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Top Titles From Portugal at Annecy, from Milestones to Stunning 2D and a Vibrant New Generation With Attitude and High-Art    

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Top Titles From Portugal at Annecy, from Milestones to Stunning 2D and a Vibrant New Generation With Attitude and High-Art    

As ever more Portuguese directors plan their first animated feature, Annecy is staging a timely Tribute to Portuguese Animation, its 2024 Country of Honor, with a seven section spread of key titles.   

Variety has made its own selection of that selection, profiling modern milestones such as Abi Feijo’s “The Outlaws” and José Miguel Ribeiro’s “The Suspect” and taking in Regina Pessoa’s “Uncle Thomas, Accounting for the Days,” the dazzling 2D of BAP, Zagreb Animafest winner “The Garbage Man” and Oscar-nominated ‘Ice Merchants.” 

There’s a larger narrative to the titles: the step-by-step and very often collaborative growth of a craft industry of social point and high artistic ambition prized at home and ever more abroad. 

As multiple leading lights of the Portugal’s animation industry contemplate feature film creation, Annecy’s Tribute is a reminder of what Portugal has already achieved. 

Some highlights: 

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“Ice Merchants,” (João Gonzalez, 2022)

Portugal’s first ever Oscar nominee, in any category. Every day a father and son parachute from a rickety house suspended by pulleys above the vertigo-inducing abyss of an icy cliff in order to sell ice to a village thousands of feet below. Painterly in palette and superbly scored by Gonzalez from the sound of creaking ropes to his music, an edge-of-the -eat thriller whose real triumph is its heartrending tale of loss and the saving grace of family love. Produced by Bruno Caetano at Coletivo Audiovisual (COLA), the Royal College of Art and Michaël Proença at Wildstream.

Ice Merchants

“The Outlaws,” (Abi Feijó, 1993)

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If modern Portuguese animation lifts off, it is most probably with Feijó’s “The Outlaws,” a Special Jury Award winner at 1994’s Cartoon d’Or. A fully developed narrative – a Feijó hallmark – brooding orchestral score and flickering black and white drawing on paper compose a film noir of large political point about Portugal and Spain’s own 1940s crime world. Here that means Portugal’s illicit part in the slaughter of Republic renegades caught hiding in border mountains after defeat in the Civil War. A bracing modern classic.  

The Outlaws

“Tale of the Cat and the Moon,” (Pedro Serrazina, 1995)

Serrazina’s first short and another early modern title which helped put Portugal on the international map, proving a major hit abroad after screening in competition at Cannes in 1996. The tale of a cat enchanted by an ever elusive moon is drawn in inspired black and white with sharp light, dark shadows and swirling figures, the tale capped by a dreams-can-come-true ending. Produced by Abi Feijó’s Filmógrafo. 

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Tale of the Cat and the Moon

“The Suspect,” (“A Suspeita,” José Miguel Ribeiro, 1999)

Another modern milestone in Portuguese animation. Four figures share a train compartment on a slow trip through picturesque hills. But “Train Killer” is on the loose, one occupant reads in his newspaper, and he fears he’s one of the occupants. A stop-motion comedy sluiced with Hitchcockian suspense and humor which won a 2000 Cartoon d’Or and made the reputation of Ribeiro, one of Portuguese animation’s modern – and most stylistically eclectic – greats. Ahead, his love affair with Africa, expressed in travel memoir “A Journey to Cape Verde” (2010), an island road movie of self discovery, and Angola-set Annecy animated feature hit “Nayola” (2022).  

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The Suspect

“Tragic Story With Happy Ending,” (Regina Pessoa, 2005)

A Crystal Award winner at Annecy, going on to become the most multi-prized film in Portuguese history. Pessoa used photocopies with images scratched into India ink on glossy paper to create this short’s aesthetic. It’s a story of acceptance, by oneself and one’s community, as we track a girl with a heartbeat too loud for everyone. Believing she has the heart of a bird, she longs to take flight as the individual she truly is. The middle child of Pessoa’s trilogy on childhood which began with “A noite” and was completed by the Christopher Plummer-narrated “Kali the Little Vampire.” 

