Sputnik: Do you consider the plans to establish a group supporting the far-right party by German Jews a rational decision?
Gerold Otten: There was an initiative of the Jewish group, as you said in the opening remarks, in Offenbach, a city near Frankfurt, so they decided to establish a group, which is quite normal in the party, we also have Christians in the AfD, we have workers in the AfD, so it's quite a normal thing to do.
Sputnik: But there have been a lot of claims of inherent anti-Semitism within your party and not only that, but, of course, the Jewish section of the AfD have come under criticism from the majority of Jewish organizations, how can you comment on this? Do you feel there is inherent anti-Semitism within your party?
Sputnik: Is that a goal of your party to attract additional members of the Jewish community?
Gerold Otten: We attract a lot of members, we are the fastest growing party in Germany. In my area of Germany — Bavaria — we have more than 5,000 members, more than a 1,000 a year join the party, so we actually don't look at what religion the people are that join our party, we even have Muslims in our party, we have Catholics, we have atheists, nonbelievers, so we don't look at what kind of beliefs people have.
Sputnik: There are many claims that your far right AfD party is making anti-Semitism presentable, what can you say about that, by challenging a long time consensus about how to deal with the Nazi past of the country?
Gerold Otten: That's a good point, you need to see in Germany it is one of the weapons in the political discussions to get someone, a new party, and blame them to be right-wing, to blame them to be Nazis.
Even the Green party, in the 80s, they were also called right-wing and Nazi, so it's a matter of political discussion here, so I don't see it as far right, we have positions here, AfD's positions which were claimed by the Christian Democratic party, the party of Angela Merkel some 20 years ago, so we are not far right in that respect, so we basically have represented more the middle or right of the middle, whereas other parties have gone to the far left in Germany, so the Christian Democrats, and that is, like I said, they use it as a weapon but this weapon is not working against us.
Sputnik: Your party, of course, does deny being anti-Semitic or even a racist but has gotten a lot of criticism for not sanctioning one of your key party figures after he called for 180 degree turnaround in the way Germany seeks to atone for Nazi crimes. What can you say about that point of view and can you tell us a little bit about what exactly was meant by your party member when he called for that 180 degree turnaround, how would your party like to see Germany seek to atone for Nazi crimes?
Gerold Otten: I think there's no discussion in our party that Nazi crimes are crimes against humanity, so there's no discussion in our party. What he actually meant with this 180 degree [comment] was the political discussion in Germany among all parties except the AfD is very much focused on these tough years, the very bad period in our history, of course.
Everything is still overshadowing today's political discussion, political decisions in our country, and he said we need to look forward, we don't need to look back, always make politics in the rear view mirror, we have to look forward, we have see what are the problems, and Germany is facing a lot of problems, economic problems, society problems, we have an aging society, we have a lot of illegal immigration also, there's a lot of problems ahead of us, so we should not look too much back, but not forgetting what was happening in this period.
Sputnik: Unfortunately there has been a rise in anti-Semitic, also anti-Muslim, crimes in the country, who do you think is behind these hate crimes or hate speech that we have seen an upsurge in?
We had, for example, a few months ago in German a demonstration here in Germany of Palestine people and people from Turkey who live in Germany, and they were burning flags from Israel directly in the center of the city at the Brandenburg gate.
They were shouting: "Jews, jews, in the gas!", and this is unacceptable, in my point of view, but these were Islamic groups in the center of Germany and this is where this anti-Semitism is growing; we have imported anti-Semitism clearly.
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