By Celine Aemisegger
Berlin, Jan 20 (EFE).- Tens of thousands of Germans have been protesting in towns and cities across the country every day for the past week to denounce the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).
News emerged last week that some of the far-right party’s members had attended a secret meeting last year where they reportedly discussed plans to expel millions of immigrants and Germans with migrant backgrounds.
With slogans such as “ban the AfD now”, “all against fascism”, “united against hatred” or “never again” – which refers to the genocide of European Jews during World War II–, 50,000 demonstrators protested Friday in Hamburg.
Last weekend, some 25,000 people in Berlin and 30,000 in Cologne turned out to condemn the party and the alleged plans that were published by the investigative journalism portal “Correctiv”.
Some 178 demonstrations are planned until the end of the month, including more than 80 on Saturday and Sunday in cities across the country, including Hanover, Munich, Stuttgart, Dresden, Frankfurt and Nuremberg.
On Friday German Chancellor Olaf Scholz urged Germans to unite in defense of democracy and show that the country “has learned from the past.”
“If there is one thing that can never again have a place in Germany, it is National Socialist racial ideology,” Scholz said in a video message, in which he also addressed the more than 20 million German citizens with migrant backgrounds – who represent around a quarter of the country’s population.
“I want to say to all of you: you are part of us. Our country needs you,” the chancellor said.
Nearly 30 people, including neo-Nazis, AfD representatives and supporters, reportedly met in November at a hotel in Potsdam to discuss expelling people with migrant backgrounds. Among the attendees were two members of the Christian Democrats (CDU) and a personal advisor to AfD co-leader Alice Weidel.
The AfD has dismissed the reports as “fairy tales” and claimed the issue has been “greatly inflated” by the media.
The secret meeting took place just a few kilometers from the site of the infamous 1942 Wannsee conference during which 15 representatives of the SS, the NSDAP and various Reich ministries discussed the deportation and murder of European Jews as part of the Nazi regime’s so-called “Final Solution”.
The meeting also comes 10 months before regional elections in three federal states – Brandenburg, Saxony and Thuringia – where the AfD is leading in the polls.
In December, the far-right party won its first mayoralty in Germany in a town in Saxony, after an AfD candidate had already become governor of a district in Thuringia in June.
At the national level, the AfD is polling at 22%, second only to the Christian Democratic Union and its partner, the Christian Social Union of Bavaria, with 31%.
The parties in the coalition government (Liberals, Greens and Social Democrats), on the other hand, are trailing badly in the polls.
The AfD has been able to capitalize on public discontent with the government, which has reached the halfway point of its term of office saddled by internal disputes, an economy that contracted last year by 0.3 % and an annual inflation rate of 5.9 % in 2023, the second highest since German reunification.
The government is also facing protests from farmers and the logistics sector after having to cut subsidies in several areas to plug a €17 billion hole in the 2024 budget.
According to a poll by the RTL and NTV television channels on Jan. 16, Scholz’s Socialist Democratic Party only has the support of 13% of Germans, the lowest level in almost four years.
Against this backdrop, a nationwide debate is raging on whether to ban the AfD, which has 78 seats in the Bundestag (parliament).