BERLIN (JTA) — Electoral gains by Germany’s strongest far-right party has both Jews and Muslims here worried.

Winning 23.4 percent of the vote in Sunday’s parliamentary election, the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany or AfD party – propelled by voters under the age of 60, and by male voters – is now the second strongest party in the former east German state of Thuringia.

“Something has fundamentally gone off the rails in our political system,” former president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany,
Charlotte Knobloch, told reporters on Sunday.

AfD politicians have “trivialized the Nazi era, [expressed] open nationalism and fomented hatred against minorities, including the
Jewish community,” Knobloch said, accusing the party of “preparing the ground for exclusion and right-wing extremist violence.”

Recently, observers have blamed anti-migrant, nationalistic rhetoric for the Yom Kippur attack by a neo-Nazi on the synagogue in Halle, in the state of Saxony-Anhalt. Two people on the street were killed in the attack.

In Sunday’s state election, the AfD came in second to the Left Party, and surpassed the mainstream party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Christian Democratic Union.

Reportedly, the CDU is considering creating a coalition with the Left Party in order to block the far-right party from power.

In fact, the AfD has taken second place in parliamentary elections this year in the states of Saxony and in Brandenburg. Some pundits suggest the AfD is grabbing a protest vote against mainstream politics, while others see a rise in populism, in part driven by Merkel’s liberal approach to migration.

In general, mainstream parties have sworn off any coalitions with the AfD.

Aiman Mazyek, head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, in a tweet expressed shock that so many voters supported “a right-wing radical party… it is much worse than merely a warning sign.”

International Auschwitz Committee Executive Vice-President Christoph Heubner said in a statement that Holocaust survivors see the AfD’s climb up the political ladder as  “a renewed signal of terror, which gives rise to fears that right-wing extremist attitudes and tendencies in Germany will continue to consolidate.”

Meanwhile, a newly released study shows an increase in open anti-Semitism in Germany. Felix Klein, Germany’s commissioner on
fighting anti-Semitism, commented that, while anti-Semitism was always present, people are expressing it more openly than before. And he accused the AfD of contributing to the problem.

In 2018, the Central Council and numerous other German Jewish organizations joined in issuing a statement titled “AfD – not an
alternative for Jews,” after a small group of supporters called themselves “Jews for the AfD.”

“The AfD has been trying for some time to score points with its alleged solidarity with the State of Israel and its alleged concern for the security of the Jewish community in Germany,” the statement read in part. In fact, it continued, “The AfD is a party in which Jewish hatred and relativization up to the denial of the Shoah have a home. The AfD is anti-democratic, contemptuous of humanity and in
large parts right-wing extremist.”