BERLIN (JTA) — European Jewish leaders slammed the appointment of a German neo-Nazi lawmaker to the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee.
Udo Voigt, the former head of the far-right National Democratic Party, was named this week to the parliamentary committee for Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. Voigt, 62, has lauded Adolf Hitler and is notorious for his relativization of the Holocaust.
“It is surreal and the ultimate insult to the Jews of Europe and to the European Union itself,” Moshe Kantor, head of the Brussels-based European Jewish Congress, said in a statement Tuesday. He urged all lawmakers “to refuse to allow this man to participate in the workings of the committee.”
Kantor added that none of this would have happened if Germany had banned the NPD, which has some 7,000 members nationwide.
Voigt gained his seat in the European Parliament in May when the NDP won about 1 percent of the German popular vote — the new threshold for admission to the body.
World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer said “it was already bad enough that Voigt was able to get elected” after Germany removed the 5 percent vote threshold for international elections this year. His appointment to the committee is “disgraceful and unacceptable,” Singer said, joining calls for the EU to establish a higher threshold to prevent extremist fringe groups from gaining a foothold. The next such election is scheduled for 2019.
“The idea of a neo-Nazi as a guardian of European human rights is sickening,” said Stephan Kramer, newly appointed director of the American Jewish Committee’s European Office on Anti-Semitism, based in Brussels and Berlin.
Germany’s last official attempt to ban the NPD failed in 2003, after it turned out that government informants had incited some of the illegal actions for which the party was being investigated.
After the NPD reached the threshold in May, Dieter Graumann, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said he felt justified in pushing for a new attempt to ban the party. Skeptics have warned that a second failure would only benefit the extremists and hurt all future attempts.
Just prior to his election, Voigt received a one-year suspended sentence in Germany for incitement to hate.