German neo-Nazi MEP Udo Voigt
Neo-Nazi MEP Udo Voigt has crept into the EU's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs CommitteeReuters

A German neo-Nazi politician already elected to the European Parliament has been appointed to a committee responsible for the protection of human rights to the shock of Jewish associations and anti-racism activists.

Udo Voigt, the former leader of the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD), who praised Adolf Hitler in the past, has taken a seat in the EU Parliament's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee.

The appointment raised many eyebrows and risked damaging the EU's already tarnished reputation.

"It is surreal and the ultimate insult to the Jews of Europe and to the European Union itself," Moshe Kantor, the head of the Brussels-based European Jewish Congress, said.

"The idea of a neo-Nazi as a guardian of European human rights is sickening," added Stephan Kramer, the director of the American Jewish Committee's European Office on Anti-Semitism.

Voigt, 62, won 1% of the German vote at the EU elections in May and, as he is not part of any political alliance with other parties, he has been included in the mixed group of MEPs who are allocated a set number of committee seats to be divided among them.

Eduardo Bugalho, the head of the secretariat for non-attached MEPs, told IBTimes UK that Voigt specifically requested a seat in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee that works to protect human rights and combat discrimination.

Bugalho said he was aware that the appointment might generate controversy but he had no choice other than accommodate the MEP's request.

"I'm not here to do any censorship, I have to be neutral," Bugalho said. "[MEPs] give me the requests of the committee they want to go to. If there is room in the committee, then they get the seat."

The son of a Nazi soldier, Voigt has had a number of run-ins with the law because of his racist views.

In 2009, he was convicted of handing out racist pamphlets during the 2006 World Cup. The leaflets, which referred to the inclusion of Patrick Owomoyela, a German of Nigerian descent, in the national team read: "White, not just a jersey colour! For a real national team!"

In 2004, he called Adolf Hitler "a great man" and has claimed that Berlin's Holocaust Memorial is "an undesirable stain in the Reich capital".

As one of the 60 committee members, he will take part in debates and table amendments to draft reports, which will then need to be endorsed by the majority of MEPs to be approved.

Among other seats holders in the same committee are Cécile Kyenge, who became Italy's first black minister last year, and former French justice minister, Rachida Dati. France's far-right Front National party leader Marine Le Pen is listed as a substitute member.

The European Jewish Congress called on other EU parliamentary groups to ensure that space for Voigt to air his racist views was limited.

"It does the European Parliament no credit to have people sitting on its civil liberties committee who have obviously not only shown no commitment to civil liberties, but have sought to undermine them and to purvey a racist and intolerant agenda throughout their political career," a spokesman said.

The president of the Parliament, Martin Schulz, pledged to give a hard time to Holocaust-denying lawmakers.

"Everyone who denies the Holocaust and who is against human dignity, democracy and plurality will encounter the strongest of resistance from me," he told Euractiv news outlet".

"The European Parliament is the place where the representatives of the European people work hard to ensure a good and peaceful future for us on our continent. There is no place for racists and anti-Semites in this house."

IBTimes UK contacted Voigt for a comment but received no reply.