The upcoming German election may look boring at first sight, with Angela Merkel’s CDU leading in all polls and seeming already set to serve another term as Chancellor of Germany, but for me it doesn’t – and for the very first time since the end of World War II a Nazi party, the far right Alternative for Germany, or AFD, is currently polling at 12% and now has a real chance of entering the Bundestag.
You might say that the far right are sitting in nearly all European parliaments nowadays and that 12% is not that bad, because other countries have a much higher quota. You might even have a far right government in your country, but I say no – it is an unacceptable disgrace and a shame, especially in Germany’s case.
Chilling echoes of a former German election
In September 1930 Germany went down a dark road. After years of obscurity, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, or Nazi party, emerged as a powerful element on election day Sept 14th, 1930, when they received 18% of the vote and became the second largest party with 107 seats in the Reichstag.
Hitler had waged a whirlwind campaign that year, travelling the country delivering dozens of speeches, shaking hands, signing autographs and kissing babies. At this time, Germany was in the grip of a great depression – suffering from poverty, misery, and uncertainty. Hitler appealed to all Germans by offering jobs, prosperity and a romantic return to German glory. He made vague promises, always avoiding details and repeating simple catchphrases over and over again. Finishing second in the 1930 election marked a stunning victory. Nazi backers celebrated by smashing the windows of Jewish shops, restaurants and department stores. On October 13th, the elected Nazi deputies marched into the Reichstag and took their seats and when the roll-call was taken, each one shouted “present! Heil Hitler!”, and the Nazi era had begun.
We all know what happened next and we also know that it should never happen again.
Why are we here again?
Today we have memorials everywhere in Germany and our education system teaches us about the atrocities of our past with films, pictures and even excursions to places like former concentration camps. Using Nazi symbols and denying Holocaust is forbidden by law in Germany. We have no depression – Germany’s economy is booming and unemployment is low.
So why are people considering the AFD as a credible alternative to the status quo?
After pouring over studies on voters for the AFD and analysing just who AFD members are, and even looking for a political role for the party, it seems clear to me that these people are living in a parallel universe. They seem content to rely on fake news created by Russian outlets like Sputnik who have been set up with the sole purpose of destabilising European democracies. They consider German online “news” outlets with the same amount of half-truths and fakes, conspiracy theories and hate speech as gospel, which indicates to me that these people are out of touch with reality.
What is also evident is that a lot of the supporters of AFD seem to be dropouts of the mainstream parties. And because the likes of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) are trying to find a democratic consensus in society, those same dropouts now find themselves at the foot of the AFD door. Their nature is to scream, shout and make rude and atrocious comments in an effort to obtain notoriety, while all along laying the blame on someone else’s shoulders for all the bad that happened to them in life. Their tactics involve using the worst kind of language and words, making themselves looking like the victim when you point out their nonsense, which they truly believe is part of their strategy for life, too. Such people are poor souls in my opinion and I would pity them if this kind of behaviour would not lead to violence against foreigners, gays and all people who are not “German” according to their point of view.
Time to draw the line
The followers of the AFD believe that they have been left behind by a global economy and as they struggle with a new, more technical kind of society and its challenges ahead, many of them turn to blaming refugees, insinuating that these people will get more from the welfare system than they will. Some have lost all moral, humanitarian and democratic values and are shouting for a change or an “alternative”, as they like to call it.
They want some kind of mythical “good old times” back.
What they fail to see is that their alternative only leads back to atrocities, hate and a dark period that we have already experienced in Germany. We Germans are living in very good times, enjoying democracy, freedom of expression and rule of law, combined with excellent social security and opportunities for everyone.
The Germany of today is not responsible for what happened in our history, but most importantly, what the followers of the AFD forget is that we Germans believe that we have a special duty to prevent the kind of atrocities we committed in our past from ever happening again.
I will feel utterly ashamed for Germany if the AFD enters the German Bundestag and I hope that all Germans will go to vote, because one thing is sure – the Nazis will go to vote and only the silent majority of democratic and decent people in Germany can stop them.
AfD are making their presence known and felt but compare them to other countries and welcome them there. Why I say that is that in the UK ukip seriously thought they could win an election outright, they puffed up their chests like peacocks and then hid again because from 3.1% in 2010 which made them the fourth party they went up to 12.6% and one member of parliament expecting many more about a month before the election day, nonetheless the third largest party. The recent election saw them down to 1.8%, a loss of 10.8%, and no MPs. Here in France the Front National looked strong during 2016, but come this year at the final round Macron took 66.9% against 33.1% for Le Pen. We have seen PVV defeat in the Netherlands, the swings away from populist right wing parties in Austria and Hungary, decline in popularity in Norway and generally distaste and protest in a number of other countries. The difference in Germany is that too many people do remember history and will eventually stand up to be counted. Ironically, AfD has chosen to invite Nigel Farage, ex-leader of ukip who has an outstanding record of nine unsuccessful failures to gain a parliamentary seat, who claims to be moderate, not racist or harbour such prejudices (despite having had trouble at school for singing Nazi Lieder) and yet is the darling of such parties as AfD. What I find great there is that his support has often been the kiss of death. certainly his confidence Le Pen would win in France and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands have proven how much his presence seems to curse his ‘friends’. I have great hopes in his influence yet again but also far more so in the wisdom of the German electorate who I believe are using AfD as they do FN in France to show discontent, going so far but no further.