Tragic Story With Happy Ending

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“Uncle Thomas, Accounting for the Days,” (Regina Pessoa, 2018)

A 2019 Annecy Jury Award winner, and the crowning triumph – to date – for Pessoa, creator of this year’s Annecy poster, the godmother of MIFA campus and Masterclass speaker as part of the Portuguese Animation Country of Honor. Exacting in its style – adding stop motion to her traditional 2D and a sense of engraving – “Uncle Thomas,” is, however, initially personal in inspiration, a tribute to Pessoa’s own uncle who suffered some form of OCD but nevertheless lit in her love of drawing. A deeply moving homage.

Uncle Thomas, Accounting for the Days

“Augur,” (David Doutel, Vasco Sá, 2018)

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Over the last 20 years, there has been no more fertile breeding ground for young Portuguese animation talent than Bando À Parte, set up in 2011, and co-operative BAP Animation Studio, launched in 2018. Via them Doutel and Sá have produced a significant number of the shorts featured at Annecy’s Portugal County of Honor Tribute. They are also, however, directors of four shorts, three at Annecy: 2014’s “Soot,” 2018’s “Augur” and 2022’s “Garrano.” 2D shorts of often stunning beauty, they are also psychological dramas offering memorable portraits of male loss, hopelessness and callousness, set in the context of Northern Portugal.      

“The Garbage Man,” (Laura Gonçalves, 2022)

A 2022 Zagreb Animafest top prize winner, taking one of the most coveted prizes on the international animation scene. A family gathers around an enormous table, eat and drink and remember the figure of Uncle Manel Botão. Forced by poverty to emigrate to Paris, he would collect almost new trash for his family in Portugal: a set of crystal glasses, lamps, a bicycle, even a hand-held electric scythe. Animated in shimmering 2D, this is a homage to a man, but very much more a celebration of collectivity, from the portrait of Botão, with multiple family members adding shared memories, to the rambunctious band beginning and ending the short to the very way the film was made, invoking many of Portugal’s good and great animators in multiple labors. Produced by Bando À Parte, with the support of BAP Animation Studios. 

The Garbage Man

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“Tie,” (“Elo,” Alexandra Ramires (Xá), 2020) 

A 2020 Chicago Gold Hugo winner for best animated short, Tie” takes place under a gloomy sun and in high grass where a dog collapses and dies. A boy with a minute body literally bumps into a man with a minute head. They join forces, or bodies. Driven by surreal logic, a parable of survival and adaptation drawn with pencil on paper, the film marks yet another title from collaborators at Portugal’s Bando À Parte art pic powerhouse, six of whom – Ramires, Doutel, Sá, Mihajlovic, Gonçalves, Rocha, –  direct titles in this selection. 

“O Melhor da Rua,” (Artur Correia,” 1966)

Annecy’s 1967 Advertising Film Award laureate, Portugal’s first win at the festival. Running a mere 30 seconds this Schweppes ad is as follows – a bar owner entices his customers with a giant sign reading Town Bar. The rival establishment, opposite, renames their joint Europe Bar. So, the former puts World Bar, the rival puts Universe Bar, then all its customers flee to the original bar, winning with the unbeatable Bar Schweppes sign. Correia, born in 1932, had studied graphics at Castro in the 1950s and balanced his career between comics, animation and advertising.

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O Melhor da Rua

“Purpleboy,” (Alexandre Siquiera, 2019)

A Grand Prize winner at Brussels’ 2020 Anima Festival, among a slew of prizes, a fantasy gender identity adventure. Grain  grows in his parents garden, wants to be a boy becoming a brave aviator like his father. Born in the body of a girl, he suffers persecution. A tragic event proves his salvation. Sluiced by magic realism and endowed with far larger narrative than most titles in this selection, made by Bando À Parte in association with Rainbow Productions, Ambiances, and Luna Blue Film.   

