Jewish supporters of the right wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) are forming a faith-based group to represent Jewish issues in the party.
The group, Juden in der AfD (“Jews in the AfD” or JAfD), plans to hold its inaugural meeting at an event in the city of Offenbach on October 7, a letter revealed in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and the group will join an existing Christian organisation in the party.
The party confirmed the news in a statement on Facebook this Thursday, highlighting increasing attacks on Jews in Germany, including prominent examples of Islamists calling for Jews to be gassed and knocking kippas off of the head of Jews in Berlin.
“We are proud of the courageous members of the Jewish faith, who set an example with this union,” the party writes.
The statement argues that many people in Germany are silent about anti-Semitism from radical Muslims “in order not to play into the hands of the ‘right wing’”, and promise the AfD will speak up for the Jewish community.
Dimitri Schulz, a founding member of the Jewish AfD group agreed, telling DPA news agency that the AfD “is the only party in Germany that makes anti-Semitism by Muslims a topic without trivialising it”.
However, Charlotte Knobloch, a former chairwoman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told Bild: “The AfD is and remains a party in which anti-Semites feel more than comfortable.”
That “Jewish people can justify their membership in such a party to themselves” is “completely baffling”, she added.
++Jüdische #AfD-Mitglieder gründen Vereinigung!++
Am 07.10. wird ein bundesweiter Zusammenschluss von AfDlern, die jüdischen Glaubens sind, seine Gründungsversammlung abhalten.
Wir sind stolz auf unsere mutigen Mitglieder, die damit ein Zeichen setzen!
— Alternative für Deutschland (@AfD) September 27, 2018
Wolfgang Fuhl, a director of the Central Council of Jews in Germany from 2007 to 2012, another founding member of the AfD Jewish group, criticised Jewish leaders who have attacked Jewish supporters of the party and claimed it is anti-Semitic.
“These officials have become so far removed from the ordinary community member’s everyday experiences that their remarks have little to do with reality,” he blasted.
The speakers at the event in October will include deputy leader of the AfD Beatrix von Storch, AfD candidate and the head of the party’s Christian group Joachim Kuhs, and journalist Michael Klonovsky.
Mr Kuhs said he expects about 20 people to attend the launch event, but told DW: “It doesn’t matter how many people turn up.”
He added: “With the Christian group, we were around 20, and now we’re more than 10 times as many.
“These are people who have the courage to start it, and they are getting quite a lot of flak, and we support them and welcome it that they are organising that.”
Responding to claims that the AfD is anti-Semitic, Mr Kuhs said: “I’m really shocked, honestly. That doesn’t apply at all to what we are.
“The AfD is not an anti-Semitic party; we do not tolerate any anti-Semitism in the party. If that arises, if we notice it, then these people are thrown out.”
The group’s founding statement acknowledged that there may be “individual anti-Semites” in the party, but added that “the AfD’s desire for Germany to become a self-confident country again does not contradict Jewish interests.”