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Freelance journalist currently based in Berlin, chronicling the effects of populism on elections in Europe. Former Washington-based political reporter for CBS News, Politico and National Journal.
From Alexander Gauland's comments about the Nazi era being just a "speck of bird poop" in Germany's otherwise glorious history to Björn Höcke saying Berlin's Holocaust Memorial is a "memorial of disgrace," leaders and members in Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) have repeatedly made remarks downplaying the Holocaust or glorifying Nazi Germany. It would therefore seem to be completely counterintuitive to imagine such a party could attract Jewish voters.
However, the AfD has done just that: on Sunday in the German city of Wiesbaden, a small group launched "Jews in the AfD," a group for Jewish supporters within the party. One leader in the group explained this as a result of the party's strong anti-Islam message: "The AfD is the only party in Germany that focuses on Muslims’ hatred for Jews, without playing it down," Dimitri Schulz said.
It's not as if this is or will be a widespread phenomenon, of course: a total of 19 people showed up to the kickoff meeting, and it's hard to imagine Jewish voters turning en masse to parties which have such strong roots in and affinity for Nazi ideology. But as The Atlantic notes here, it is in line with the strategy of other right-wing populist groups across the continent. Both Marine Le Pen's National Rally (formerly National Front) in France and the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) have worked to convince Jewish voters that they have their interests in mind — or at the very least, that they have shed their anti-Semitic pasts.