German far-right mayor in run-off vote

German far-right mayor in run-off vote

Joerg Prophet, a small but prosperous town in the former East German state of Thuringia, flashed a stunning white grin as he greeted voters at his campaign stand in Nordhausen.

The far-right candidate for Germany's far-right alternative for Germany has plenty to smile about. He is a clear favourite to lead the city of 40,000 people on Sunday's run-off vote.

A win for the 61-year-old former entrepreneur would be a catastrophe, said the keepers of a nearby concentration camp memorial.

Nearly 60,000 prisoners were held at the Mittelbau-Dora slave labor camp, a subcamp of the notorious Buchenwald, just six kilometres from central Nordhausen.

In brutal underground conditions, they were forced to make V-2 rockets, with around one in three working to death.

An AfD mayor would not be welcome at commemorative events at the site, said Jens-Christian Wagner, director of the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation.

In a blog post in 2020, he claimed the Allied forces that liberated the Mittelbau-Dora camp were only interested in snooping on the site's rocket and missile technology.

He also called for an end to Germany's Schuldkult, or 'guilt cult', a reference to the nation's efforts to remember and learn from the Holocaust.

But such controversy appears to have done nothing to deter voters.

Wagner said he would like to see a new policy in place, one that involves reducing the number of people who work in a factory.

Germany's right-wing extremists are becoming more prevalent, according to a survey published this week by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

In Germany, 8 percent of Germans can now be classified as having clear-cut right-wing extremist views, compared with two to three percent in previous years.

A win for Prophet would be the latest in a string of success for the AfD, created in 2013 as an anti-euro outfit before seizing anger over mass migration to Germany.

In June, the party secured its first district administrator position, also in Thuringia, and its first town mayor in July in neighbouring Saxony-Anhalt.

Recent polls have placed the party at 22 percent, above Chancellor Olaf Scholz' centre-left SPD and just a few points behind the main opposition conservative party.

The AfD's support is especially strong in Thuringia, where it polls around 34 percent, according to a recent survey by regional broadcaster MDR.

Thuringia will hold a vote for its regional parliament in September 2024, along with two other former East German states, Brandenburg and Saxony.

Wagner says the party may be able to win at least one of these votes.

At the town hall of Nordhausen, where some voters were already casting postal ballots in person, retired planning technologist Juergen Jungershausen, 75, shared Wagner's concern.

A far-right mayor 'is not a good choice' for Nordhausen, especially in view of our history, he said.

But back at AfD campaign stands, retired car mechanic Gerd Wille, 62, thought a win for Prophet 'would be good for Nordhausen'.

An AfD mayor would mean fresh wind and not just fresh wind, but good wind, he said.