Europe

'Nazi word' revived by German AfD chief

  • 12 September 2016
  • From the section Europe
Reprint of Nazi daily Voelkischer Beobachter, Feb 2009 file pic Image copyright AFP
Image caption In 2009 reprints of the Nazi Voelkischer Beobachter were censored in Germany

The leader of Germany's right-wing, anti-immigration AfD party has been criticised for trying to give a positive spin to the Nazi-era word "voelkisch" ("people's" or "national").

Frauke Petry said it was wrong to equate "voelkisch" with "racist". It is simply the adjective for "Volk" ("People"), she told Welt am Sonntag.

The Nazis used the term "voelkisch" to set Germans apart from Jews and others they labelled "racially inferior".

A Nazi daily propagandised that idea.

Voelkischer Beobachter ("People's Observer") was a vehicle for Nazi racist ideology. In 2009 controversial reprints of the Nazi daily were confiscated by the authorities when they appeared in a publication called Zeitungszeugen ("Newspaper Witnesses").

In the German newspaper interview on Sunday, Frauke Petry said "we should work to restore a positive connotation to this concept".

Her Alternative for Germany (AfD) is polling strongly, and for the first time beat Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) into third place in a regional election on 4 September, coming second in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

The party got 7.8% in local council elections on Sunday in Lower Saxony, in Germany's north-west. That put it fourth, behind the CDU, SPD and Greens.

Profile: German right-wing AfD leader Frauke Petry

What does Alternative for Germany (AfD) want?

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Ms Petry was elected to Saxony's state parliament in 2014

'Nazi concept'

The bedrock of AfD support is in the former communist east. Another key regional election will be held in Berlin on 18 September.

Journalist Kai Biermann condemned Ms Petry's stance, writing in the daily Die Zeit (in German), with an article entitled "'Voelkisch' is not just any adjective".

"Voelkischer Beobachter was the strongest Nazi daily in terms of circulation, it was the Nazis' campaign sheet," he wrote.

"The term 'voelkisch' is a synonym for extreme nationalism and even for racism. To this day it is a symbol of Nazism and its ideology of eradicating and killing anything non-German," he said.

A leading MP in the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), Niels Annen, tweeted that "this is no longer a joke: the AfD is openly wooing far-right nationalists - Petry wants to give the Nazis' central concept a positive connotation".

The German online dictionary Duden gives the following definition of "voelkisch":

  • (National Socialist) (in the racist ideology of National Socialism) relating to a people/nation as supposedly a race; belonging to the people as a supposed race
  • (archaic) national

The AfD has no MPs in the federal parliament (Bundestag), but has seats in nine of the 16 regional parliaments.

The party's manifesto says that Islam "does not belong" to German society, while accepting that moderate Muslims who integrate can be good citizens.

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