Germany should be proud of its WW2 soldiers, far-right candidate says

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germans should be proud of what their soldiers achieved during World War One and Two, the top candidate of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) said ahead of the Sept. 24 election at which his party his expected to enter parliament.

FILE PHOTO: Alexander Gauland of Germany's far-right Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) is seen during a campaign in Pforzheim, Germany September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

The anti-immigrant AfD is on up to 12 percent in opinion polls, meaning it could become the third biggest party in Germany’s lower house behind Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the Social Democrats (SPD).

“If I look around Europe, no other people has dealt as clearly with their past wrongs as the Germans,” 76-year-old Alexander Gauland said in a speech to supporters on Sept. 2 that has since been posted on YouTube.

The Nazis ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945, during which time they killed 6 million Jews in the Holocaust.

“People no longer need to reproach us with these 12 years - they don’t relate to our identity nowadays,” Gauland said, referring to the Nazi era.

He said the battle of Verdun during World War One belonged to German history, as did Erwin Rommel, the World War Two field marshal celebrated as the “Desert Fox”, and army officer Claus von Stauffenberg, who led an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Hitler in July 1944 with a bomb hidden in a briefcase.

Gauland said Germany needed to reclaim its history.

“If the French are rightly proud of their emperor and the Britons of Nelson and Churchill, we have the right to be proud of the achievements of the German soldiers in two world wars,” Gauland said.

The AfD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In January, Bjoern Hoecke, the AfD’s chief in the eastern state of Thuringia, provoked outrage for describing the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin as a “monument of shame” and for demanding a “180 degree turnaround” in the way Germany seeks to atone for Nazi crimes.

Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Alison Williams