Purple Boy

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“Almost Forgotten,” (“Quase Me Lembro,” Miguel Lima, Dimitri Mihajlovic, 2023)

A woman tries to rebuild the story of her grandfather’s house, imagining she revisits it and explores its rooms in dim light. There she encounters her grandfather, an Angolan War vet still suffering PTSD, hearing words he spoke in her childhood: : “Promises, promises, it was all lies”; “it was kill or be killed.” The film builds to a dramatic, doubly violent climax. Made with 2D animation with analog painting over inkjet printings, mastering mood and memory, the short was a finalist at the 2024 Quirino Awards. BAP Animation Studios’ produced. 

Almost Forgotten

“Antonio María’s Nightmare,” (Joaquim Guerreiro, 1923)

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Guerreiro’s pioneering spirit brought to life Portugal’s first animated short, released on Jan. 25, 1923. This two-minute film, since lost, caricatured then Prime Minister António Maria da Silva. Guerreiro also immortalized the short in a comic strip for Tiro Ao Alvo. The late 1990s saw the rediscovery of the original 150 drawings in a second-hand bookstore, allowing for a 2001 reconstruction, complete with a new soundtrack by António Victorino d’Almeida. The short sees the prime minister have a nightmare where Portugal’s proletariat are fulfilling their Bolshevik dream.

“Because This Is My Craft,” (Paulo Monteiro, 2018)

A homage made by first-person voiceover dedicated by Monteiro to his father who dazzled him as a child, he recalls, with his stories of his travels by plane and ship, exploits as a hockey and volleyball player, and anecdotes of sperm whaling in a small rowing boat with fishermen of the Azores’ Faial Island. As the narrator speaks, his child’s imagination recreates the scenes he once imagined with precise pencil-drawn black and white line animation infused by quaint fantasy. The film won best Portuguese short at the 2019 Monstra – Lisbon Film Festival.

“Between the Shadows,” (Alice Guimarães, Monica Santos, 2018) 

A bored bank clerk whose clients pawn their hearts meets a tall dark stranger, who begs her help. Directed by Guimarães (“Amelia & Duarte”) and Mónica Santos (“The Pink Jacket”), a feminist fantasy film noir mixing real-life actors, stop-motion and a surreal big city background which scored a 2018 Cesar nomination in France and proved a fest favourite. From Portugal’s Animais, Um Minuto and France’s Vivamente Lundi!    

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Between the Shadows

“Birds,” (Filipe Abranches, 2009)

In a surreal world a birdlike wizened lady tends to her caged birds, prepping a chicken stew, all soundtracked with chirps and a fitting dissonant soundtrack. Perhaps director Abranches has his parents to thank for buying “small bags filled with comics at the beach’s kiosk.” providing a steady supply of visual fodder to call upon. He has managed to balance animation, teaching, and comics, founding Umbra the independent Portuguese comic publisher.

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Birds

“Cold Soup,” (“Sopa Fria,” Marta Monteiro, 2023)

A 2024 Quirinos best animation design winner, in which a women remembers years of domestic abuse, tellingly drawn as just an outline in her memories as she recounts how at first she thought the failure of her marriage was just her fault. As scenes roll, drawn in kitsch greens and pinks, and years roll by, “when he lost his job, he was so stressed he would hit me,” she recounts. And background colors change to black or she imagines herself shut up in a glass cubicle. A pained and painful story.   

Cold Soup

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“The Sounds From the Drawers,” (“Das Gavetas Nascem Sons,” Vitor Hugo Rocha, 2017)

A 2017 breakthrough from the close circle of animators at Bando À Parte and now BAP Animation Studio. Here, the contents of a higgeldy-piggedly row of 42 wooden drawers gain life sparking abstract animation and short shards of memory, such as of a small boy peddling down a long corridor at a hellbent pace. The wood of the drawers is so well drawn you can almost smell it. Best experimental short at Lisbon’s 2018 Animation Monstra Festival.

