A leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany party drew criticism on Wednesday for describing the day World War II ended in Europe following Nazi Germany's surrender as a "day of absolute defeat."
Alexander Gauland, the co-leader of the party's parliamentary group, made the comment as he opposed calls for May 8 to be made a public holiday. This year is the 75th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe in 1945.
"May 8 doesn't have the potential to be a holiday because it is an ambivalent day," he was quoted as telling the RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland newspaper group. "For concentration camp inmates, it was a day of liberation. But it was also a day of absolute defeat, a day of the loss of large parts of Germany and the loss of the possibility to shape things."
Lars Klingbeil, the general secretary of the center-left Social Democrats, one of Germany's governing parties, said that Gauland's comments were "just repugnant." Cem Ozdemir, a lawmaker with the opposition Greens, tweeted that "anyone who sees an "absolute defeat" in this stands on the wrong side of the barricades."
"It is no surprise that Alexander Gauland sees above all an 'absolute defeat' in May 8," said Charlotte Knobloch, a prominent Jewish leader. Most people in Germany see the date of the Nazi regime's defeat as "grounds for happiness and gratitude," she added. "It was the day that made freedom and democracy possible again in Germany."
Alternative for Germany, or AfD, entered Germany's parliament in 2017 and is now the biggest of several opposition parties. AfD figures have on several occasions drawn criticism for remarks about Germany's past.
Gauland himself once referred to the Nazi era as a speck of "bird poop" in German history, a comment he later expressed regret for.