(JTA) — The right-populist Alternative for Germany party made large gains in two state elections.
The anti-immigrant party, with some politicians who also have suggested that Germany is too obsessed with the Holocaust, took second place in elections Sunday in the former east German states of Brandenburg and Saxony, with 23.5 and 27.5 percent, respectively.
In Saxony, the Christian Democratic Union of Chancellor Angela Merkel won the largest percentage of votes, while in Brandenburg the Social Democratic Party came out on top.
Despite concerns about anti-Semitism among the many Muslims in Germany, the far right remains the greatest threat to Jews, the German leader Josef Schuster said. He called on on democratic political parties to clearly distance themselves from AfD.
“It would be devastating to sit back and relax” just because the right-wing party did not gain first place, Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told the German-Jewish weekly newspaper Juedische Allgemeine on Monday.
Speaking to the Jewish weekly in the hours following the weekend’s election, Schuster said he was relieved that the worst-case scenario – a bigger win for the AfD – had not come to pass.
But he urged voters not to be complacent, and not to be taken in by AfD leader Alexander Gauland’s recent attempts to whitewash the party by calling it “bourgeois.” Last month, Schuster said in an interview that the AfD is closely interwoven with right-wing extremism, inciting fears and promoting an anti-minority atmosphere.