No stranger to controversial comments, Alexander Gauland, deputy leader of the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD), made headlines again for remarks that have been labeled "racist" and "dehumanizing" by his fellow German politicians.
At a campaign rally Sunday in the central German town of Eichsfeld in the state of Thuringia, Gauland went after the German government's commissioner for integration, Aydan Özoguz. Özoguz, who has Turkish roots, wrote in an article for the newspaper Tagesspeigel that "a specifically German culture is, beyond the language, simply not identifiable." Gauland, who stands a good chance of being elected to parliament in Germany's upcoming elections, told the audience: "That's what a German-Turk says. Invite her to Eichsfeld and tell her then what specifically German culture is." "Aferwards, she'll never come back here and we will be able to dispose of her in Anatolia, thank God."
Gauland's comment, which was first reported by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, drew censure from politicians across the German political spectrum. "That's called racism," said the general secretary of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) Peter Tauber on Twitter.
Although Gauland told news agency DPA that he would reconsider his word choice in the future, he didn't see anything to apologize for. "I said something and I stand by the content," he said. However, he said he wouldn't use the metaphor in the future since "sensible people" advised against it. "No I don't have to apologize to Ms. Özoguz," Gauland said in the talk show show "Hart aber Fair" on public broadcaster ARD on Monday night.
Gauland defended his remark by saying that campaign rhetoric is often harsh and that his co-candidate, Alice Weidel, has been called a form of Nazi sympathizer in satirical shows. "Compared to that, 'disposal' is a harmless word," he said.