Schuster told DPA that he felt the AfD leadership had not done enough to distance themselves from comments made by Thuringian politician Björn Höcke, who last year called for a change in Germany’s remembrance culture.
“You have to question how far the AfD are really rooted in German democracy,” said Schuster.
Höcke, a divisive figure who leads the AfD in the Thuringian parliament, said in January last year that Germany’s culture of remembrance was “stupid”, and demanded a “180 degree turn in terms of the politics of remembrance”.
In the same speech, he referred to the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin as a “memorial of shame”.
The scandalous speech led to internal proceedings against Höcke within the AfD, but an attempt to eject him from the party was ultimately unsuccessful.
Schuster, who attacked Höcke for his comments at the time, repeated his criticism on Monday.
Josef Schuster, President of Germany's Jewish Central Council. Photo: DPA
“The Shoah cannot be forgotten, and the Shoah confronts Germany with a particular responsibility,” he said.
Schuster’s comments came as Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) on Monday prepares to visit Auschwitz for the first time since taking on his new role in March.
“For me, Auschwitz is the everlasting reminder to defend the unimpeachable dignity of every human being,” said Maas in his first speech as Foreign Minister.
Schuster described Maas as “the polar opposite” of Björn Höcke, and urged the Foreign Minister to raise the issue of Poland’s controversial new Holocaust laws when he meets his Polish opposite number Jacek Czaputowicz this week.