World

German Politician Quits Far-Right Party, Launches National Movement With Nazi Symbol

After suggesting the largest national far-right party was too moderate, a German politician has launched a new national movement that incorporates Nazi symbols.

André Poggenburg, 43, was formerly the regional leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt. However, he resigned his post in 2018 after making several comments that were deemed racist.

Read more: Far-right politician seriously injured in politically motivated assault by masked attackers

According to The Guardian, Poggenburg branded Turkish people “camel drivers” and said immigrants holding dual nationality were a “homeless mob we no longer want.”

In an email sent to the party leadership, Poggenburg criticized his former colleagues for being too concerned about possible surveillance from German intelligence services. In a separate interview with newspaper Die Welt, he lambasted a “shift to the left” in the anti-immigration AfD, which has been described by critics as racist and neo-Nazi.

His solution: a new party even farther to the right, which he has named the Awakening of German Patriots. But the movement has already caused controversy thanks to Poggenburg’s use of symbolism.

The party will be represented by a cornflower against the background of a German flag. Though it may look innocuous at first glance, the cornflower was used as a secret symbol by Austrian Nazis when the National Socialist party was banned in the country in the 1930s. The ban was lifted when Austria merged with Nazi Germany in 1938.

Poggenburg told Die Welt he did not want his new party to directly compete with the AfD and that he would take at least two fellow lawmakers with him for pastures new. The Guardian suggested that the Awakening of German Patriots was hoping to stand in regional elections in the states of Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg later this year.

The AfD became the third largest party in Germany following the 2017 general election. It is now the official opposition in the national parliament, given that the two largest parties are governing in coalition.

The party’s fortunes have been buoyed by a groundswell against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s liberal immigration policy, which saw around 1 million new arrivals to the country in 2015. The AfD also performed well in the areas that once formed East Germany, where economic growth and employment prospects have lagged behind those in the former West.

Poggenburg said he wished “to stay with the successful [political] positioning of the AfD of around two years ago and not go along with the noticeable shift to the left.” As it has risen to national prominence, the AfD has worked to expel some of its more controversial members and clean up its image.

The AfD is holding its annual conference this week, from which Poggenburg’s new party will no doubt be an unwelcome distraction. The party was also in the news earlier this week, when one of its representatives, Frank Magnitz, was reportedly rendered unconscious after being attacked by masked assailants.

Magnitz spent three days in the hospital after the attack. Party chairman Jörg Meuthen said the attackers used a wooden instrument to beat the lawmaker to the ground, where they continued to kick him in the head. Police investigating the incident said they had video footage contradicting Meuthen’s account and have proposed releasing it.

Andre Poggenburg AfD Germany André Poggenburg in Magdeburg, Germany, on April 12, 2016. Jens Schlueter/Getty Images

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