The Sounds From the Drawers

“Fado Do Homen Crescido,” (Pedro Brito, 2012)

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The tension between the fanciful and the imaginative play out in a Lisbon tavern as a man sits in a state of reminiscence. We rattle through fragments of his memory from a childhood spent within the city. The joy of his footballing heroes in sticker albums, and the street kickabouts’ they inspired, are set against the backdrop of crime taking place alongside the day to day of clothes hanging to dry. Its 2D animation is colored bright with shades of pastel red used throughout.

Fado Do Homen Crescido

“Fragments,” (José Miguel Ribeiro, 2016)

Winner of Locarno’s Leopard of Tomorrow in 2016. In the pulsing arteries of an urban Portugal, amidst the excitement of the Euros semi final, Mario reconnects with his estranged father, who recounts a haunting war story. The narrative intertwines past and present, exploring generational anger and trauma. “You were an introverted child. You didn’t speak much…I spoke too much it seems” the father admits to Mario. Directed by Ribeiro, this 2D, stop-motion, and live-action mix shows the techniques and talent he’d take on to his Annecy competition title, the feature “Nayola.”

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Fragments

“A Mind Sang,” (“A Mãe De Sangue,” Vier Nev, 2019)

A piece of virtuouso filmmaking from Nev, who mostly works on VR projects, which won Vimeo Staff Pick Award at 2020’s Annecy. The tour-de-force animation presents images that can be seen two ways, telling a story of couples kissing, coupling and the blood and violence of birth. Meanwhile, am outlined hand is also a man, a face contains two hands, there is a screen of faces or foetuses, two faces compose together the body of a woman, and a foetus tipped upside down becomes a cat in a gothic garden scape. Drawn in broad black and white strokes with a striking use of red for fire and blood accompanied by a moody ‘50s psychological thriller orchestral score.    

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A Mind Sang

“Stuart,” (Zepe (José Pedro Cavalheiro), 2006)

A jazz soundtrack lilts as we are swept in perpetual motion through the Lisbon alleyways beloved by artist Stuart de Carvalhais. This is an homage chasing after his graphic work. Hand drawn in an often boiling black and white, there is a film noir feel as the shadow of Stuart de Carvalhais’ hat adorned figure looms throughout. Cavalheiro, also known as Zepe, teaches extensively and his fascination with the illusion of movement has influenced many.

Stuart

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Why These Chinese Working Mothers Don’t Want More Babies

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Why These Chinese Working Mothers Don’t Want More Babies

One leads a team at a financial firm and earns more than her husband. Another is pursuing her dream of becoming a civil servant. A third is a budding influencer who aspires to be the family breadwinner.

Each woman is raising one young child and doesn’t want another — no matter what their husbands say, or what incentives the Chinese government, worried about an aging population, is dangling.

Gone are the days of China’s one-child policy. At a recent political forum, President Xi Jinping urged women to take on greater familial responsibilities and “play their unique role in carrying forward the traditional virtues of the Chinese nation.”

These women see a different role for themselves. This generation was born into small families, with many girls growing up as only children — and getting opportunities that used to be given only to boys. Their own mothers, who didn’t have multiple children to care for, typically worked outside the home and set examples for their daughters to do the same.

“I must have my own career.”

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Joyce Zhao, 29, Project manager

Joyce Zhao had worked for three years as a project manager at a small tech company in Beijing and was expecting a promotion. But when she became pregnant with her son, Ming, her prospects dimmed.

Her boss, a woman who had been advocating for her to be given a leadership role, left the team while Ms. Zhao was on a five-month maternity leave. When she returned to work, her new boss told her that she was behind and needed to work harder.

I was drowning in self-doubt, wondering whether having a child at this point in time was the wrong thing to do,” Ms. Zhao said.

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But, she said, she never once thought about quitting her job and staying at home.

“I only have myself to rely on,” Ms. Zhao. “I must have my own career and not give it up for anything.”

A few months after Ming’s first birthday, Ms. Zhao, who is 29, decided to leave her company, and landed a job at one of the biggest tech companies in China.

