Bjoern Hoecke of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AFD) addresses supporters at the party's final elections campaign rally for the upcomming Saxony-Anhalt state elections in Magdeburg, Germany, March 11, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch(reuters_tickers)
BERLIN (Reuters) - The right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) will discipline one of its state leaders for criticising Berlin's Holocaust Memorial but will not expel him over the episode, the party's co-leader said on Monday.
Bjoern Hoecke, AfD head in the eastern state of Thuringia, stirred anger across Germany with a comment about the memorial when he told party members in a speech in Dresden last week: "Germans are the only people in the world who plant a monument of shame in the heart of the capital."
AfD co-leader Frauke Petry told broadcaster MDR on Monday that its executive committee had concluded Hoecke's statements, which were cheered by some far-right supporters in the party, had harmed the AfD's reputation.
As a result, she said, the party considered it necessary to take disciplinary action. She did not elaborate. Petry has distanced herself from Hoecke's remarks.
Hoecke later said he welcomed the AfD's decision to drop plans to throw him out of the party, which is polling more than 10 percent in national polls and expected to win seats in parliament in the Sept. 24 election even though all other major parties have rejected it as a potential coalition partner.
"I note with concern that the discussion about my speech... is being abused by some party allies for inner-party power struggles," Hoecke told a news conference. "I hope that the AfD won't get caught up in power struggles and will be able to maintain differing opinions that have helped make it so strong."
The AfD's anti-immigrant rhetoric has won support among Germans worried about the influx of more than a million migrants in the past two years. With polls putting it on 12-15 percent, the AfD is tipped to win seats in the federal parliament for the first time in September's national election.
Hoecke said his remarks about the memorial to the Jewish victims of Nazi Germany's Holocaust were misrepresented by the media and his speech was intended to reflect on how Germans looked at their history.
The Holocaust Memorial, located near the Brandenburg Gate in the heart of Berlin, comprises 2,711 tombstone-like slabs of granite in varying heights, arranged in a grid pattern.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Angus MacSwan)