Politicians across Germany have condemned the leader of the far-right, anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland party for comments she made this week comparing migrants to a pile of compost.
Dismissing the notion that migrants make German society more diverse, Frauke Petry said: "What should we make of the 'Germany is colourful' campaign? A compost heap is colorful too."
Petry might have been greeted with hearty applause inside the conference, but German politicians throughout the country were quick to condemn her comments.
Petry made the statement at a party conference on Monday, attended by some 300 (mostly male, largely elderly, and almost all white) Alternative für Deutschland members in Stuttgart.
This is not the first time Petry has stoked outrage in her home country. In January the right-wing firebrand suggested police should be able to shoot migrants crossing illegally through the border when necessary.
The mood of the conference was palpably triumphant. In recent months, the party has won seats in several state parliaments — even nabbing 14 percent of the vote in notoriously left-leaning Berlin last month. The party is now represented in 10 of 16 German states, is polling 16 percent support nationally, and is poised to become the third-largest party in Germany, according to research by the German broadcaster ARD.
The growth of the party is seen as a popular indictment of Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to let some 900,000 migrants seek refuge in Germany last year.
Also at the party conference, Petry argued that the 21st century would be marked by a "conflict of individuals: the fight of local Germans against […] the Lumpenproletariat of the Afro-Arab world."
"They told us that the immigrants are highly qualified, all doctors and engineers, until we found out that they are mostly illiterate… We were told that no extremists are coming to Europe via the refugee routes, until it was proven that some Islamic assassins did take that route."
Within Germany's political establishment, Petry — a mother of four and the ex-wife of a Lutheran pastor — is often referred to as a wolf in sheep's clothing: the calm, almost wholesome face of Germany's new mainstream far-right. Alternative für Deutschland officials have been keen to distance their party from thuggish groups like the neo-Nazi NPD party — and to present themselves as a bürgerlich (socially respectable) political alternative.
In May, the Alternative für Deutschland released a new manifesto, and it includes a claim that "Islam is not part of Germany." The revised platform also seeks to promote traditional gender roles, reintroduce military conscription, and remove Germany from the eurozone. The party has said that Germany's school curriculum should focus less on Nazi crimes and more on "positive" episodes in German history.
The Alternative für Deutschland's appeal is still limited, but in recent months, the party has been credited with nudging Angela Merkel's ruling CDU-CSU coalition further to the right, ahead of federal elections next year.
Outside the conference hall Tuesday, several hundred anti-fascist demonstrators gathered, bearing signs reading "NAZIS OUT!"