Her husband would like a second child, but Ms. Zhao is not interested. Her days are already grueling enough. Her four-hour commute to work and long hours mean she gets home way past Ming’s bedtime. She rises at 6:30 a.m. to have one hour to herself to read and exercise, and one hour to play and have breakfast with her son.

After college, Ms. Zhao set aside her dream of becoming a civil servant to pursue a higher-paying job. Now, having checked off marriage and childbearing, she plans to study for the notoriously difficult civil servant exam.

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“I divide my time, energy and money into different parts, saving the biggest part for myself, then the rest go to my parents, husband and son,” Ms. Zhao said. “I can’t let them take all of me.”

“I see no benefits to having two children.”

Guo Chunlei, 32, Influencer

Before Guo Chunlei got married, she worked at a bank in the eastern city of Hangzhou, making about $2,000 a month, decent by Chinese standards. Her parents bought her a small apartment and a car, so she spent most of her paycheck on beauty, fashion and traveling.

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When she decided to have a baby in 2022, her husband and in-laws, who ran a booming family business in construction, encouraged her to switch to a less demanding job to have more time for the child. Ms. Guo agreed and joined a publicly traded company as an accountant. But the work was repetitive and unfulfilling, and she was earning only about a third of what she used to make.

The steep pay cut became a bigger and bigger problem. As her daughter, Tianyi, grew up, expenses began soaring. Early education classes alone ate up a third of her salary.

Seeking extra money, and a sense of purpose, Ms. Guo started a mom-influencer account on the lifestyle app Xiaohongshu last year. A post she composed about planning a traditional Chinese birthday party for her daughter got tens of thousands of views and opened the door to brand collaborations.

She now spends weekday evenings writing captions, editing photos and doing product research. Photo shoots with Tianyi in nearby parks have become a weekend family activity.

Ms. Guo’s account has amassed more than 10,000 followers and brings in more money from product sponsorships than her day job. She’s considering becoming an influencer full time, and would like to take over as her family’s main provider.

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Ms. Guo recalls her own parents sacrificing to provide for her and her younger brother. It made her determined to follow a different path.

“I see no benefits to having two children, for either myself or for Tianyi,” she said.

I want to make something of myself.”

Tang Pingjuan, 36, Financial manager

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Like many working women in China today, Tang Pingjuan, 36, has higher expectations than did many of the women who came before her.

Growing up under the old one-child policy, she got the undivided attention of her father, a train driver, and her mother, a teacher, she recalls. And like many girls in her generation, she was given opportunities that had once been reserved for boys.

When it came time to attend college, Ms. Tang went hundreds of miles away from home to pursue a degree in mathematics, a field dominated by men. (Nearly a third of Chinese women have college degrees now, up from fewer than 1 percent in 1990.)

After graduating, Ms. Tang landed a job in finance and then, at age 25, took a year off and used her savings to travel to more than a dozen countries. Now 36, she leads a team at a private financial company in Guangzhou, the bustling metropolis where she lives with her husband and 4-year-old daughter, Ning.

Ms. Tang earns more than her husband and makes investment decisions for the family.

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Six months after Ning was born, Ms. Tang returned to her office, leaving the baby in the care of a grandmother. On weekends, the family likes splurging on “staycations” at luxury hotels.

Lately, she has been considering a promising job opportunity in the nearby city of Shenzhen, which could mean being separated from her family. Her husband and in-laws oppose the move, but Ms. Tang doesn’t want to be held back. She has not ruled out a second child altogether, she said, but it is not something she is considering now.

“I feel selfish for putting myself before my family, but life is long and I want to make something of myself,” she said.

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Greece denies report alleging coast guard's widespread abuse of migrants

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Greece denies report alleging coast guard's widespread abuse of migrants

Greece on Monday denied a new report that accused its coast guard of brutally preventing migrants from reaching Greek shores, which also alleged that the practice had resulted in dozens of deaths.

A BBC report said it had been ascertained that 43 migrants drowned — including nine who were thrown into the water — in 15 incidents off Greece’s eastern Aegean Sea islands in 2020-2023. It cited interviews with eyewitnesses, following reports from media, charities and the Turkish coast guard.

