Jewish leaders responded with horror after a German extreme right-wing leader compared to Adolf Hitler led the nationalist AfD party to second place last night in a state election.
Björn Höcke's party rose to 23 percent of the votes in Thuringia and beat Angela Merkel's CDU to third place.
Mr. Höcke, who criticized the Holocaust monument in Berlin and wondered if Hitler & # 39; completely angry & # 39; stormed out of a TV interview during the campaign after his rhetoric was compared to that of the Nazi dictator.
Today a series of Jewish community leaders raised the alarm about the results.
Extreme right-wing rise: German politician Björn Höcke (photo), the leader of the AfD in Thuringia, led his party to second place in a state election on Sunday
Josef Schuster, the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, accused the AfD of using & # 39; cheap racist propaganda & # 39 ;.
"Everyone who voted for the AfD on Sunday shares responsibility for the gradual undermining of the foundations of our democracy," he said.
The success of the AfD could no longer be dismissed as a & # 39; protest vote & # 39; because the hard-right ideology of the party's Thuringia branch could not be denied, he said.
Charlotte Knobloch, a Holocaust survivor who leads the Jewish community of Munich, said that & # 39; something fundamental has failed in our political system & # 39 ;.
AfD supporters had supported & # 39; a party that for many years laid the ground for exclusion and violence from the extreme right & # 39 ;, she warned.
Christoph Heubner, vice-chairman of the International Auschwitz Committee, representing the survivors of the Nazi death camp, also expressed his fears about the outcome.
& # 39; For survivors of German concentration camps, this sharp increase in votes for the AfD is a new frightening sign that evokes fear of a further consolidation of right-wing trends and attitudes in Germany & # 39 ;, he said.
Thuringia is located in former East Germany, where extreme right-wing extremism has blossomed in recent years and where the extreme left is also strong.
Beaten: Angela Merkel (photo) and her ruling CDU party finished third after the AfD last night in an embarrassing election result
Many East Germans feel deprived for nearly 30 years since the Berlin Wall crashed and the traditional parties of the West were never deeply rooted there.
Anti-immigrant AfD, founded in 2013, benefited from anger about Angela Merkel's refugee policy and entered the German national parliament for the first time in 2017.
The strong result of the party last night came just weeks after an anti-Semitic attack in Halle – also in the east – in which two people were shot near a synagogue.
After the attack, Felix Klein, Germany's anti-Semitist commissioner, warned that the AfD had acted in inflammatory anti-Jewish sentiment.
Mr. Höcke is a special division character and AfD party bosses were urged to cut him off before Sunday's election.
The 47-year-old has previously described the Holocaust Memorial in the heart of Berlin as a & # 39; monument of shame & # 39 ;.
He has also called for a & # 39; 180-degree shift & # 39; in the way Germany deals with the memory of its past.
Winner: Bodo Ramelow, leader of the left-wing Die Linke party, remains state prime minister of Thuringia after his party became first in Sunday's election
During the campaign, he burst out of an interview after a TV presenter compared his rhetoric to Hitler's.
As part of the program, several AfD politicians were asked to guess whether a particular quote had come from Hitler or Höcke – and some had guessed it incorrectly.
The result is also a big blow to the CDU and party chairman Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who hopes to succeed Angela Merkel in the top course.
Mrs. Merkel has promised to stop by 2021, but her party colleague has difficulty establishing herself as party leader.
Yesterday, the CDU won only 22 percent of the vote, against 34 percent five years ago, when the AfD more than doubled its own performance.
The election was won by Die Linke with 31 percent, a leftist party popular in the east that originated in the communist party that reigned until 1989.
The party's regional leader Bodo Ramelow will continue as prime minister of the state, but will have to open coalition talks with other parties.
The center-left SPD, Mrs Merkel's coalition partner in Berlin, also had a bad night and dropped to just eight percent of the vote.
The Green Party and the liberal FDP both won just over five percent, the threshold needed to enter a state or national parliament in Germany.
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