AUTHOR: Jen Mills
A high-profile member of Germany’s far-right AfD has resigned due to extreme anti-immigrant statements. Andre Poggenburg, whose party is known for its nationalist and Islamophobic policies, made headlines last month when he insulted Turkish people as ‘camel drivers’ and said immigrants with dual passports were a ‘homeless mob we no longer want to have’.
He has now quit his posts as both the party’s state leader in Saxony-Anhalt and as head of the party’s faction in the state parliament.
Poggenburg, 42, said his resignation was supposed to take ‘pressure from the party’, which has come under criticism for its anti-migrant stance.
AfD, which stands for Alternative for Deutschland, came in as the third-strongest party in Germany’s national election in September, and is represented in several state parliaments.
The party wants Syrian refugees to return to their home country, claiming the conflict there is over.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said: ‘(Assad’s) war against his own population triggered a refugee movement of historic proportions,” Seibert added. “That’s why anyone who courts this regime disqualifies themselves.’
Scrutiny of AfD has been growing as the party, which came third in last year’s elections, has been moving further to the right.
Several of its members have expressed anti-Semitic views or called for an end to Germany’s decades-long tradition of acknowledging and atoning for its Nazi past. Some have been found to have ties to far-right groups and foreign governments considered hostile to Germany, such as Russia and Syria.
Public broadcaster ARD reported this week that Andreas Kalbitz, the party’s leader in the eastern state of Brandenburg, attended a camp in 2007 organized by the far-right group ‘Heimattreue Deutsche Jugend.’
The group, whose name roughly translates as German Youth Loyal to the Homeland, has since been banned. Authorities said its aim was to indoctrinate children with neo-Nazi ideology and subject them to paramilitary training. A spokeswoman for Germany’s interior ministry said the country’s domestic intelligence agencies are discussing what steps might be required to put the party under surveillance.