Alarm for democracy in Thuringia

Extreme right-wing party election gain shows a split society

Three decades after the Fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989, the regional election in Thuringia last Sunday (27 October 1989) has shown up the deep splits that still divide society and the difficulties facing democracy.

Faith leaders have warned of an extreme split in society, after poll results which gave the extreme right-wing party, the AfD (Alternative for Germany) 24% of the vote, making them the second strongest party, in the eastern German state.

Thuringia’s bishops and representatives of the Muslim and Jewish communities all warned of the consequences after none of the traditional parties emerged strong enough to form a Government and the winner, the Left Party is now looking for coalition partners.

The chairperson of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Aiman Mazyek, wrote on Twitter:

Aiman Mazyek chairperson of Central Council of Muslims © Aiman Mazyek, Twitter

“We concerned citizens are very worried about our democracy: 24% (a quarter of the Thuringians!) at the #LTWTH19 for a right-wing radical or in Thuringia also right-wing extremist party — this is much more than an “alarm sign”.

The President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, said that especially in Thuringia there is no doubt about the nationalist right-wing orientation of the party.

”Everyone who voted for the AfD on Sunday bears a share of the responsibility for gradually undermining the foundations of our democracy.”

Die Tageszeitung, also called the taz newspaper (The Daily Newspaper), a collectively owned paper asked:

“How safe is Germany still?”

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taz Tweet on Monday 28 October 2019

“The (poll) result in Thuringia, the growing power of the AfD, the people who choose a fascist with their eyes wide-open — all this frightens people in this country. These people are Germans and foreigners, they are black people and People of Color, they are Jews and Muslims. They ask themselves once more: How long will I be safe here?”

taz article

The former president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Charlotte Knobloch, spoke of an “erosion of democratic culture” in Germany.

Charlotte Knobloch © Charlotte Knobloch, Twitter

Knobloch who survived the Holocaust as child, hidden on a Bavarian farm said the poll result for the AfD shows “that something has fundamentally gone off the rails in our political system.”

On Sunday evening as results came in she said:

“Those who voted for the AfD today knew exactly what they were doing.”

Knobloch who heads the Jewish Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria added:

“With their vote, many voters who have supported a party that for years, with its trivialization of the Nazi era, its open nationalism and the hatred it fomented against minorities, including the Jewish community, has been preparing the ground for exclusion and right-wing extremist violence.”

On Monday the Catholic bishop of Erfurt (the state’s capital), Ulrich Neymeyr said in a statement the result of the regional elections was a great challenge as it shows a clear polarization in Thuringian society. He called on the people of Thuringia to defend “our values” against populists at their informal get-togethers, among friends and in their workplaces. Neymeyr added:

“Acting democratically means more than going to the polls.”

The regional bishop of the Protestant Church in Central Germany, Friedrich Kramer, was less surprised by the outcome of the election.

“I warn against dismissing the result of the AfD as pure protest or political immaturity. These are manifest political convictions.”

He cautioned that the right-wing extremist attack in Halle just three weeks ago, showed where “such convictions can lead in a climate of violent language and hatred.”

The October 9, 2019 attack in Halle, in Saxony Anhalt a neighbouring eastern German state, aimed at the local synagogue on Yom Kippur was foiled when the doors of the synagogue did not open.

Earlier this month in Saxony, another state that was formerly part of East Germany, the Lutheran bishop of Saxony Dr. Carsten Rentzing resigned after only four years at the helm, following a petition by more than 800 pastors and parishioners, following criticism of connections to the extreme right-wing organisations.

The Leipzig pastor Christian Wolff wrote in his blog after the resignation:

“He did not unite, he did not lead the national church spiritually. He remained trapped in his past. For now it is crystallizing more and more that his home in right-wing circles is not a malicious insinuation, but can obviously be underpinned with facts.”

After Dr. Rentzing’s resignation the epd (Protestant Press Service), wrote that he published numerous texts from 1989 to 1992 as editor of the extremely right-wing magazine Fragmente — das konservative Kulturmagazin (Fragments the conservative cultural magazine). In it he expressed his contempt for liberal democracy and embraced an authoritarian, elitist and ethnic understanding of the state. The Lutheran Church of Saxony confirmed the existence of the texts to the epd.

South African journalist, author & filmmaker in Berlin. Writing on southern Africa, Germany, politics, culture, films, books, interfaith. www.serfontein.org

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