At 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Thomas Haldenwang, head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, invited his colleagues from the state offices. join a video conference. They weren’t sure what the focus of the meeting was. But they do have a pretty good idea: The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) is seen as the “dubious threat” of the BfV.
That means party officials can be monitored using tools available to the Secret Service: observing meetings, reading emails and listening to the phone. The AfD MPs will remain without limits. However, on Friday, the Administrative Court in Cologne ruled that such surveillance cannot begin until a ruling on an urgent action submitted by that party can be taken. The AfD is taking legal action to prevent BfV from conducting surveillance.
If it were allowed to continue, it would be a historic move against a party that began as a conservative movement, against the euro with one side suspected of hostility to democracy. The decision to take the move also – for BfV and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer – is a rather delicate undertaking, both politically and from the point of view of German constitutional law. Before the state elections in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate, and half a year before the general elections in Germany, the BfV was targeting the country’s largest opposition party.
As a result, the response from AfD’s co-leaders Jörg Meuthen and Tino Chrupalla was hardly surprising. They say there is absolutely no basis for surveillance, “and it won’t go to court,” they wrote in a statement.
But from BfV’s point of view, there is no alternative. The agency believes that since 2019, when it began to take a closer look at the AfD, the party has slipped further to the far right. As a result, BfV leaders feel there is no way to resolve this issue.
The AfD report, compiled by a domestic intelligence agency, is 1,001 pages long and includes defense material that refutes doubts about right-wing extremism. However, most of it is incriminating.
In compiling DER SPIEGEL’s report, right-wing extremism lawyers and experts examined hundreds of speeches, Facebook posts and the appearance of AfD politicians in all levels of the party. The report included statements from 302 functions, 88 of which are at the federal level.
BfV agents only use publicly available material for reporting. The agency, however, firmly believes that the outcome is not clear: It believes there is enough evidence of the AfD’s anti-constitutional tendencies to put the entire party under surveillance.
Violence may be born
The report was like an appalling appalling summary. And it demonstrates the degree of separation between major parts of the party and the fundamental liberal democratic order. According to classified documents, the party has a suspicious relationship with democracy and human rights. The report concludes that it sparked hatred towards Muslims and immigrants, and poisoned the country’s climate, potentially to the point where it could spawn violence.
“A sizable portion of the party,” the agency wrote in its review, was not just interested in bringing a bit of debate into the debate. Instead, “it seeks to awaken or reinforce fundamental rejection of the German government and all other parties and their representatives.” Other politicians, the report noted, were scorned by AfD activists – even at the highest levels – as “henchmen of the system” and “slaves to old parties” – the term “party old “is the standard right-wing populist term for forming political parties.
Discourse is even coarser at lower levels. The AfD representatives used Nazi insults such as “Volksverräter” when discussing their political competitors, a racial term that essentially means ” betraying your people “. Or they simply called the members of the other parties “the destroyers of Germany”. Their favorite target is German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is frequently vilified by AfD politicians as “an adversary of democracy educated by East Germany”. On February 17, 2020, a local AfD branch in Lower Saxony posted a photo of the prime minister on social media along with the phrase: “Those who wonder why Hitler was not stopped also. should wonder why Merkel is still in office. “
In this distorted view of Germany, AfD is seen as the country’s savior. As the AfD chapter in Rostock puts it, the party is “the last wall to hinder perfection sync“, another Nazi term that refers to the elimination of all dissenting voices. The BfV noted in its report that comparing the political situation in Germany with dictatorships or authoritarianism is quite “impressive” because AfD politicians have repeatedly allowed themselves to be “instrumental in propaganda purposes” by Russia and Syria.
The report’s authors also discussed how dangerous the danger of “defamation and perpetual contempt for the democratic order and political opponents of the party” can be. The authors, the authors write, clearly prove that the Capitol in the US proves a great deal, and they also go on to note that there have been related incidents in Germany, such as the occupation of tiers. ladder of the Reichstag, the German parliament building. , last summer, combined with the intrusion into the Bundestag of agitators – “some of them”, the report noted, “was there at the invitation of the AfD representative.” The document said that “violent protest, at least between parts of the party, cannot be ruled out.”
Even more radical in the pandemic
Nearly 150 pages of the report are devoted to links between AfD functional organizations and right-wing extremist groups such as the Identity Movement or the anti-refugee initiative “Ein Prozent” (One percent). , which Björn Höcke, the extremist right-wing head. The AfD Party in Thuringia has shown some sympathy.
