Dutch far-right politician Thierry Baudet has resigned as leader of his anti-immigration party after members of its youth wing reportedly shared messages praising the Nazis.
The eurosceptic Forum for Democracy (FvD) rose rapidly since Baudet founded it in 2016, but it is now falling equally rapidly into disarray over the online chat group messages, which also included anti-Jewish and homophobic statements.
“Today Baudet resigned as party chairman,” the FvD said in a statement after Baudet announced late on Monday that he was standing down, though he will remain a member of the Netherlands’ parliament. Baudet will temporarily be replaced by FvD Vice Chairman Lennart van der Linden.
Baudet, who has been winning over supporters of anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders and the party of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, said he did not want to be associated with the remarks, allegedly posted in a chat group for members of the party’s youth wing.
“They are terrible messages – Nazism, anti-Semitism, racism – they are ideas I want nothing to do with,” he said in a video statement on Twitter. “I want to take political responsibility as head of the party and will give up my spot on the ballot.”
The messages shared online included a student saying “Jews have international paedophile networks”, according to the Amsterdam-based daily Het Parool.
The same student also stated that “National Socialism had the best economic formula ever”, the newspaper said.
He also posted a link to a movie, with the text “My honour is loyalty,” the slogan of the SS, the organisation most responsible for the persecution of Jews under Nazi Germany.
Another FvD youth member played SS songs on his mobile phone during a summer camp in 2019, Het Parool said.
The same member, during a trip through Germany, texted he “had the honour to see this classic masterpiece in real life” after viewing the 1942 anti-Semitic hate book “Der Untermensch” (The Subhuman) in a museum.
Another youth member posted a homophobic joke.
When concerns were raised, youth wing leaders tackled the whistle-blowers instead of the culprits, throwing out at least five members, Het Parool said.
Baudet opposes immigration, denounces the media, and emphasises “Dutch first” cultural and economic themes. He opposes the euro and believes the Netherlands should leave the European Union.
The politician’s FvD won two seats in parliament in 2017 and its support surged in senate and EU elections in 2019. Parliamentary elections in the Netherlands are due to be held in March 2021.