For the past two years, the national leadership of the AfD – a fringe political party which rose to prominence on the back of its rejection of Germany's open-border refugee policy – have fought off accusations that they are extremist.
Speaking to The Local in May, AfD leader Alice Weidel said that “there are no racists in the AfD.”
“I cannot see the right-wing populism in our party programme. I wouldn't engage myself for such a party,” she insisted.
But on Wednesday a new scandal broke, adding to the long list of evidence that senior AfD members of the party at least sympathize with extremist right-wing movements.
In a leaked WhatsApp chat between party members, Saxony-Anhalt party leader André Poggenburg used the term Deutschland den Deutschen (Germany belongs to Germans), a parole often heard at marches organized by the neo-Nazi NPD party.
The state leader also recommended the “expansion of external borders”, a comment which critics have taken to mean an expansion of Germany’s external borders. Several far-right groups still believe that the country’s rightful borders stretch eastwards into modern-day Poland, where they lay before defeat in successive world wars.
Poggenburg confirmed in a press release that he has used the term Deutschland den Deutschen, saying that he believed Germany belonged to those who “had put down roots here for decades or over many generations.”
He also claimed that the term “expansion of external borders” was in reference to EU borders, which he said need to be strengthened to prevent illegal immigration.
Another member of the WhatsApp chat called for “all journalists to be checked over and filtered after we take over power.”
No other member of the group criticized the assertion.
The leaked conversation has come in for strong criticism by politicians from other parties.
Green Party leader in Saxony-Anhalt Cornelia Lüddemann described Poggenburg's remarks as “a disgrace for the parliament.”
Wulf Gallert of Die Linke (the Left Party) said that the fact that the extreme comments were not criticized within the WhatsApp chat said everything about the type of people who belong to the AfD.
Meanwhile on Twitter, the hashtag #AfDLeaks was trending on Thursday. Popular comedian Jan Böhmermann described that WhatsApp chat as “crazed conversations.”
In January, the AfD leader in Thuringia Björn Höcke gave a speech describing Germans as “brutally beaten” and criticized the country for building a “memorial of shame” in Berlin – a reference to the Holocaust Memorial. The comments were described as “anti-Semitic and extremely inhumane” by the head of the Central Council of Jews.
In another incident, Alexander Gauland – Weidel's co-Spitzenkandidat leading the party into September's election – said last year that most Germans wouldn't want national football player Jerome Boateng as a neighbour, a comment which was widely interpreted as a reference to the fact that Boateng is black.