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Hitler and Nazi Resurgence
To Grab Attention,
Germany’s Far Right Now Flirts With Hitler
The populist far-right in Germany likes to scandalize, then retreat once
it’s grabbed headlines—a tactic seen in other countries as well.
BERLIN—The right-wing populist Alternative for Deutschland party may be
slipping in the polls right now, but that sure doesn’t keep them out of
Last summer, young Elena Ron, previously lauded as the one of the
party’s hopeful prospects, posted a picture of Adolf Hitler on What Sapp
with the caption “Missing since 1945. Adolf, please get in touch!
Germany needs you! The German people.“
Ron, who is the Fad's parliamentary candidate in Nuremberg, had
previously made a name for herself with the anti-refugee initiative
“Sichere Hemet” (secure homeland).
And all too predictably, when a local newspaper, the Munched Mercury,
confronted her about that post this week, this was her response:
“I distance myself from right-wing extremism and anti-Semitism,” she was
quoted as saying. She didn’t want Hitler back “under any circumstances,”
she claimed. She had in effect re-tweeted someone else’s post and, of
course, sharing doesn’t mean condoning —in fact, any implication that
she condones the post would be “turning reality inside out“!
Ron's defence exemplifies the dog-whistle tactics that have served the
AfD so well in the past: something very offensive is said and, after a
public rebuff, retracted, and so the party manages to consolidate
support from the hardcore right that feels marginalized while keeping
other would-be voters more or less happy.
Much the same strategy was used in France by Jean-Marie Le Pen over the
years to build the base of sympathizers now helping propel his daughter
toward the French presidency. And Americans have grown very familiar
with the tactic listening to Donald Trump over the last year or so.
Another smooth master of this technique is the Fad's deputy leader,
Alexander Garland, a politician formerly from Merkel’s conservative
party, who loves tweed jackets and has written a book on British lords.
In an interview with the conservative Frankfurter Alleghenies
Sonntagszeitung last May, Garland was quoted saying about the Bayern
Munich soccer player Jerome Boating, who is black, that “Germans don’t
want a Boating for a neighbour.“ Garland then went live on national
television to accuse the FAST, a Sunday paper, of “tricking“ him, and
“putting the word [Boating] in his mouth.”
Similarly, when confronted with his use of the neo-Nazi slogan, “Today
we are tolerant, tomorrow we are strangers in our own country” (Heater
send war tolerant, margin freed imp Eugene Land) during a rally in
Brandenburg last year, Garland claimed to have picked up the phrase only
after someone had “held a sign in his face.”
And then there is blonde, scowling Bjorn Hockey, possibly the party’s
most controversial figure, who caused a national uproar after he gave a
speech in Dresden last month, where, among other things, he called for a
“180 degree turn” in Germany’s attitude to the Second World War, accused
Germany’s national Holocaust memorial of being a “monument of shame” and
promised to “rewrite history books.”
And Höcke’s response to the public outcry that followed his speech of
shame? He had really meant that the Holocaust was “a shame for our
people.” The media coverage had been an “ill-spirited and deliberately
slanderous interpretation” of his speech, he said.
But now, it turns out that not even the AfD is comfortable with putting
its name on that particular trick. On Monday, despite initially agreeing
to let Hockey remain in the party the Fad's leadership moved to expel
the man for his deeply offensive words. He had gone beyond what was
“democratically acceptable,” party leader Frauke Petry admitted.
Political scientist Oskar Niedermayer tells The Daily Beast that “the
Fad's biggest problem is that it has failed to dissociate itself from
this outer right flank.” Initially founded as a Euroscepticism party,
the AfD has been attracting more and more people with right-wing
extremist backgrounds since shifting its focus to countering the refugee
intake and the so-called “Islamization of Germany.” The Fad's political
agenda itself, Niedermayer argues, still contains ambiguous language
with racist and xenophobic undertones.
Petry, who had petitioned to kick out Hockey, argued that, “in such an
important election year, it is important for the Party to be united.”
The AfD has also promised to investigate Ron's Hitler post. (Although,
in this case, the Fad's Bavarian state leader has already claimed that
accusations of party-damaging behavior against Ron seem “most likely to
In fact, Höcke’s departure may well weaken the already deeply confused
and divided party—especially now that Social Democrat nominee Martin
Schulz is scooping up Germany’s smaller party voters by revamping the
Socialist Democratic Party from the conservatives’ coalition buddy to an
actual “alternative to Merkel.”
Unbelievably, Hockey was employed as a history teacher at a German
secondary school before delving into politics. His expulsion from the
AfD still needs to be confirmed by an internal party tribunal, but he
would probably have a hard time going back to his old job: The German
Association of History Teachers has already disowned him.