The head of the youth wing of the AfD in Lower Saxony confirmed on Thursday that he wrote on Facebook that Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg was “a traitor” and “a coward” for attempting to kill Hitler.
On July 20th 1944, Stauffenberg conspired with a group of Wehrmacht officers to plant a bomb in Hitler's headquarters in the hope that through killing him they could remove the Nazi party from power. Hitler survived the bombing. Stauffenberg and his fellow conspirators were arrested and executed on the same day.
Stauffenberg is widely viewed in Germany as a hero and on July 20th every year a ceremony is held in his honour at the former prison in Berlin where he was executed.
AfD youth head Lars Steinke wrote in a private Facebook discussion that von Stauffenberg’s assassination attempt in July 1944 was “the shameful attempt of a coward” who “wanted to save his own skin in front of the advancing victors.”
Steinke confirmed to Die Welt that he had made the comments. He justified them by arguing that “the allies had made it completely clear by that stage that they wanted an unconditional capitulation and therefore they would have continued the war even after the death of Hitler.”
The death of Hitler would have led to the collapse of the eastern front, he claimed, “meaning even more Germans would have fallen victim to the atrocities committed there.”
Controversial statements about the Second World War are nothing new to the AfD. Party chairman Alexander Gauland was condemned by political opponents earlier this year when he referred to the Nazi era as “a speck of bird shit” in Germany’s otherwise great history. Meanwhile, the party’s head in the state of Thuringia has decried the way Germany remembers the Holocaust, arguing that a misplaced sense of guilt led Germany to build a Holocaust memorial in the centre of Berlin.
But Steinke’s comments appear to have gone too far even for his party leadership.
Gauland called on Thursday for his removal from the party, saying “Steinke has disqualified himself from the AfD.”
“These type of statements are baseless idiocy. Stauffenberg is one of the heroes of German history,” Gauland said.
Jörg Meuthen, the co-chair of the party joined the condemnation, describing the comments as “an absurd understanding of history that have no place in the AfD.”
Die Welt reports that Steinke was the subject of an inner-party disciplinary process last year over his alleged links to the far-right Identitarian Movement. An attempt to kick him out failed however when the party chairwomen in Lower Saxony failed to support it.
On his Twitter feed, Steinke takes stances which seems to suggest a racial view of national identity. Before the World Cup final he tweeted that he was “crossing his fingers for the Croatian national team to beat the French colonial troops.” Several members of the French national team are black or north African.
Ich drücke der Kroatischen Nationalmannschaft heute im Spiel gegen die französischen Kolonialtruppen die Daumen!
— Lars Steinke (@LarsSteinke) July 15, 2018
In another Tweet he wrote: “‘White men’ of the world unite!” in response to an article on the current discussions around racism in German society.