The mayor of Nuremberg in Germany has attacked a far-right party for “openly racist” comments about a teenage girl picked to be a Christmas gift-bringer.
A member of Alternative for Germany (AfD) attacked Benigna Munsi, who will open the city’s Christmas market.
The teen was born in Nuremberg to an Indian father and a German mother.
“You would laugh about it if you didn’t know these guys are serious, but you could cry about this level of hostility,” Mayor Ulrich Maly said.
He said there had been “idiotic comments” about previous children chosen for the traditional role of “Christkind” (Christ Child), but this attack had an “openly racist connotation”.
A now-deleted Facebook post by an AfD district branch said that German people were being eradicated like Native Americans.
“Nuremberg has a new Christ Child. One day, we’re going to go the way of the Indians,” it read.
Another AfD member meanwhile provoked further criticism for writing online that the teenager’s “foreign” nose was a “slap in the face to friends of tradition”.
City authorities unanimously chose Ms Munsi as the Christ Child on Wednesday. Every previous actor playing the role has been white.
Traditionally Nuremberg picks a local teenage girl for the Christ Child role, and usually she has blonde hair, a big crown and golden robes. The tradition was initiated in the 16th Century by Martin Luther, the man who began the Protestant Reformation and rebelled against Roman Catholic practices.
Until the 20th Century the role was played by a boy, but the city later preferred a girl, to evoke angels and the Virgin Mary.
Ms Munsi, 17, described herself as “mega-happy” after her selection, while Nuremberg’s city council said her “fresh, warm, empathetic and easygoing manner” impressed the jury.
Her key role during her two-year tenure will be to open the city’s famous Christmas market on 29 November, but she will also tour local towns, schools and retirement homes.
The comment posted by the AfD district branch provoked outrage, with many others posting their support for the teenager.
The leader of the state of Bavaria, Markus Söder, said the state would not tolerate the comments, while Bavaria’s interior minister Joachim Herrmann said they were witnessing “the malicious grimace of racism”.
The AfD said the member who made the Facebook comment had since resigned.
Speaking at Sunday’s press conference alongside Mayor Maly, Ms Munsi said she was surprised by the positive responses she had received after the attack, and said she was doing well.