Coronavirus Protests Will Boost Far-Right ‘Terrorist Radicalization’ in Germany, Antisemitism Expert Warns
A German expert on the far right has warned that the presence of neo-Nazi and ultranationalist activists in demonstrations against coronavirus restrictions could result in a fresh wave of “right-wing terrorist radicalization.”
Dr. Gideon Botsch — head of the antisemitism research department of the Moses Mendelssohn Center in the German city of Potsdam — said on Tuesday that the surge in protests around Germany objecting to “social distancing” and other coronavirus-related curbs could serve as a gateway to organizations engaged in violence.
Demonstrations promoted by the far-right Alternative for Germany Party (AfD) in the cities of Karlsruhe, Cologne, Bremen, Koblenz, Cottbus and Stuttgart in recent weeks have been notable for appropriating the imagery of Nazi antisemitism and the Holocaust. Many participants wore a yellow Star of David on their chests in a direct nod to the Nazi persecution of the Jews, but labeled instead “Not Vaccinated” and “CoV-2.”
At a demonstration last Saturday in Munich attended by several thousand people, one woman carried a home-made sign that showed a crossed-out syringe alongside the words “Never Again Dictatorship Dr. Mengele” — a reference to the infamous Nazi doctor, Josef Mengele, who carried out savage torture under the guise of “medical experimentation” at the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Tausende Verschwörungsideolog_innen, christliche Fundis, #AfD-ler, "#Corona-Rebellen", Geschichtsrelativierer_innen drängen sich in #München dicht an dicht auf dem Marienplatz. @polizeimuenchen räumt wieder gar nichts. Mein Foto: pic.twitter.com/PWOkhbqQ8e
— Robert Andreasch (@robertandreasch) May 9, 2020
Speaking at a press conference to launch a new report on far-right violence in Germany, Botsch commented that “despite the diversity of the participants in some of the protests against the infection protection measures, the permanent latent antisemitism behind the conspiratorial thinking is now becoming apparent.”
According to the latest report compiled by the VBRG — a national network of counseling centers that assists victims of “right-wing, racist and antisemitic violence” — far-right assaults in the eight German states served by the network numbered 1,347 in 2019.
Three people were murdered by neo-Nazi militants last year — two of them in the city of Halle, in a gun attack on its synagogue during Yom Kippur services that would have resulted in the massacre of up to 50 people had the assailant not failed in his attempt to break through the building’s security doors.