A German mayor has hit back at the far right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party after “openly racist” comments were made toward a teenager chosen to open his city’s Christmas market.
A selection committee in Nuremberg last week picked Benigna Munsi, 17, as the traditional “Christkind” (Christ Child).
The Christkind — an angelic figure, traditionally dressed in white and gold robes and wearing a crown atop her long, flowing curls (usually a blond wig) — has long been the symbol of Nuremberg’s Christmas Market. She opens the market — a major tourist attraction in the city — each year by reciting a festive prologue.
But apparently not everyone was happy about the dark-haired Munsi’s selection. CNN affiliate RTL reports that her father, a German citizen, is of Indian heritage. Her mother is German.
According to German media reports, a member of a district branch of the AfD suggested in a now-deleted Facebook post that Germans were being wiped out like Native Americans.
The post read: “Nuremberg has a new Christ Child. One day, we’re going to go the way of the Indians.”
A spokesperson for the AfD confirmed to CNN the post had been deleted and said it does “not reflect” the opinion of the party.
Ulrich Maly, the mayor of Nuremberg, has publicly condemned such opposition and has strongly backed Munsi, who was born in the Bavarian city, for the role.
At a press conference held Sunday, he said that there had been some “idiotic” reactions to the news, but that some had “openly racist connotations.”
During the press conference, footage of which appears on YouTube, he said: “You would laugh, if you didn’t realize that the people who are posting such things mean them seriously. [Then] you could cry at so much hostility.”
“The Nuremberg Christkind is the Nuremberg Christkind,” he added. “It is absolutely not a question of ethnicity nor of nationality. It is a figure who must be played by a young woman with a lot of empathy, a lot of heart and a lot of compassion.”
According to Nuremberg Christmas Market’s official website, the Christkind’s other tasks in the run-up to Christmas include more than 170 appearances at charity events.
Elected for a two-year term, she “acts as an ambassador for Nuremberg when she visits Christmas markets in other cities,” the event page states.
Munsi told the press conference that she had been “surprised by the positive reaction” she has had.
But speaking about some of the negative responses, she said: “It makes me sad for people who go through life with such a perspective, which means they can’t focus on what’s important in the world, above all at Christmas time.”
Markus Söder, the leader of the state of Bavaria, tweeted his congratulations to Munsi, and condemned the criticism that had been directed toward her.
In a statement to CNN, a spokesman for the AfD said: “The post has already been deleted. The AfD Federal Association dissociates itself from this post. It is a post of a single person and does not reflect the opinion of the party. The AfD is firmly committed to the German constitution.”