BERLIN — The co-leader of the far-right nationalist Alternative for Germany party Saturday dismissed the Nazi era as a “speck of bird poop” in German history, drawing swift condemnation from mainstream politicians and outrage on social media.

Alexander Gauland said Germans must take responsibility for 12 years of rule by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party, but argued that it’s only a small part of Germany’s history.

Alexander Gauland

“We have a glorious history and it, dear friends, lasted longer than those blasted 12 years,” he told a gathering of the party’s youth movement, according to the dpa news agency.

“Hitler and the Nazis are just a speck of bird poop in more than 1,000 years of successful German history,” he said.

The party, known by its German acronym AfD, became the third largest in Germany’s parliament after the 2017 election. It is also the largest opposition party.

Responding to Gauland, the secretary general of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party, wrote on Twitter that “50 million victims of war, the Holocaust and total war are just bird poop” for Gauland and his party.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said Gauland’s comments reveal the true nature of a party hiding behind respectability.