Germany’s largest far-right party has rebranded itself so successfully that it’s attracting large shares of the national population, including some Jews, despite party members’ record of making anti-Semitic remarks and trivializing the Holocaust.
A small number of German Jews gathered Sunday to launch their own group within the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, calling themselves the “Jews in the AfD.”
The populist AfD has been surging in voter polls and, in one recent survey, ranked as the second-most-popular political party in the country behind Chancellor Angela Merkel’s. It’s become so hard to ignore the AfD that a senior member of Merkel’s party in the state of Saxony recently signaled willingness to form a coalition with it. But many consider the party’s inroads with German Jews to be the most striking sign of the AfD’s success—striking, too, because it mirrors the rebranding efforts of far-right parties in several other European countries.
In the city of Wiesbaden, near Frankfurt, 19 people met to join the new group, according to media reports. They showed their support for a party that is often accused of anti-Semitism, but that the AfD said will actually protect them from the anti-Semitism they fear is flowing into the country along with Muslim immigrants. (From 2010 to 2016, the number of Muslims living in Germany rose from about 3 million, or 4 percent of the population, to nearly 5 million, according to data from the Pew Research Center.) Meanwhile, about 250 people, many of them Jewish, protested in Frankfurt against the formation of the new group. “You won’t get a kosher stamp from us,” said Dalia Grinfeld, a Jewish student-union leader at the protest, according to The Guardian.