Germany's rightwing populist AfD Monday moved to expel a state leader who argued the country should turn the page on its World War II guilt, exposing a deepening rift within the party.
Bjoern Hoecke of the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) sparked outrage last month by calling Berlin's Holocaust memorial a "monument of shame".
The AfD chairman of Thuringia state also urged a "180-degree shift in the politics of remembrance", arguing that Germany was too hung up by its guilt over the war and Holocaust.
AfD co-chief Frauke Petry declared that "for the executive committee, the Dresden speech of January 17 overstepped the limit of what is democratically tolerable within a popular-liberal party".
She expressed confidence that the majority of the party would back the decision -- but powerful members swiftly voiced their dissent.
AfD deputy chief Alexander Gauland called the exclusion proceedings "completely mistaken".
He argued Hoecke "did not at any point breach party rules," speaking to regional broadcaster Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk.
Hoecke himself also insisted that he had "neither violated the statutes nor the principles of the party".
The leadership of Hoecke's Thuringia faction published a statement in support of the former history teacher, calling the expulsion proceedings "politically motivated".
"The aim is apparently to greatly limit the diversity of opinion, which differentiates the AfD from other parties, and to use these means to remove troublesome people from the party," it said.
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