Party member Hans-Christoph Berndt, the AfD floor leader in the Brandenburg state parliament, was one of the leaders of the Association for the Future of the Fatherland (“Verein Zukunft Heimat”), which BfV officials said. regularly held “Islamophobic and xenophobic protests” and was linked with neo-Nazism.
The party became even more extreme during the coronavirus pandemic, according to BfV. AfD activists at all levels – up to the honorary party chief Alexander Gauland – regularly oppose an alleged “halo dictatorship” allegedly defeated. They say Germany is being ruled with “urgent powers”, federal MP Hansjörg Müller declared at a rally in Berlin. Jens Maier, a radical member of the AfD from Sachsen, says the Infectious Protection Act is a “facilitating act” (“Ermächtigungsgesetz”). Both references – to emergency powers and permissive action – again explicitly allude to the Nazi term. Hitler used emergency powers and conditional action to end the Weimar democracy in 1933.
Petr Bystron, also an AfD member of the German parliament, posted a caricature of Bavaria Governor Markus Söder on Twitter in September. It shows Söder wearing a miniature halo mask shrunk to look like like Hitler’s mustache on his upper lip. A sentence next to it reads: “Never wash your (mask) at temperatures above 88 degrees.” In the neo-Nazi number algorithm, 88 stands for “Heil Hitler”, since “H” is the eighth letter of the alphabet.
For the AfD, Germany’s domestic intelligence officials believe the story of an alleged Islamized Germany is central. The report noted Muslims were “explicitly defamed, defamed and rejected” by the party. AfD representative Lars Schieske from the state of Brandenburg wrote, for example: “It is impossible to integrate Muslims.”
The BfV has also identified anti-Semitism in the AfD, especially at the local levels. Many times, the members alluded to a hypothetical global elite pulling the strings behind the scenes. On YouTube, officials found a video of Höcke’s appearance at a chapter of the local AfD just outside Berlin. In the video, he claims a “global currency elites” are allied with “crypto communists”. Their alleged goal: a world “without cultures and nations.”
One of the main reasons Germany’s domestic intelligence officials are currently targeting the party entirely is the relentless influence of the so-called “Flügel” or “Wing”, the far-right group. in AfD. The group, in which Höcke acted as the leading voice, was formally dissolved a year ago by the party after BfV announced that it was placing Flügel under scrutiny. But officials believe its influence continues to grow. According to the report, Flügel was not some of the “nonsensical subgroups” in the AfD. Rather, it is “an influential current.” The report notes that all AfD parliamentary floor leaders in eastern German state parliaments are on the network. BfV officials wrote its “constitutional hostile aspirations” that “instilled the entire party”.
To prove the support of the far-rightists, for example, BfV points to a Gauland statement. “Mr. Hocke represents the center of the party,” he said. The report mentions that co-leader Meuthen’s attempt to separate himself from Flügel at the AfD party congress last November could be seen as an act of confession. In his speech, Meuthen attacked extremist groups and warned against links with the Nazi period. Such links, he said, represent “the tacit trivialization of the terrible crimes of that dark age.”
Characterized by Division
In the vote for the party leaders that followed, BfV wrote, showing how big the Flügel camp really was. They weren’t able to beat Meuthen, but they drew the support of about 45% of the delegates. That said, the report notes that a significant portion of the party favors “extreme publicity” views.
The report’s eighty pages are filled with examples of Flügel’s influence at the federal, state and local levels – and continue to this day. BfV even performed a quantitative analysis of AfD’s presence on social media networks, in which they examined 676 individual accounts belonging to 473 members of the AfD party that did not clearly belong to Flügel. Of those, 64 percent had links to Flügel members’ accounts while 52 percent responded or shared messages posted by Flügel members. BfV said the official dissolution of the network hardly changed the situation.
The Office for the Protection of the Constitution talks about “two blocks” within the party, one that rallies behind Meuthen and the other behind Höcke. In addition to former Flügel members, Höcke’s supporters include influential party members at the federal level, such as the party leader Chrupalla and the two party-level leaders in the federal parliament, Alice. Weidel and Gauland.
The BfV report noted that the party was still characterized by “fragmentation”. However, the state cannot wait for AfD to find a solution to its internal conflicts, the report’s authors write. There is a need to “observe and understand” what’s going on. And if Flügel finally does his way, the report notes, then suspicions of hostility to the constitution will be confirmed.