German bloggers release classified intelligence report on far-right AfD
Although parts of the intelligence report had already circulated through German media, the full AfD report reveals an exhaustive analysis of the party's rhetoric as well as members' links to extremist groups.
A classified intelligence report on the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) was posted online in its entirety [link in German] on Monday by bloggers with the independent news outlet netzpolitik.org.
The publication of the report, which was an assessment by Germany's domestic intelligence agency (BfV), sparked outrage among AfD ranks. The party unsuccessfully appealed to have the report released to them.
What the full report reveals:
- The goal of the assessment was to uncover the extent of the AfD's ties to right-wing extremist organizations;
- the extent to which remarks by party leaders violate the constitution;
- and to determine whether further observation or surveillance is needed.
The report reveals "factual indications" that there is an extremist movement within the AfD — but not enough to justify putting the entire party under surveillance.
- Prominent AfD politicians use "right-wing extremist discourse," telling supporters that Germany is at risk of "extinction" due to multiculturalism.
- Statements by party co-leader Alexander Gauland and the leader of the AfD in Thuringia, Björn Höcke, "make it clear that their thinking is based on an ethnic-biological or ethnic-cultural understanding" of what constitutes the people of Germany, the report stated.
- For Höcke, "someone is only German if they are ethnically German," the report said.
- AfD leaders have not clearly distanced themselves from the radical Identitarian movement, which is currently under surveillance.
Co-chairman Alexander Gauland said the German national soccer team's defender Jerome Boateng might be appreciated for his performance on the pitch - but people would not want "someone like Boateng as a neighbor." He also argued Germany should close its borders and said of an image showing a drowned refugee child: "We can't be blackmailed by children's eyes."
Alice Weidel generally plays the role of "voice of reason" for the far-right populists, but she, too, is hardly immune to verbal miscues. Welt newspaper, for instance, published a 2013 memo allegedly from Weidel in which she called German politicians "pigs" and "puppets of the victorious powers in World War II. Weidel initially claimed the mail was fake, but now admits its authenticity.
German border police should shoot at refugees entering the country illegally, the former co-chair of the AfD told a regional newspaper in 2016. Officers must "use firearms if necessary" to "prevent illegal border crossings." Communist East German leader Erich Honecker was the last German politician who condoned shooting at the border.
The head of the AfD in the state of Thuringia made headlines for referring to Berlin's Holocaust memorial as a "monument of shame" and calling on the country to stop atoning for its Nazi past. The comments came just as Germany enters an important election year - leading AfD members moved to expel Höcke for his remarks.
Initially, the AfD campaigned against the euro and bailouts - but that quickly turned into anti-immigrant rhetoric. "People who won't accept STOP at our borders are attackers," the European lawmaker said. "And we have to defend ourselves against attackers."
Pretzell, former chairman of the AfD in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and husband to Frauke Petry, wrote "These are Merkel's dead," shortly after news broke of the deadly attack on the Berlin Christmas market in December 2016.
The member of parliament in Germany's eastern state of Saxony made waves in early 2016 with an inquiry into how far the state covers the cost of sterilizing unaccompanied refugee minors. Thousands of unaccompanied minors have sought asylum in Germany, according to the Federal Association for Unaccompanied Minor Refugees (BumF) — the vast majority of them young men.
Poggenburg, head of the AfD in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, has also raised eyebrows with extreme remarks. In February 2017, he urged other lawmakers in the state parliament to join measures against the extreme left-wing in order to "get rid of, once and for all, this rank growth on the German racial corpus" — the latter term clearly derived from Nazi terminology.
During a campaign speech in Eichsfeld in August 2017, AfD election co-candidate Alexander Gauland said that Social Democrat parliamentarian Aydan Özoguz should be "disposed of" back to Anatolia. The German term, "entsorgen," raised obvious parallels to the imprisonment and killings of Jews and prisoners of war under the Nazis.
Gauland was roundly criticized for a speech he made to the AfD's youth wing in June 2018. Acknowledging Germany's responsibility for the crimes of the Nazi era, he went on to say Germany had a "glorious history and one that lasted a lot longer than those damned 12 years. Hitler and the Nazis are just a speck of bird shit in over 1,000 years of successful German history."
The Brandenburg state AfD chief admitted in 2019 to attending a 2007 rally in Greece by the ultranationalist Golden Dawn party at which a swastika flag was raised. "Der Spiegel" had published a leaked report by the German embassy in Athens naming him as one of "14 neo-Nazis" who arrived from Germany for the far-right rally. Kalbitz released a statement saying he took part out of "curiosity."
AfD calls for consequences over leak:
Following the report's publication, the AfD said the new head of the BfV, Thomas Haldenwang, should face "disciplinary action" over the leak.
Alice Weidel, who co-heads the AfD's parliamentary group, dismissed the findings of the report as "thin and unserious."
In a Facebook post, she wrote "you are already suspected of disregarding human dignity [...] if you voice doubts about multiculturalism or even if you distinguish between German citizens and the rest of the world."
She also criticized the BfV for not releasing the classified report to the party, accusing the agency of "allowing itself to be instrumentalized by partisan politics."
Read more: Far-right AfD lawmakers walk out of Holocaust commemoration in Bavaria
German ministry says leak is 'regrettable': A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said it was "regrettable whenever such documents reach the public." According to news agency DPA, the spokesman added that he didn't know how netzpolitik.org got ahold of the report, but said there could be criminal consequences.
The AfD under scrutiny: Earlier in January, the BfV said that as a result of its assessment, it would begin more closely scrutinizing the party's youth organization and as well as a wing of the party linked to Höcke called "Der Flügel." The BfV stopped short, however, of placing the whole party under surveillance.
Is that the end of the matter? One of the conclusions reached the by the report was that further investigation is needed to determine how widespread "anti-democratic patterns" are within the AfD.
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