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, March 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Frauke Petry, chairwoman of the AfD, points her finger at the gathering of the right-populist AfD (Alternative for Germany) after the closing of the state elections in the German federal states of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, March 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

BERLIN — A leading member of the nationalist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) is facing fierce criticism after calling for a racially charged term once favored by the Nazis to be rehabilitated.

Party co-chairwoman Frauke Petry said in an interview published Sunday that words such as “völkisch” should be given “a positive connotation.” Frequently used by the Nazis, the term refers to people who belong to a particular race.

Petry’s remarks to weekly newspaper Welt am Sonntag prompted a swift backlash from politicians, commentators and historians. They warned that her party is trying to legitimize ideas that once were at the core of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi ideology.

In an editorial Monday, daily Neue Westfaelische called Petry’s comments “disgusting,” while Green Party lawmaker Volker Beck described them as “dangerous arson.”

Policemen stand near the venue of a party congress of the German right-wing party AfD (Alternative fuer Deutschland) at the Stuttgart Congress Centre ICS on April 30, 2016 in Stuttgart, southern Germany. (AFP/Philipp Guelland)
Policemen stand near the venue of a party congress of the German right-wing party AfD (Alternative fuer Deutschland) at the Stuttgart Congress Center ICS on April 30, 2016 in Stuttgart, southern Germany. (AFP/Philipp Guelland)

Founded in 2013, the party has won representation in nine out of 16 German state parliaments.

Earlier this month, it took a fifth (20.8 percent) of the votes in Angela Merkel’s home state of Mecklenaburg-Vorpommern, helping to shunt the German chancellor’s Christian Democrats (CDU) into third place with just 19%.

But in local elections Sunday in the state of Lower Saxony, the party came only fourth, with 7.8% of the vote, against the CDU’s 34.4%, Reuters reported Monday.

An Emnid poll for Bild am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday showed national support for the AfD at 13%, with Merkel’s Christian Democrats at 33%, Reuters said.

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