Sun Feb 9th, 2020 at 12:19:42 PM EST
The placard shows far-right politician Björn Höcke and reads 'never again' (Photo credit: Reuters/H. Hanschke
More below the fold ...
Historical context Weimar Republic
Germany seeks to reclaim Weimar Republic from fascism that followed | Irish Times - Aug. 12, 2019 |
Germany's far-right populists are on the rise, as are random, violent street killings. People are dizzy with the potential - and danger - of new mass media. And, all over Berlin, posters have gone up for the Moka Efti orchestra.
What sounds like an episode of the crime drama series Babylon Berlin, shining a light on the dingy corners of the interwar German capital, is, in fact, Berlin 2019.
A century ago, on August 14th, the so-called Weimar Republic came into being after the constitution drafted and agreed in the city of Goethe was formally adopted.
Germany's first experiment in democracy collapsed 14 years later, triggering nearly six decades of fascism, war, division and peaceful unification. But now, before gearing up to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Germans are taking stock of the dark and light of their Weimar legacy.
The challenge of this centenary: to try to look at the history without the benefit of hindsight.
At a recent centenary celebration in Weimar, President Frank Walter Steinmeier insisted the Weimar Republic was more than a "one-way street", an inevitable slide towards economic chaos, Hitler's Nazi "barbarity" and six million Holocaust dead.
○ Trailing Martin Luther in Thuringia | Travel |
○ Martin Luther's words co-opted by German far right
○ German court rules medieval anti-Semitic sculpture can stay on church in Wittenberg | Reuters - 5 days ago |
○ Martin Luther's "Vom Schem Hamphoras und vom Geschlecht Christi"
Building the first visible mosque in the East outside of Berlin
○ List of Ahmadiyya buildings and structures
After migrants, German nationalist party takes aim at Islam | Qantara - May 2016 |
Weeks after declaring that there is no place for Islam in Germany, a surging nationalist party has sharpened its rhetoric against prominent Islamic groups and suggested limiting the religious freedom of the more than 4 million Muslims in the country.
Senior members of Alternative for Germany cut short a meeting with the Central Council of Muslims, accusing the group of failing to renounce religious beliefs that they claim clash with the German constitution.
The confrontation came days after the party - known by its acronym AfD - launched a campaign against the construction of a mosque in the eastern state of Thuringia, joining up for the first time with the group known as PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West).
Both groups have seen their popularity rise after Germany saw a greater influx of migrants in 2015 than any other European country. Nearly 1.1 million people - most of them Muslims - were registered as asylum-seekers, though the actual number who came is believed to be somewhat lower.
AfD had previously kept PEGIDA at arm's length due to its links with far-right extremists, but the party's leader in Thuringia, Björn Höcke, said there was "a lot of overlap" between the two on the issue of Islam.
"We see a need to send a signal," Hoecke told journalists ahead of a rally last week in Erfurt, the state capital. "We have common goals."
PEGIDA is known for staging protests that draw thousands in neighboring Dresden each week. One of its founders, Lutz Bachmann, was recently convicted of inciting hatred online after referring to migrants as "cattle" and "trash."
○ Planned Erfurt mosque targeted with dead pigs on wooden stakes | The Local - May 2017 |
Local community of Erfurt comes together ...
The popular premier: Bodo Ramelow | DW - Feb. 9, 2020 |
For others in Erfurt, Wednesday's vote was all the more bitter because it may yet mean the end of the Ramelow era. The Left party's outgoing state premier established a reputation as a competent governor: his personal ratings, sometimes over 60%, show that his popularity extends well beyond the state's Left party base.
Ramelow's defeat was one reason why Suleman Malik, spokesman for the Ahmadiyya mosque, joined the demo on Wednesday, along with other members of Erfurt's small (50) Muslim community.
For Malik, this week's events, Ramelow's defeat and the AfD's influence it highlighted, have a direct bearing on the mosque and the open society it represents. The small half-built structure is the result of a 15-year struggle: the process of collecting the donations, finding the land, and gaining planning permission were all dragged out by local resistance, one way or another.
Even now, the prejudice is having a real effect: Malik says construction was delayed by six months because some firms refused the contract for fear of hostility. "And that fear is stirred up by anti-democratic forces in parliament," said Malik.
But it was worth it. "We are seeing that there is an increase in the community again," said Malik. "People are coming back to Erfurt because they are seeing that there is a place for Muslims to meet."
Implosion of local politics
See recent diary by IdiotSavant - Breaking the cordon sanitaire in Germany.
Desolation and hope in German city of Erfurt after far-right vote | DW |
Three days later, Julian Degen is still a little stunned. "I felt empty," he says, nursing a coffee in the Left party's Erfurt office, which doubles as a youth club called RedRoxx. "And then I was just angry."
Degen is assistant to the local Left party leader Susanne Hennig-Wellsow, the Thuringian socialist who became briefly famous on Wednesday when she flung a bunch of flowers in disgust at the feet of Thomas Kemmerich, the Free Democrat (FDP) politician, who eventually lasted just three days as state premier of Thuringia.
Her frustration was palpable at the desolate gathering at RedRoxx in the aftermath of Wednesday's vote. "I've never seen Susi like that," Degen says.
Dozens of Left party supporters had gathered here to console each other after witnessing their worst nightmare: Not only had their candidate, the incumbent state premier Bodo Ramelow, been defeated, but for the first time since 1945, a mainstream German political party had collaborated with a far-right party to get their candidate elected.
Despite so much anger being directed at the FDP, for the Left party, the biggest disappointment was the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). If only five Thuringian parliamentarians from Angela Merkel's party had abstained, Kemmerich would not have been elected, sparing him and his party leader Christian Lindner, not to mention CDU head Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a week of turmoil that has seriously damaged all their positions. In the event, just three CDU delegates abstained, so Kemmerich won by one vote.
The Left party office in Erfurt has reinforced windows because of sustained vandalism (Photo: DW/B. Knight)
"Right until the end we hoped there would be people in the CDU who under no circumstances would make common cause with the AfD," said Katja Maurer, Left party state parliament member, who spent the dramatic night dividing her time between the fractious parliamentary session, heated party meetings, and the angry demo outside. "I've never seen so many people cry because of an election, including me."
Police cadets yelling "Sieg Heil" from windows ...
○ Jews and Muslims rally to highlight fight against anti-Semitism and Islamophobia
For Angela Merkel and the leading CDU/CSU party, this week's event was much more than local politics ... it was an attack on the fiber and heart of German society as presented today in a global world where anti-Semitism and Xenophobia has no place and will not be sanctioned or tolerated.
Further reading ...
○ Living with the 'Big Bad Wolf: Education in the GDR
○ Der Eichsfeldplan war ein Entwicklungsplan der SED für das Eichsfeld im Norden Thüringens (1958)
My recent diaries ...
○ Big Capitalism and Devaluation of Human Life
○ A Final Warning: Rise of Fascism
○ ON FREEDOM (1963)