A German cinema has defended itself after it offered free tickets to see the Holocaust film Schindler’s List to members of the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Cinexx, based in the western town of Hachenburg, told the SWR regional public broadcaster that they only wanted to “start a discussion about the Holocaust with a party that has trivialised it” at a special showing of Steven Spielberg’s 1993 classic scheduled for January 27, which is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

AfD party members have complained that the free ticket offer is insulting, and the party group in the local Rhineland-Palatinate State told SWR: ‘It is unforgivable to link the AfD to the industrial mass extermination of people of the Jewish faith that was the Holocaust.”

The AfD deputy leader in the state parliament, Joachim Paul, said what he was keen to discuss was “what part of our programme justifies the view that we would play down Nazi crimes”.

The AfD has an anti-migration and anti-Islam agenda, largely in reaction to Germany’s mass migrant influx. According to the BBC, leading members have also made the headlines with comments that appear to play down the Holocaust.

The Hachenburg cinema issued a statement, which said: “We don’t understand why so many people feel that offended, as it was not our intention. We are not saying that AfD voters are Nazis. Whether you need historical enlightenment or not is up to you. It’s just that we think the AfD manifesto strongly suggests a trivialisation of the events of that time.”

The Social Democrats chairman Hendrik Hering said he thinks it is a good idea to “challenge a party whose members question or scorn the culture of remembrance”.

Hachenburg’s centre-right mayor, Stefan Leukel, is worried about “bringing AfD members into a discussion without defining the terms of debate”.

Cinexx has since decided to make the screening free for everyone, while anyone who wants to support the initiative can donate the regular admission fee of €7 (£6/$8).

Image: CchrisS