Germany’s far-right AfD party has sacked a former spokesman after he was secretly recorded talking about gassing and shooting immigrants.
The comments by Christian Lüth, recorded in February when he was spokesman for the AfD parliamentary group, were revealed in a documentary on right-wing extremism aired by ProSieben television on Monday night.
In the exchange with YouTube influencer Lisa Licentia, who Lüth believed to be a sympathiser, he said that it was in the interests of his notoriously anti-migrant party that more immigrants came to Germany, “because then things got better for the AfD”.
“We can still shoot them all afterwards,” he said. “Or gas them, whichever you like. I don’t care either way.”
While the AfD, the largest opposition party in Germany’s federal parliament, has frequently made headlines for scandalous comments from within its ranks, the reference to gassing minorities has sparked fresh outrage in the country responsible for the Holocaust.
“Talk of ‘shooting’ and ‘gassing’ has broken a clear political and social taboo,” Simone Rafael, editor-in-chief at far-right monitoring website Belltower News, told VICE News.
The AfD kicked Lüth out of the party once news of the comments broke, with co-leader Alexander Gauland calling the comments “totally unacceptable and incompatible with the aims and policies” of the group.
Lüth, who had held senior positions with the party since it was founded in 2013, had already been stood down from his role since April over allegations he had repeatedly described himself as a fascist and praised his "Aryan grandfather", a World War II submarine commander who had received an Iron Cross from Adolf Hitler.
Rafael said that despite the denunciation of Lüth’s comments by the AfD’s leadership, the secretly-filmed remarks gave a glimpse into attitudes she said were prevalent within the party, which sought to maintain a facade of democratic respectability.
“The racist and inhumane remarks … are views widely shared in the party, but rarely uttered publicly or so explicitly,” she said. “After internal power struggles within the party, the AfD has become increasingly radicalised, and it’s clear that it is not a party that operates within the spectrum of democratic acceptability.”
But Rafael did not believe the scandal would substantially hurt the party’s standing among its support base.
“People vote for the AfD precisely because and not despite the fact that it is racist,” she said, adding that the party’s supporters were often deeply distrustful of the media. “This current scandal could very well simply look like a media ‘hit job’ to them.”
Lüth was reportedly once a close confidante of Gauland, who himself has stirred up scandals with provocative comments. In 2017, Gauland caused outrage when he said a German lawmaker of Turkish descent should be “disposed of” back to her parents’ ancestral homeland; a year later he described the Nazi era as “just a speck of bird shit in over 1,000 years of successful German history”.