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Supporters of the AfD party wave German flags as they walk behind police during a demonstration in Chemnitz, Germany, October 2020. Photograph: John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

Since the anniversary of the killings in Hanau, which took place a little over a year ago, my Berlin neighbourhood has been plastered with posters featuring simple but compelling line drawings of Ferhat Unvar, Gökhan Gültekin, Hamza Kurtović, Said Nesar Hashemi, Mercedes Kierpacz, Sedat Gürbüz, Kalojan Velkov, Vili Viorel Păun and Fatih Saraçoğlu, the nine victims of the far-right terrorist attack that continues to shape German discussions of rightwing extremism. The posters have been part of a broader campaign committed to drawing attention to and naming the victims of these crimes.

The campaign came to mind when news broke on Wednesday 3 March that the Verfassungsschutz, Germany’s internal state security service, has placed the entirety of the far-right party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) under observation.…  Seguir leyendo »

A rally by the right-wing party Alternative for Germany last year. The German experience suggests that democracies must establish defenses against internal extremist threats. Credit Jens Schlueter/EPA, via Shutterstock

Should a government agency put a democratically elected political party under surveillance if the party is feared to be a threat to the democratic order?

This question is the subject of fierce debate and a legal battle here. Late last month, the German media reported that the domestic intelligence service, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, was poised to declare the far-right Alternative for Germany party a “suspected case” of antidemocratic extremist activity. The party’s anti-immigrant and anti-Islam talk has emboldened far-right extremists, and some of its officials have ties to extremist groups.

The “suspected case” designation would give the intelligence service broad powers to surveil the party’s politicians and staff members, including tapping their phones and monitoring their movements.…  Seguir leyendo »

La visibilité brutale de l’extrême droite allemande ébranle les certitudes. En Allemagne, comme chez ses voisins qui l’observent, c’est la sidération. Car cette réalité d’un extrémisme organisé et violent est choquante dans le pays qui a produit le nazisme. Elle est aussi d’autant plus stupéfiante que l’Allemagne a longtemps été un exemple, en n’ayant pas de droite radicale organisée en parti politique. Ce pays a semblé résister à la montée de l’extrême droite, constatée partout en Europe, et s’en est enorgueilli.

Or, en l’espace de cinq ans, le mouvement anti-réfugiés Pegida puis le parti AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) ont projeté dans l’espace public et le discours politique des motifs radicaux, puisant dans un fonds nauséabond qu’on croyait éradiqué.…  Seguir leyendo »

"La ira tiene un objetivo limitado y graves debilidades”, afirmaba la premio Nobel Toni Morrison en su conferencia de 2004 War on Error (“La guerra contra el error”). “Sofoca el entendimiento y sustituye la acción constructiva por un teatro sin sentido”. Quizá lo único bueno del desastre de Turingia (la maniobra fraudulenta que ha permitido investir al primer ministro con los votos de la formación de extrema derecha Alternativa para Alemania) sea que, por fin, ha quedado al descubierto la ira manipuladora que el partido radical lleva años disfrazando de preocupación compasiva. Se acabó el carnaval retórico que ha representado en la escena pública secundado por edecanes oportunistas dispuestos a dar crédito y tiempo en antena a su discurso mendaz como si fuese realmente necesario.…  Seguir leyendo »

German Greens holding cards reading, “Let’s Go!” at a party gathering. The Greens have been enjoying near-record support in recent surveys. Credit Jan Woitas/DPA, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

They call Bavaria the Texas of Germany, and not only for its beautiful countryside and roaring economy. Like Texas, Bavaria has been historically divided politically, with traditionally minded conservatives in its small towns and liberals and progressives in its cities.

That is, until state elections last year. The center-right Christian Social Union held onto power, though its grip slipped, while the center-left Social Democrats were nearly wiped out in Bavaria’s cities. The Social Democrats have weakened everywhere lately, so their catastrophic showing in Bavaria wasn’t a surprise. The shock was who replaced them: the Greens.

The rise of the Greens — they have a nearly 20 percent support in recent polls, close to a record high — is not unique among the country’s smaller parties.…  Seguir leyendo »

A right-wing protester held a German flag during a protest in Koethen, Germany, in September. Credit Srdjan Suki/Epa-Efe, via Rex

On. Oct. 3, Germans celebrated Reunification Day, the moment when, 28 years ago, the former East and West Germany became one nation again. And yet this year, instead of celebrating our unity, there is a growing sense of estrangement. East and west are drifting apart again.

A few weeks ago, a young man was stabbed to death at a city festival in Chemnitz, a city in eastern Germany; afterward two asylum seekers were arrested in connection with the attack. Large demonstrations broke out around the city, dominated at times by hundreds of right-wing extremists. Some raised their hands in the Hitler salute; journalists and counterdemonstrators were verbally and physically attacked; a mob threw stones at the owner of a Jewish restaurant.…  Seguir leyendo »

Police officers with a protester seeking to block coal mining in the Hambach Forest near Cologne, Germany. Credit Jana Bauch/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Right-wing protests in Germany these days are an unusual spectacle: The police sometimes seem more like uniformed extras than able keepers of public order.

