Right-wing anti-immigrant party Alternative for Germany (AfD) moved on Monday to expel a controversial state leader who called Berlin’s Holocaust memorial a “monument of shame.”
On January 17, Björn Höcke told a crowd at an AfD youth event that Germany needed to end its “culture of remembering Nazi crimes,” and make a 180-degree change in its reflection of the past.
As a result, a motion against the representative from east-central Thuringia was voted through with a two-thirds majority. It has also revealed deep rifts in the AfD’s executive ranks.
According to an internal paper seen by German public broadcaster ZDF, the AfD is following a strategy of “targeted provocation” to attract attention ahead of three state elections in the coming months, as well as federal elections later this year. However, Mr. Höcke's actions have split opinions over what such an approach entails.
A recent poll conducted by opinion research institute Civey for the German daily Die Welt found that 52 percent of AfD members opposed the expulsion of Mr. Höcke. In contrast, 42 percent support the move, with 6 percent undecided.
While AfD leader Frauke Petry publicly declared that Mr. Höcke "overstepped the boundary of what is democratically tolerable," AfD deputy chief Alexander Gauland, a vocal critic of Ms. Petry, called the exclusion proceedings "completely mistaken." Mr. Höcke is likely to appeal the decision.
On Tuesday, Mr. Gauland told Reuters news agency he hoped Mr. Höcke would change his mind and run for the Bundestag in this year's elections. According to AfD Thuringia's speaker Torben Braga, many party members were calling on Mr. Höcke to run. Mr. Höcke had said last month that he did not aspire to either be top candidate or a run for the Bundestag.
Last year, the former history teacher also made headlines when he said that Europe needed to stop African refugees because their reproductive rates would fuel over-population.