Senior AfD member moves even further to right of party

Critics say he is more than just a xenophobe, he is the true face of the AfD

Germany’s burgeoning Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party faces a growing dilemma by the name of Björn Höcke.

This year the party shafted its economic liberal founder, shifting its focus from bailouts to criticising Germany’s refugee policy. It has shrugged off claims that, in so doing, it is flirting with Germany’s extreme right.

Now, though, its populist flirtation has turned into a full-on love-in thanks to Mr Höcke, AfD head in the central state of Thuringia. Mr Höcke, who says he represents the true nationalist soul of the party, first attracted national attention with a bizarre talk show appearance where he produced a German flag and placed it on the arm of his chair.

Since then he has remained in the headlines for speeches filled with the kind of “Volk and Fatherland” language last used to striking effect by the Nazi party.


Other AfD leaders have looked on in alarm and envy as Mr Höcke attracts 20,000 people weekly to demonstrations in Erfurt.

However, even they agree he went too far in a speech last month, attributing his opposition to Germany’s refugee policies to supposed evolutionary differences between European and African “reproduction strategies”.

The African “strategy” was a “life-affirming expansionist” policy, Mr Höcke said, that would eventually overwhelm the “self-negating European” culture.

Critics have pounced on the remarks as proof that, more than just an isolated xenophobe, Mr Höcke is the true face of the AfD. That has left AfD leaders in other federal states scrambling to distance themselves from the regional leader.

Bavaria's AfD leader Petr Bystron conceded that Mr Höcke's remarks were "no slip of the tongue". "If he wants to spread such things he should find himself another platform," said Mr Bystron to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sunday edition.

Hamburg’s AfD head Jörn Kruse said his remarks were “clearly racist”, dubbed Mr Höcke a “repeat offender” and urged federal AfD leaders to do more to distance themselves from him.

AfD leader Frauke Petry issued a statement saying her party’s “patience was at an end” with Mr Höcke and urged him to “consider strongly” his position. She said her party was in the “liberal conservative spectrum” and that Mr Höcke’s remarks were “very damaging”.

However the party has yet to explicitly demand Mr Höcke’s resignation or throw him out. That risks splitting the party just as Germany’s refugee crisis has doubled AfD support to about 10 per cent.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin