On Wednesday 7th November, Alice Weidel, the leader of the second most popular political party in Germany, was expected to arrive in the city of Oxford and deliver a speech at the Oxford University Union. However, Wednesday came and went and Alice Weidel never got on the plane. Why? Weidel believed that she would be jeopardizing her own personal security by travelling to Oxford and engaging in this talk. For anyone who has never heard of Alice Weidel or her political party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), this is unsurprising behaviour.
So who are the AfD? The AfD is a hugely controversial right-wing party that, despite demonstrating a sinister resemblance to the Nazi party, have been hugely successful in recent years. Racist, xenophobic, islamophobic and sexist are all labels that have been slapped on the AfD, and justifiably so. Originally founded in 2013 as a political group to oppose the Eurozone, last year the AfD became the first right-wing party to enter the Bundestag since the Nazi era and they have climbed the ranks in each election ever since.
The AfD makes no secret of hiding their arguably backward policies that promote traditional family values whilst condemning abortion and immigration. They shrugged off the horrific atrocities committed by the Nazi regime and the Holocaust as “just bird poo”. One of their most famous ad campaigns depicts three young white women walking down a beach, captioned: “Burkas? We prefer bikinis.” Another that has received equal criticism showed a pregnant white woman with the slogan: “New Germans? We’ll make them ourselves.” It is puzzling that a party led by a woman who has raised 2 children with her female partner whilst pursuing a successful career in politics is able to release propaganda that explicitly regards women as nothing more than sex objects and baby machines.
To me, it makes no sense. Berlin is a vibrant, contemporary city bursting with diversity. Even as early as 1896, Berlin was home to the first gay rights’ organization in the world and by the 1920s, the city bragged the title of the Gay Capital of Europe. It doesn’t seem possible that a party with the views of the AfD would be able to generate even the smallest amount of support in a city as undeniably cool as Berlin.
Besides, the Germans’ the extensive remorse and shame over the atrocities that took place 80 years ago for the Holocaust through their upkeep of the numerous museums, memorials dedicated to the lives lost, and a national remembrance day show a dedication to combatting dangerous hatred and bigotry. Compare this to a country like Spain, which was also ruled by a blood-thirsty right-wing dictator who executed his own forms of mass-murder around the same time. Franco’s body has controversially been celebrated through the construction of a 150m monument with his remains kept in its neighbouring basilica. Spain is a country where the barbarities of their dictator will not be publicly discussed, let alone criticised. Germany is not. It seems for this reason alone, it cannot be possible for history to repeat itself because of the way the AfD’s rhetoric mirrors that of the Nazi regime, this time with the hatred focused on the Muslim community rather than the Jews.
The Nazi party were able to rise to success mainly due to the widespread public animosity regarding the way they were treated post-World War One. Is this animosity not similar to that felt today towards Angela Merkel for granting asylum to over one-million refugees or that felt regarding Germany’s existence in the Eurozone and the argument that its membership props up weaker nations? The AfD has swooped in to take advantage of the fury felt in Germany today, just like the Nazi party did back in 1933.
Should we be worried? Maybe. The end of the Merkel era will undoubtedly bring a wave of political distress to one of the most stable economies in Europe. Support for the CDU is falling and in an age where we should be looking to boost immigration, tackle human rights front on, and put an end to hate-filled beliefs, one of the most developed countries in the world is not only leaning to the right but embracing it. Whilst the AfD still falls short of topping Angela Merkel’s CDU, their prominence is increasing whilst the latter’s is not. Fortunately, at the moment they are far from a majority and that will hopefully never see the light of day.
(Main Image Credit: European Pressphoto Agency)