Alexander Gauland, leader of the anti-immigrant AfD party, said he was not aware of the speech made by Hitler. Photograph: Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images
Alexander Gauland’s opinion piece in the conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung attacked a “globalised class” that he said was detached from the lives of ordinary people and threatened German and European identity.
Historians specialising in the Nazi era were quick to jump on the column, saying it was written in a very similar style to an address Hitler gave to the workers of Siemensstadt in Berlin in November 1933, when he took aim at a “small, rootless, international clique”.
Gauland wrote that members of the “globalised class” held positions in mainstream organisations, including academia, the media, international corporations, NGOs and politics. They live, he wrote, “almost exclusively in big cities, speak fluent English, and when they move from Berlin to London or Singapore for jobs, they find similar flats, houses, restaurants, shops and private schools everywhere”. He said members of the group socialised only among themselves, were “culturally colourful” and had no attachment to their homelands.
In Hitler’s speech, he talked of the “clique” as being “people who are at home both nowhere and everywhere, who do not have anywhere a soil on which they have grown up, but who live in Berlin today, in Brussels tomorrow, Paris the day after that, and then again in Prague or Vienna or London, and who feel at home everywhere”. His speech was met by cries of “the Jews” from the audience.
Wolfgang Benz, a historian and respected researcher on antisemitism, told Der Tagesspiegel – the newspaper that originally highlighted the likenesses between the two texts – that Gauland had clearly paraphrased Hitler and deliberately shaped his commentary to resemble that of the Nazi leader. He stopped short of accusing him of plagiarism.
“It’s a paraphrase that looks as if the AfD head had the Führer’s speech from 1933 on his desk when he was writing his column for the FAZ [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung],” Benz wrote in Der Tagesspiegel.
A former member of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, Gauland has repeatedly come under fire for anti-immigrant comments or remarks that appeared to play down the Holocaust. In June he described the 12 years of Nazi rule as a “mere bird shit in over 1,000 years of successful German history”.