This summer, scenes played out that were nearly unimaginable a few years before. In the eastern Saxon city of Chemnitz, thousands of people joined a right-wing protest spurred by suspicions that an Iraqi and a Syrian had killed a German man. Several protesters gave the illegal “Heil Hitler” salute and chanted, “We are fans, Adolf Hitler hooligans,” while outnumbered police officers looked on. Packs chased people of questionable skin color through the streets with little hindrance by the authorities.…  Seguir leyendo »

El furor se desahoga sobre quien aparece como indefenso”, decían Max Horkheimer y Theodor Adorno en La dialéctica de la Ilustración. La frase vuelve a la mente de quien ha visto las terribles escenas de Chemnitz y cómo una multitud llena de odio perseguía y agredía a personas solo por haber sido señaladas como “diferentes”, “extranjeras” y “extrañas”. La violencia sin límite se dirige contra quienes están cada vez más indefensos porque la sociedad no los reconoce como iguales. Los desfiles de líderes neonazis, vándalos violentos y representantes políticos de Alternativa para Alemania y otras formaciones menores de extrema derecha o los ataques en mercados han ocurrido en Sajonia, pero las conexiones y la movilización superaban los límites regionales.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Pegida rally in Dresden, Germany, in 2015. The anti-immigrant movement uses the term “das Abendland” as a synonym for Western Europe and its values. Credit Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Europe is being torn apart; divided by the aftershocks of the financial crisis, Europeans seem able to find common ground only in a common enemy. To hear Geert Wilders of the Netherlands or the U.K. Independence Party in Britain tell it, the crisis is not just about refugees: The influx of primarily Muslims is a threat to Western civilization itself, on par with the Arab invasions of the seventh century and the Ottoman invasions of the 16th.

It’s no coincidence that my country, Germany, has also seen a resurgence of a once-common, but more recently discarded, term: “das Abendland.” In English it is usually translated as “the Occident,” but its literal translation is quite poetic: “the Evening Land.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) with versions of the imperial war flag, the Wirmer flag, and the German flag, protesting the New Year’s Eve assaults against women in Cologne, Germany, January 9, 2016. Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters.

Throughout its postwar history, Germany somehow managed to resist the temptations of right-wing populism. Not any longer. On March 13, the “Alternative for Germany” (AfD)—a party that has said it may be necessary to shoot at migrants trying to enter the country illegally and that has mooted the idea of banning mosques—scored double-digit results in elections in three German states; in one, Saxony-Anhalt, the party took almost a quarter of the vote. For some observers, the success of the AfD is just evidence of Germany’s further “normalization”: other major countries, such as France, have long had parties that oppose European integration and condemn the existing political establishment for failing properly to represent the people—why should Germany be an exception?…  Seguir leyendo »

Germany Isn't Turning Backward

I am a patriot. Being German, those words don’t come easily, particularly for a leftish, skeptical urbanite like myself. And particularly not now, just a few days before we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. But yes, I love my country.

The reason I say it out loud, now, is that I feel I have to defend Germany against those on the streets of Dresden who also call themselves “patriots” — “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West,” to be precise, which is the name of a loose alliance that brings thousands to the streets every Monday.…  Seguir leyendo »

Participants hold a banner during a demonstration called by PEGIDA, in Dresden, Germany, Dec. 22, 2014. The text reads: “No more lies to us anymore! We are the people!” REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

Last week, when I attended my first rally in Dresden organized by PEGIDA, Germany’s mysterious “anti-Islamization” movement, I was reminded of the aggressive pro-Russian protests that tore apart eastern Ukraine a year ago. Thousands of demonstrators, who mostly refused to talk to the “lying press,” listened to fiery speeches railing against the country’s political class. Among the German flags present, I also spotted a few Russian ones, including a banner that was split diagonally, one half Russia’s tricolor, the other half Germany’s. A reporter and cameraman from the Gazprom-owned NTV channel were greeted with welcoming calls of “Vladimir! Vladimir!”

Based on a few shreds of evidence, it would have been easy enough to weave together a conspiracy theory that the Kremlin is behind the demonstrations that were initiated by a secretive organizing committee in October and swelled to a record 25,000 participants on Monday.…  Seguir leyendo »

The rise of Die Linke (the Left) in Germany is one of Europe's great political puzzles. In recent times it's the only major socialist party that has become established in a larger state; in the face of the financial crisis, its programme should be of great interest, and not just in the Federal Republic.

Yet the first peculiarity of the party is that it in fact has no programme, only platforms for specific elections. This absence of anything resembling a political philosophy, as well as the great internal fragmentation of the party, is explained by the fact that Die Linke emerged from the merger not just of two left-wing parties, but of very different political cultures: the remnants of state socialism in eastern Germany, on the one hand, and a post-1968 radical milieu and discontented trade unionists in western Germany on the other.…  Seguir leyendo »