BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s far-right, led by the rising anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, is using language similar to that deployed by Hitler’s Nazis, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said on Friday.
Support for the AfD has jumped amid deepening public unease over Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy for refugees from Syria and elsewhere after some 1.1 million migrants came to Germany last year.
“Those who accuse democratically elected politicians of treason, call them ‘parties of the system’ and menace journalists as ‘lying press’ - they are very close to the language of the enemies of democracy, the Nazis of the ‘20s and ‘30s,” Gabriel said.
He was speaking in Berlin at an event to promote integration - the hot popular issue in Germany. Concern over the refugee influx has hurt support for Merkel and fueled the AfD’s rise.
The AfD has grown in tandem with support for other far-right groups, such as the anti-Islam PEGIDA movement, which has held regular rallies in protest at the increase in refugee numbers.
Last year, dozens of protesters shouted at Merkel and waved placards with the slogan “traitor” - adopted by PEGIDA - when she visited an eastern German town where anti-refugee protests had erupted into violence.
Gabriel said on Sunday Germany’s domestic intelligence agency (BfV) should monitor the AfD after the party’s leader, Frauke Petry, suggested that German police be given powers to use firearms against illegal migrants.
“There is a political force that is trying to develop itself into the parliamentary arm of these racist arguments,” Gabriel said on Friday, with reference to an increased number of attacks on foreigners in Germany.
A poll on Wednesday showed support for the AfD up three points at 12 percent, cementing its position as Germany’s third largest party, behind Merkel’s conservatives and Gabriel’s Social Democrats, who govern in a coalition.
Reporting by Matthias Sobolewski; Writing by Paul Carrel; editing by John Stonestreet