(JTA) — Right-wing presidential candidate José Antonio Kast has significant support from Chile’s Jewish community in his country’s election, which is headed to a Dec. 19 runoff vote.
But on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that Kast’s father was likely a member of Germany’s Nazi party.
Documents obtained by the AP suggest that the late Michael Kast joined the Nazi party in 1942, when he was 18.
The report comes days before the presidential runoff between Kast, 55, and Gabriel Boric, a 35-year-old left-wing contender who in recent days has had a slight lead in the polls.
Michael Kast immigrated to Chile in 1950 and was known to have served in Adolf Hitler’s army. But prior to the AP report, it was not known whether he was actually a willing member of the Nazi party.
The younger Kast has in the past disputed claims that his father was a Nazi, but he has not denied that his father served in the Wehrmacht, Nazi Germany’s army. He has argued this did not make his father a Nazi, as conscription was mandatory.
About 8.5 million Germans, or a tenth of the population, were members of the Nazi party, NSDAP. Membership was not mandatory but offered significant social benefits.
In a statement to Radio BioBio about the AP report, Kast said: “Regardless of what a paper says 50 years ago, my father, I and our entire family abhor the Nazis.”
Some Chilean Jews told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last month that they are wary of Kast’s views but are voting for him anyway in the face of what they describe as persistent left-wing antisemitism.