Nearly a million people took to the streets in Germany last weekend to demonstrate. In Berlin and Munich, the turnout was so high that the demonstration had to be canceled because the crowds were putting their safety at risk. Since the fall of the Wall in Berlin, there must have been many demonstrations in our eastern neighbours.
The theme of the mass demonstrations can be summed up in a single German phrase made up of two words that still sound like a bell three-quarters of a century later. Ney Vader. Not again. One million Germans took to the streets to declare that they do not want the far right to return to power in the country.
To be clear, this is not yet the case. Democratic institutions today are on firmer foundations than they were in 1933, the dark reference year in modern German history in which Adolf Hitler seized power. In addition, other German parties have established a kind of cordon sanitaire around the Alternative for Germany (AfD), the far-right party that is rapidly growing in the country.
Some argue that the dangers should not be exaggerated: exaggerated alarm threatens to put the murderous madness of historical Nazism into perspective. Not every far-right politician can immediately be considered a neo-Nazi, but this is not necessary to disrupt society.
At the very least, the AfD does not appear to be very sensitive to its country’s turbulent history. The reason for the massive demonstrations was a meeting in which AfD politicians discussed the migrant deportation plan with other extremists. This meeting took place in Potsdam, a stone’s throw from Lake Wannsee, where Nazi leaders met in 1942 to reach the “final solution” to the “Jewish question” and actually begin carrying out the Holocaust. You just have to dare.
The AfD is a good example of the new hybrid type of far-right party. Just like VB in our country or Giorgia Meloni’s party in Italy, they mix a decent looking shop window with a back building full of bad extremist beliefs. They are constantly jumping from one leg to another. Forced deportation? No, only for deported refugees. Or this weekend at VB. Is repopulation a conscious EU strategy as MEP Tom Vandendreich intended? No, we are only referring to the demographic reality of population change. In the meantime, the seeds have been planted and the targets of the debate have moved once again.
The demonstrations, even if a million people come out, will not in themselves stop the progress of the far right. But they at least hold up an uncomfortable mirror to us here. Because while hundreds of thousands in Germany scream in protest, the day when a politician will shout “repopulation” is not far away here. Screams in the evening in the game program when you press the button.