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Germany's Right-Wing AfD Is Accused Of Exploiting Jewish Members

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We have a head-spinning story from Germany now. It's the story of a far-right political party called Alternative for Germany, the AfD. This far-right party has done well in elections while claiming that Germany's identity is under threat from refugees and migrants. Now, the AfD is setting up a wing of Jewish members. In theory, Israel is aligned against the same Arabs and Muslims the AfD dislikes. The head-spinning part as the people on the far-right have also targeted Jews. Esme Nicholson reports from Berlin.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking German).

ESME NICHOLSON, BYLINE: This incident was caught on camera and shows a German man shouting abuse at the owner of Feinberg's, a well-known Jewish restaurant in the burden borough of Charlottenburg.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking German).

NICHOLSON: The man rants, what do you want here? You belong in the gas chambers. Nobody wants you here with your stupid Jewish restaurants. Mike Delberg, a restaurant regular and friend of the owner, says anti-Jewish sentiment is more brazen since the AfD's strong showing in last year's election. So the very idea that fellow Jewish citizens would vote for the party is baffling.

MIKE DELBERG: A lot of members of the party are anti-Semitic or racist and saying unbelievable things about minorities, about Jewish people, about Muslim people. How can a Jewish group form itself within a party like that?

NICHOLSON: Delberg is vice president of the German Jewish Students Union, which is organizing a protest against the group, Jews in the AfD, at their inauguration on Sunday. He warns that the AfD is trying to exploit its Jewish members.

DELBERG: The AfD tries to come over as very pro-Jewish, very pro-Israeli. It's not because they like the Jews. It's not because they like Israel very much. It's because they hate the enemies of Israel so much that they think that they have a strong partner within the Jewish community to fight those people. But we don't let exploit ourselves from these tactics.

NICHOLSON: Wolfgang Fuhl is also Jewish, but he's a founding member of the group Jews in the AfD. He scoffs at the idea of being used by his party.

WOLFGANG FUHL: (Through interpreter) Believe me, I'm not being exploited by anybody. I'm a conservative person, and I'd like to continue to live in Germany. We're roughly 140,000 Jews in this country. It would only take a week for us all to leave. And we'd be leaving not because of the AfD or the right-wing extremists but because of Islamic anti-Semitism.

NICHOLSON: Melanie Amann, reporter for the news magazine Der Spiegel, is an authority on the AfD. She says she sees a lot of parallels between the anti-Semitism of the Nazi era and the AfD's anti-Islam sentiment today.

MELANIE AMANN: From a lot of AfD leaders, you hear derogatory, aggressive general accusations towards the Muslims that can be comparable to the way the Nazis treated the Jews - for example, see them as enemies of the German people. They also use language comparing Muslims to animals like, for example, bacteria.

NICHOLSON: Back at Feinberg's Restaurant, Mike Delberg warns that Jews should be suspicious of the AfD's stance on alleged Islamic anti-Semitism.

DELBERG: Maybe they're standing by our side right now, but when they, let's say, solve the first problem, we are the next. And we just have to look back in our history to understand what we are doing when we are supporting a party like that.

NICHOLSON: For NPR News, I'm Esme Nicholson in Berlin.

(SOUNDBITE OF KIASMOS' "HELD") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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