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Germany: Scholz welcomes protests against far right

January 19, 2024

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has compared a far-right plan to deport migrants to Nazi racial ideology, calling it "an attack on our democracy." He has welcomed planned protests against right-wing extremism this weekend.

Thousands of anti-racism protesters gather for a demonstration in Hamburg, January 19, 2024.
Tens of thousands of people turned out to protest in Hamburg Image: epd-bild/picture alliance

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has again strongly condemned alleged plans by right-wing extremists and politicians from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party for the mass deportation of migrants, drawing parallels with Nazi racial ideology.

"I say it in absolutely clarity and severity: Right-wing extremists are attacking our democracy," he said in a video released on Friday, referring to reports of a secret meeting at which far-right extremists, AfD politicians and business leaders allegedly discussed the deportation of millions of people from Germany.

Scholz: 'Right-wing extremists are attacking our democracy'

"If there is one thing that must never again have any place in Germany, it's the ethno-racial ideology of the National Socialists," Scholz continued, referring to the 1933-1945 Nazi regime. "That's exactly what the repulsive resettlement plans of these extremists are. The very thought sends a shiver down the spine."

Directly addressing migrants and Germans with immigrant backgrounds, the chancellor said: "You belong to us! Our country needs you!"

Scholz welcomes demonstrations against the far right

Since news of the far-right meeting at a hotel in the eastern German of city of Potsdam in November was published by the German investigative portal Correctiv last week, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in protest against right-wing extremism and the far-right AfD.

On Friday evening, a demonstration in Hamburg, Germany's second-largest city, was brought to a premature close after the number of participants vastly exceeded expectations. Local police confirmed that around 30,000 people were present at the start of the event, while the AFP news agency later reported around 50,000. Organizers spoke of up to 80,000, according to Spiegel magazine.

Thousands of demonstrators pictured in Hamburg
Tens of thousands of people came out to protest on the streets of Hamburg and elsewhere across the countryImage: Jonas Walzberg/dpa/picture alliance

Local newspaper Hamburger Abendblatt said the event ended at 4:45 p.m. local time on security grounds since it was feared that "people could fall into the Alster," the river that flows into the Elbe in Hamburg, in the snowy conditions.

Around 90 further demonstrations have been planned in cities across Germany this weekend, including in Nuremberg, Dortmund, Hannover, Erfurt, Magdeburg and Frankfurt on Saturday and Munich, Berlin, Cologne, Dresden, Leipzig and Bonn on Sunday.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attends a protest against right-wing extremism, January 14, 2024
Scholz also joined one of the protests in Potsdam last weekendImage: Liesa Johannssen/REUTERS

Scholz himself took part in a demonstration in Potsdam last Sunday along with Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and explicitly welcomed this weekend's protests. "I was there too," he said. "What we're currently experiencing in our country affects us all — every single one of us."

Scholz's comments came on the day that the German parliament, the Bundestag, voted to relax the law on naturalization and widen access to dual citizenship in Germany.

"Whoever is looking after themselves and their family, who chooses our country and shares our values, will in future be able to apply for a German passport after five years rather than eight," he said, adding that nobody would be forced to "deny their roots."

German society calls for action ahead of local elections

News of the far-right gathering in Potsdam drew added attention in Germany given that the AfD is currently polling as the second-largest party nationwide, just months ahead of three major regional elections in the eastern German states of Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg, where their support is strongest.

Hajo Funke, a political analyst who specializes in the far right, told the AFP news agency that the "scandalous meeting" revived "the fear of deportations of millions of citizens or noncitizens, a fear that is part of the criticized heritage of Nazism."

Protesters pictured in Jena in the state of Thuringia
A demonstration also took place in Jena on Friday, the placard in the center of the shot translates as 'don't give the AfD any chance'Image: Bodo Schackow/dpa/picture alliance

The AfD itself counters that the reported plans to deport people who have obtained German citizenship specifically are not its policy and were not raised by its members who attended.

German domestic intelligence chief Thomas Haldenwang called on the "silent majority" to wake up and take a clear position against extremism in Germany."

A group of eastern German bishops warned against "distrust and scorn" for democratic processes and cautioned that populist, extreme-right and antisemitic positions were becoming "increasingly socially acceptable."

Footballers and coaches from Germany's Bundesliga have also spoken out against the AfD, with SC Freiburg manager Christian Streich saying that "anyone who does nothing now has learned nothing from school or history," and numerous clubs calling on their fans to take part in demonstrations.

Thousands rally against Germany’s far-right AfD party

mf/lo (AFP, dpa)

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