‘Germanness’ obsession of AfD ‘justifies state surveillance’
Report is a further stage towards full state scrutiny of far-right party’s leaders and communication
An activist distributes flyers for the far-right AfD party in Berlin. It has been reported that Germany’s domestic intelligence agency may place the AfD under full surveillance, sparking shockwaves in an election year. File photograph: John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images
The Alternative für Deutschland’s (AfD) far-right wing is a potential risk for Germany’s constitutional order, according to domestic intelligence, because of its “overbearing” obsession with German identity.
The federal constitutional protection office (BfV) has placed the eastern German wing of the far-right party under observation, and may expand this operation to the entire party, after a 436-page preliminary report raised concerns about its exclusionary, “racist and ethnocultural” ideas.
The AfD is the third-largest party in the Bundestag, with 94 seats.
In nearly 1,000 footnotes, the report cites examples of AfD obsessions with “Germanness”, such as a speech by a far-right figure at a far-right gathering last June.
“Each of our thoughts, each word, our entire world view is German,” said AfD politician Hans-Thomas Tillschneider, quoted in the report. “There is a German understanding of family, a German way to dress. There is a German way to work, a German way to cook, a German way to build, a German way to make music and this way distinguishes us from other peoples.”
This prescriptive AfD approach as to how “real” Germans should live, the BfV warned, was problematic because it risked the “exclusion and down-grading of people that do not meet these conditions”.
In the preliminary report, the BfV points out how the AfD, founded as an anti-euro party but flourishing as an anti-immigration grouping, criticises German parliamentary status quo but recognises the democratic order.
However, an eastern grouping named “Flügel” – meaning “Wing” – and the Junge Alternative (JA), the party’s radical youth wing, pose a challenge to the guarantee of human dignity laid down in article one of Germany’s post-war constitution or “Basic Law”.
The report insists this does not forbid even polemical discussion about the real or imagined criminality of foreign nationals, attacks against their perceived lack of integration into German society or even swipes at the content anyone’s religious beliefs or world view – “once the person themselves is not devalued”.
But the BfV identifies lines the AfD crosses, such as “when a certain population group, for example Muslims . . . are presented as having a nature that is presented as criminal, aggressive, instinct-driven and dangerous”.
Another is a demand for “complete alignment with the average German”. Björn Höcke, head of the AfD in the eastern state of Thuringia, regularly crosses these lines and, with 50 pages and 608 references, is the star of the report.
“These people that want to become Germans, we don’t demand that they integrate, naturally we demand that they assimilate,” he said in the eastern city of Erfurt in October 2016.
The BfV suggests that this and other remarks – attacking the construction of mosques in Germany or describing the birth rate of Muslims in German as a “jihad” – as violating the Basic Law.
This report is a further stage towards full state surveillance of AfD leaders and communications. Given how the Nazis – and East Germany – used the state apparatus to terrorise and outlaw political opponents, however, post-war Germany has high legal hurdles for open and undercover surveillance of any grouping.
Even higher hurdles exist before the courts will agree to ban.