A German politician who left the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party after a racist tirade is setting up a new party that has adopted a symbol used by Austrian Nazis and an anti-Semitic group in the 1930s.
André Poggenburg led the AfD, often described as far-right over its anti-Muslim and anti-immigration rhetoric, to its the strongest state election performance yet, winning almost a quarter of the vote in Saxony-Anhalt in 2016.
But the regional leader resigned last year after labeling Turks as “camel drivers” and immigrants with dual nationality a “homeless mob we no longer want to have.” He recently criticized the AfD for becoming increasingly left-wing amid fears of being under surveillance by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency.
His new party – named Awakening of German Patriots (AdP) – drew immediate criticism after revealing that its logo features a blue corn flower, a known symbol of hate.
In neighboring Austria, the flower has been associated with the anti-Semitic Schoenerer Movement and was used as a secret symbol by Nazi sympathizers up until the country was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938.
Poggenburg told German news agency DPA that his movement may enter state parliament in regional elections this year, but also said elsewhere that he doesn’t want his party to directly compete with the AfD.
This is the fourth time a split has emerged in the party that has sent shockwaves through the Germany political establishment since the migrant crisis in 2015 that resulted in Germany welcoming one million refugees.
AfD co-leader Frauke Petry left the party in 2017 and formed the Blue Party, which has two seats in the national parliament. Bernhard Wildt, a regional AfD leader, also left the party to found a group called Citizens for Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
Earlier this month, a member of the AfD was seriously injured after being attacked by three people in the northern city of Bremen in what the party described as an "assassination attempt."
The party said Frank Magnitz was knocked unconscious after leaving a New Year's reception. The party praised “the courageous intervention of a builder” with saving Magnitz's life and said the police and the Bremen prosecutor's office are investigating the attack.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.