In Germany, fears of a repeat of the past have brought people to the streets

The revelation of plans by right-wing extremists in Germany to forcibly deport millions of foreigners recalled the era of National Socialism, and people took to the streets fearing a repeat.

7 mins read

In recent weeks, large-scale demonstrations against the far right have taken place in various cities across Germany.

In November 2023, far-right extremists, including members of the far-right and populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, Martin Sellner, the former leader of the Austrian “Identitarian Movement”, and several businessmen, held a meeting at a villa in Potsdam, the investigative journalists’ network “Correcktiv” reported on January 10.

It was revealed that the meeting discussed plans for the systematic deportation of asylum seekers, foreigners with the right to stay in the country and German citizens who do not embrace European culture.

There were also plans to make the country uninhabitable for immigrants by passing special laws for immigrants with German passports, whose expulsion from the country would be virtually impossible. This was reminiscent of the laws imposed on Jews by the National Socialist regime that came to power in 1933.

The laws enacted by the Hitler-led regime after 1933 included a series of regulations such as the dismissal of Jews from the civil service, banning them from admission to universities, revoking their passports, banning them from opening businesses, banning them from schools, revoking the licenses of doctors, and as a result of these pressures, many Jews left the country.

The Correktiv report has therefore caused unrest in the country, and demonstrations have broken out across Germany against the plans to expel foreigners, the AfD and right-wing extremists.

Tens of thousands of people participated in demonstrations in cities across the country in defense of human rights, diversity and democracy. In some cities the number reached hundreds of thousands. It was noteworthy that the demonstrations were well attended and lasted for more than a month.

Scholz and Steinmeier praise protests

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Chancellor Olaf Scholz supported these demonstrations.

Steinmeier praised the participants in the demonstrations organized in many parts of the country and said, “They are defending our republic and our constitution against the enemies of the constitution. They are defending our humanity.”

“Hundreds of thousands of people are taking to the streets in Germany these days in the name of our democracy and to stand up against the far right,” said Chancellor Scholz, emphasizing that National Socialist and racist ideology will never again have a place in Germany.

With placards in their hands, the demonstrators showed their concern about a return to the racist ideology of Adolf Hitler’s National Socialism of 1933-1945.

Participants carried placards reading “Choosing the AfD is like 1933”, “Never again now”, “Never again 1933-1945” and “There is no place for repetition in our history books”.

Björn Höcke, one of the most radical representatives of the far right in the AfD and the head of the party’s Thuringia state organization, was likened to Hitler in the banners carried during the demonstrations.

Are we in the Nazi era?

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Battis, a retired constitutional lawyer from Humboldt University, said that when he read Correktiv’s report, he thought that this would not happen in Germany, “This is outrageous, are we back in the Nazi era?”

“People like me felt the ugliness of this manifesto, the real break in civilization, and felt the need to react to it,” Battis said, commenting on the public’s reaction to the news of far-right extremists’ plans to forcibly deport foreigners.

Norbert Er, who participated in the demonstration in front of the Reichtstag, the Bundestag building in Berlin, said: “Turn around and look at the Reichstag. What happened here many years ago will never happen again. Never in Germany. The AfD will crumble on its own. But for that you need a little impulse to act, and that’s what happened today.”

On the other hand, the protests showed that citizens have lost trust in the existing parties, government and politicians and are trying to make their voices heard by participating in demonstrations. Many demonstrators called on the government and politicians to stop fighting and solve the problems that contributed to the rise of the far right. A large number of participants claimed that the AfD’s rise to power was due to infighting within the government.

According to a survey conducted by the Körber Foundation and published in August 2023, only 9 percent of citizens trust parties. This rate was 29 percent in 2020 and 21 percent in 2021. In the same survey, 86 percent of the public said they would like to be more involved in federal and local decision-making.

In a “Mitte” survey published by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in 2023, 46 percent of respondents agreed that “democratic parties talk too much about an issue, get into details, lose their influence and do not solve problems”. This rate was recorded as 31 percent in 2021.

AfD’s poll ratings remain high despite protests

On the other hand, after the aforementioned actions against the far right, the AfD’s votes, which were in the 22-23 percent band in the polls in late 2023, decreased to 19-20 percent in some polls conducted in early February 2024.

Some political observers attribute this setback to the demonstrations, while others point to the BSW party founded in January by former Left Party MP Sahra Wagenknecht.

Wagenknecht, who wants to position his party on the “conservative left”, remains popular with AfD voters.

However, according to a poll conducted by the Insa research company for the “t-online” website and published on February 13, 22 percent of people would vote for the AfD in the European Parliament elections in June. This means that the AfD has doubled its votes compared to the previous EP elections.


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