(JTA) – Now that it has made it into the Bundestag, Germany’s strongest right-wing populist political party is insisting on claiming its place on the board of the foundation for the national Holocaust memorial in Berlin which was dedicated in 2005. The initiator of the foundation and memorial itself, Lea Rosh, has rejected the idea out of hand. But the president of the parliament, Wolfgang Schäuble, has not yet commented on the bid.
The right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party entered the Bundestag last September with 94 seats, after coming in third place with 12.6 percent of the vote in the German federal elections. It is now invoking the law passed in 2000 that established the Holocaust memorial foundation, which stipulates that each party in the parliament is entitled to proportional representation on the board of trustees. The AfD would be entitled to one seat. Last year, AfD legislator Bjoern Hoecke of the former East German state of Thuringia, criticized the memorial, saying that “Germans are the only people in the world who plant a monument of shame in the heart of the capital.”
In response to that statement, a group of German artist-activists built a replica of the national Holocaust memorial outside Hoecke’s home in the village of Bornhage. They reportedly have offered to remove the installation if Hoecke “fall(s) to his knees” in front of it and asks for forgiveness for Germany’s crimes against humanity, recalling the gesture of then-chancellor Willy Brandt in 1970 at a memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
Now, AfD party leaders have told the German newspaper Tagesspiegel that the AfD will claim its place on the board, after the Bundestag faction considers who might be their best choice. Rosh, the board’s deputy chair, said in November that she opposes AfD’s entry onto the board, particularly following Hoecke’s statement about the memorial. Last week, Rosh, who is not Jewish, told the Tagesspiegel that inclusion of the AfD is “not only bad, but impossible.” She is asking Bundestag President Schäuble to look into legal options to barring the party from claiming this entitlement. He has not taken a public position on the issue.