Greek government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis insisted that there was no evidence to support the allegations.

64 MISSING, AT LEAST 11 DEAD, AFTER 2 SHIPWRECKS OFF ITALIAN COAST

“Our understanding is that what is reported is not proved,” he told a regular press briefing when asked about the claims. “Every complaint is looked into, and in the end, the relevant findings are made public.”

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Greece is a major gateway for migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia seeking a better life in the affluent European Union. Thousands slip into the country every year, mostly in small boats from neighboring Turkey. Relations with Turkey are often tense, and the two countries’ coast guards have repeatedly traded accusations of mistreating migrants.

The Greek flag is photographed cast against a clear sky. (Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Migrant charities and human rights groups have repeatedly accused Greece’s coast guard and police of illegally preventing arriving migrants from seeking asylum by surreptitiously returning them to Turkish waters. Greece has angrily denied that, arguing its border forces have saved hundreds of thousands of migrants from sinking boats.

The country’s reputation took a further knock in June 2023, when a battered fishing vessel with an estimated 750 people on board sank off southwestern Greece. Only 104 people survived, despite the Greek coast guard having shadowed the vessel for hours, and survivors claimed the trawler sank after a botched attempt by the coast guard to tow it. Greek authorities again denied these allegations.

The new BBC report included a claim by a Cameroonian man that he and two other migrants were picked up by masked men, including policemen, just after landing on the island of Samos.

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The man claimed all three were put in a coast guard boat and thrown into the sea, and that the other two men drowned as a result.

The report also quoted a Syrian man who said he was part of a group picked up at sea by the Greek coast guard off Rhodes. He said the survivors were put in life rafts and left adrift in Turkish waters, where several died after one life raft sank before the Turkish coast guard came to pick them up.

Marinakis said “it is wrong to target” the Greek coast guard. “In any case, we monitor every report and investigation, but I repeat: What is mentioned (in the BBC report) is in no case backed up by evidence,” he said.

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Concentration camp museum director joins campaign to ban AfD

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Concentration camp museum director joins campaign to ban AfD

The German far-right party AfD finished well in the European elections, but has also suffered serious legal setbacks.

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The director of the Buchenwald concentration camp memorial has warned that the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) is too dangerous to be allowed to continue in German politics, citing lessons from the rise of the Nazi Party as a warning.

“AfD repeats the terminology of Nazis,” German historian Jens-Christian Wagner said on Monday during a press conference calling for a ban on far-right party.

“The party, i.e. the AfD and its officials and functionaries, represent positions against human dignity,” said Wagner. “They repeatedly make ideological and terminological use of the programmes and practices of historical National Socialism.”

His remarks came after the AfD finished second in the European Parliament elections in early June with around 15.9% of the vote. That put the party ahead of Germany’s ruling Social Democrats, who reached just 13.9% — their worst post-World War II result in a nationwide vote.

“The fact that the Nazis were able to come to power at all was due to the Weimar Republic allowing them to abuse democracy in order to bring down democracy according to their own rules,” Wagner explained. “Anti-constitutional parties must be deprived of the opportunity to use the means of democracy to abolish it.”

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While the AfD’s strong performance in the European elections has alarmed its opponents, the party has also faced major setbacks over its alleged links to the extreme right. Regional leader Björn Höcke was recently fined for using a Nazi slogan at a party event, while a court upheld the party’s designation as a “suspected extremist organisation“.

The AfD was also ejected from its European Parliament group, Identity and Democracy, after former candidate Maximilian Krah told an Italian newspaper that not all members of Hitler’s SS were war criminals.

“The warnings, demonstrations and actions against the AfD have not helped so far,” said Julia Dück, a campaigner from the group AfD Ban Now. “That’s why we need an AfD ban procedure that hinders and stops this party.

“We are at a turning point that could tip authoritarian. Once the AfD has reached a position where it can translate its inhuman goals into state policy, it will no longer be so easy to turn it around. In other words, time is pressing. That means we have to act now,” she said.

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