German Neo-Nazi elected as town council chief with support of mainstream parties

Daniel Wighton
Stefan Jagsch of the far right-wing extremist National Democratic Party (NDP) poses for a photo in from of the community house in Altenstadt-Waldsiedlung, on September 8, 2019 - DPA

Leaders from across Germany’s political spectrum have condemned the election of a member of the country’s neo-fascist, ultranationalist NPD political party as the head of a town council in the state of Hesse.

Stefan Jagsch, who ran unopposed, was elected unanimously as the head of the Altenstadt municipality, 30 kilometres from Frankfurt.  

He was voted in by the seven-member board which included representatives of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party, as well as members of the centre-left SPD and the liberal FDP.

SPD General Secretary Lars Klingbell tweeted on Saturday evening that the decision was “incomprehensible and impossible to justify”, while his CDU counterpart Paul Ziemiak said on Sunday that the election was “unacceptable” and needed to be corrected.  

Werner Zientz, a CDU representative in the council, said that the board “had not taken the process very seriously”, while a joint statement from regional CDU representatives said the party was “horrified” and “shocked” at the decision.  

Not all CDU representatives however are upset with the decision. Norbert Szilasko, a member of the council who voted in favour of Mr Jagsch’s appointment, told the Hessenschau news network that the non-partisan council based the vote on the new representative’s skills rather than his political views.  

“(We voted for him) due to the fact we have nobody else, particularly no younger people who are familiar with computers and who can send emails,” Mr Szilasko said.

The council has indicated that it will meet again to discuss which direction it should take, while Mr Jagsch promised legal action should his appointment be rescinded.

The NPD is widely criticised in Germany for its open support of Neo-Nazi rhetoric and connections with white nationalist groups, with the Constitutional Court in 2017 ruling that the party’s “political concept was contrary to the democratic order embodied in the German Constitution”.

 Mr Jagsch himself has previously been criticised for social media posts comparing migration with genocide and his use of the Nazi-era term ‘Lügenpresse’ (lying press).

Mr Jagsch made news in 2016 when he was given first aid from a group of Syrian refugees after a car accident left him seriously injured.