Tony Paterson, Independent, March 18, 2016
A leaked election manifesto has revealed that Germany’s vote-winning new anti-immigrant party has plans for draconian laws which would discriminate against handicapped children, single mothers, and the mentally ill–and oblige history teachers to end a perceived “over-emphasis” on the Nazi era in schools.
The radical proposals are contained in an election manifesto produced by the right-wing populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party, which made sweeping gains in three state elections last weekend in a show of public opposition to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door refugee policy.
The AfD’s success meant that the party is now represented in eight of Germany’s 16 state parliaments. A poll published by YouGov showed that more than 70 per cent of Germans now believe that the AfD is firmly on course to win seats in Germany’s national Bundestag parliament next year, when it will contest a general election for the first time.
The previously secret draft national manifesto, which is due to be approved by a full AfD party congress at the end of April, has been published by the not-for-profit German research group Correctiv.org. It shows that the AfD is far more than the single issue anti-immigration party portrayed in recent campaigning.
The party’s manifesto makes it clear that the AfD wants a return to what it calls “national” values in Germany. It says it “sees the traditional family” as the only model which can reverse the country’s declining birth rate. To this end the party pledges to take steps to ban abortion and make divorce more difficult. By contrast, German families which produce children should be rewarded with financial incentives, it says.
It regards single-parent mothers as a burden upon taxpayers and a disincentive to healthy family life, and says it would end the provision of state benefits for them. “The AfD is against the state financing the self-chosen single parent life model,” the manifesto says. It also advocates an end to the funding of state-run kindergartens, and favours young children remaining at home to be looked after by a parent.
Further socially disadvantaged targets include the mentally ill. The party argues: “Therapy-resistant alcoholics, drug addicts and psychologically ill perpetrators should not be kept in psychiatric hospitals but be put under lock and key.”
The AfD also suggests that handicapped children should not be included “at all costs” as pupils in regular schools because, it claims, their presence can impede other pupils’ progress. It wants the age of criminal responsibility to be reduced from 14 to 12. The party also favours dramatically cutting state benefits and introducing a flat 20 per cent tax rate, which would primarily benefit the wealthy.
The AfD’s proposals for history teaching in schools are equally radical. The party aims to end what it describes as the “current limitation” of history teaching to “the period of National Socialism”. Instead it proposes a “wider consideration of history” which includes more “positive aspects” of Germany’s past.
AfD election manifestos published in the run-up to last weekend’s state elections also contained proposals to compel museums and theatres to strengthen their identification with “German” as opposed to “foreign” culture.
The Social Democrat Party leader Sigmar Gabriel argues the AfD’s ideas and language are “a fatal reminder of the vocabulary used in the 1920 and 1930s”, in a reference to the period during which the Nazi Party came to power in Germany. He added: “The AfD is trying to establish a nationalistic society based on the idea of excluding people.”
Beatrix von Storch, a leading AfD politician who helped to draft the manifesto, has argued that the AfD should move beyond its opposition to the euro and asylum-seekers, to concentrate instead on opposing Islam.
The manifesto says the state should set “limits” on the practice of the Muslim faith. Minarets should be banned along with the wearing of the burka and niqab in public. Muslim organisations should have tax benefits cut. Male circumcision should be outlawed and a ban be imposed on the slaughter of animals without anaesthetic.
Commentators and politicians in Germany’s mainstream parties have accused the AfD of resorting to language and terminology once used by Hitler’s National Socialists. However the AfD has yet to defend its leaked manifesto in public.
Frauke Petry, the AfD’s leader, who recently sparked outrage after she insisted that firearms should be used to deter migrants at Germany’s borders, was at the centre of a row on Friday after apparently refusing to appear on a breakfast chat show on Germany’s ZDF public television channel. She had been due to answer questions posed by an award-winning Iraqi-born journalist, Dunja Hayali.
Hajo Funke, a Berlin university expert on the far right, said: “We must confront the AfD on its racism and its extreme right-wing policies. These endanger the community rather than support it.”