World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder has criticized the far-right, populist German party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), which he called "a disgrace for Germany."
In an interview with the newspaper 'Die Welt' published on Thursday, Lauder was asked what he made of a recent interview of one of the AfD's leaders, Björn Höcke, who declined to call Adolf Hitler "absolute evil" in a recent interview and said in a speech in January that the Holocaust memorial in Berlin was a “monument of shame.”
Lauder said: "Björn Höcke should never have been interviewed. What he said in his speech in Dresden and his interview with the 'Wall Street Journal' was absolutely shocking and repulsive. He sounded like an apologist for Hitler. It is clear to me that AfD party panders to the extreme-right. They are playing with fire."
The WJC president also responded to questions on recent anti-Semitic incidents in the United States and praised Muslim-Jewish cooperation in America. After Jewish graves were destructed near St. Louis, Muslims collected more than 160,000 dollars in order to restore them. Lauder said there was "already is a strong friendship between Jews and Muslims in the US, without the necessity of collecting even one single dollar. It is terrible that people in and outside the US use the Islam to legitimate outrageous anti-Semitic crimes."
Referring to the AfD, Lauder also made it clear that "Whoever defames another religion cannot be a friend of us."
On the issue of Holocaust remembrance, Lauder highlighted the importance of social media in communicating to younger generations what had happened to Jews during World War II. "It’s very important that everyone visits a place like Auschwitz or talks to a Holocaust survivor at least once. "This is not always possible, and therefore, new media play an important role," he pointed out.