Anti-racists protested in Berlin on Tuesday as parliament opened and new MPs from the far right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party took their seats.
The protest followed a 12,000-strong demonstration at the Brandenburg Gate in the city on Sunday, both organised by Aufstehen gegen Rassismus (Stand up against Racism).
The AfD won 12.9 percent and 94 MPs in last month’s election—the first time a far right party has had MPs in Germany since the Second World War.
Bastian Schmidt came to the protest on Sunday as part of a group of university students.
“I’m here to call on parliamentary parties to protest in parliament against the AfD,” he told the Local Germany news website.
“But above all the people who are here wherever they are—in schools, universities or work—must fight against racism”.
Teacher Annette Saidler added, “We can’t do anything other than demonstrate to say there are still many people who didn’t vote for the AfD.”
The AfD brings together nationalists, racists and fascists, organised around Islamophobia and racism towards migrants. The most extreme elements have gained in influence within the party.
One of its most prominent spokespeople, Bjorn Hocke, has called the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin “shameful”. He has called for Germans to be more “positive” about Nazi history.
Anette Schultner, formerly the leader of the Christians in the AfD group, resigned last week because of the fascists’ growing influence.
“I believe there is no longer any chance of making the AfD a pragmatic, bourgeois-conservative people’s party,” she told the Der Tagesspiegel newspaper.
“Out of the regional AfD parties there is a maximum of a third where there’s still a chance of putting up majorities against Hocke.
“Many do not dare to position themselves against Hocke and his allies. Anyone who wants to become something in the AfD would not want to block them.”
Cornelia Kerth is part of the Union of Victims of the Nazi Regime (VVN) organisation.
“Out of the 94 MPs at least half are Nazis or have links to the Nazi scene like the Identitarian Movement,” she explained. “They will have around 400 people working for them [in parliament].
“They will be mainly recruited from far right organisations and the AfD youth wing, which is to the right of the main organisation.”
The process that’s taking place within the AfD shows that it’s possible for Nazis to grow within right wing parties that they didn’t initially dominate.
The AfD can be repelled—but it will take mass action and taking on the Islamophobia and racism that’s fuelled its rise.
There’s also a need to provide positive, left wing answers to the social problems the AfD offers fake solutions for.