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Antisemitism in the “Alternative for Germany” Party



The Alternative for Germany (AfD) has been sitting in Germany’s federal parliament since September 2017, having won 12.6 percent of the popular vote. In considering this young party’s recent development, researchers have focussed on its rhetorical strategies (i.e., populism) and its radicalization. Until now, much less attention has been paid to antisemitism within the AfD— also because the party would prefer to keep this out of public debate. By investigating its treatment of antisemitism, Nazism, and the politics of remembrance, it can be shown that the AfD has the features of a far-right party, to a much clearer extent than might be guessed from its media image, particularly inside Germany.
Samuel Salzborn
Center for Research on Antisemitism, Technical University of Berlin
ABSTRACT:The Alternative for Germany (AfD) has been sitting in Germany’s
federal parliament since September 2017, having won 12.6 percent of the pop-
ular vote. In considering this young party’s recent development, researchers
have focussed on its rhetorical strategies (i.e., populism) and its radicalization.
Until now, much less attention has been paid to antisemitism within the AfD—
also because the party would prefer to keep this out of public debate. By
investigating its treatment of antisemitism, Nazism, and the politics of remem-
brance, it can be shown that the AfD has the features of a far-right party, to a
much clearer extent than might be guessed from its media image, particularly
inside Germany.
KEYWORDS:Alternative for Germany, antisemitism, Nazism, right-wing
The relatively new party known as the Alternative for Germany (Alterna-
tive für Deutschland, AfD) and its relationship to right-wing extremism has
been the subject of a great deal of intensive discussion among political and
social scientists. While one stream of research focusses primarily on the
strategic aspects of the AfD, such as its populist rhetoric and use of social
media, another devotes more attention to the worldview of the AfD, and its
increasing radicalization from a right-wing conservative party to a right-
wing extremist one:
In the beginning, the AfD leadership tried to maintain a clear separa-
tion from anti-constitutional right-wing extremism. This has since
changed. Today, the overall impression is that the AfD is on the thresh-
old of becoming a “nationalist opposition.” It appears that a large part
of the party is pushing to go a step further.1
It has become undeniable that the AfD has now adopted large parts of the
far-right tradition, including racism and völkisch nationalism (a form of eth-
nonationalism) as central components within an ideology of inequality,
alongside nationalist protectionism and anti-EU economic positions, an
German Politics and Society, Issue 127 Vol. 36, No. 3 (Autumn 2018): 74–93
© Georgetown University and Berghahn Books
doi:10.3167/gps.2018.360304 • ISSN 1045-0300 (Print) • ISSN 1558-5441 (Online)
emphatic rejection of parliamentarianism and representative democracy,
and a long-standing antifeminism and hostility towards gender equality.
Nevertheless, there has been somewhat less attention paid to the AfD’s
handling of the Nazi past and its relationship to antisemitism. This might be
because the party has avoided officially espousing anti-Israeli views, and at
times even seems to view Israel as a strategic ally for its own anti-Muslim
racism, which is ultimately aimed at blocking migration to Europe. But
beyond its cultivated media image, there exist a number of antisemitic
stances within the AfD that will be the subject of this investigation. In the
case of the AfD, antisemitism can be attested on various levels.
Antisemitism can be generally understood as combining a worldview
and an emotional zeal, and thus a specific way of thinking and feeling.2
Antisemitism involves both an inability and an unwillingness to think
abstractly and to feel concretely; these two aspects are swapped in anti-
semitism, so that one thinks only concretely but feels abstractly. Further-
more, antisemitic resentments have been expressed in certain distinct forms
that have appeared again and again throughout history, in particular: a reli-
gious/anti-Judaic antisemitism; an ethnonationalist/racist one; a guilt-
deflecting one; an anti-Israel one; and an Arab/Islamist one. With regard to
the AfD, it is primarily the ethnonationalist/racist and guilt-deflecting forms
of antisemitism that are involved.
Here, it will be shown how antisemitism has been gradually taking hold
in the AfD, thereby demonstrating that the AfD is shifting from a party for
antisemites into an antisemitic party. The argument here is that the party
has been transforming itself step by step over the course of its general radi-
calization. It began with the tacit toleration of antisemitic positions. Then
came the first antisemitic incidents (such as the case of Wolfgang Gedeon,
discussed below), which were downplayed along with denials of any anti-
semitism. The next step involved occasionally attempted expulsions from
the party and their ultimate failure, meaning that party members who had
come under fire for their antisemitic stances were not expelled after all. As
a result, there was a slowly increasing tolerance for publicly expressed anti-
semitic positions—right up into the party’s leadership ranks. It became pub-
licly apparent that antisemitism not only goes unpunished in the AfD, it is
now routinely tolerated and sometimes even accepted. This demonstrates a
long-term evolution from a party for antisemites into an antisemitic party—
although the final step has not been taken (yet), namely insertion into the
party platform. The policy plank debates described at the end of this article,
however, show that this step is also under development. While internal
efforts to curtail this shift do still occasionally emerge, there are many indi-
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Antisemitism in the “Alternative for Germany” Party
cations suggesting that this development, especially when seen in light of
Germany’s history of right-wing extremism, is no longer a question of “if,”
but “when.”
The Bedrock of Antisemitism: The Ideology of the
An important starting point for the formulation of antisemitic positions
within the AfD lies in its conception of society, which is strongly influenced
by the ideology of Germany’s “New Right” (Neue Rechte), thus drawing upon
Nazism’s intellectual forefathers from the Weimar period, an ideological
heritage that has informed the (West) German “New Right” from the 1970s
until today.3Here, the main goal is to present the völkisch (“folkish,” but
with ethnonationalist connotations) terminology of these forerunners as not
being genuinely antidemocratic. If one can make the Nazi heritage seem
harmless, then it becomes possible to take its associated concepts like the
Volksgemeinschaft (ethnonational community) and resurrect it in public
speech, before then striving to make it a reality—even as the totalitarian
instrument of coercion and repression that it actually is.
This project is exemplified by two attempts to rehabilitate Nazi terms—
here specifically Volksgemeinschaft and völkisch—and detach such words from
their antidemocratic background, while maintaining a cover of naiveté that
is certainly staged. On 24 December 2015, the AfD of Saxony-Anhalt
wished its Facebook audience a “contemplative and peaceful Christmas,”
while also calling upon them to think about “shared values” and “responsi-
bility for the Volksgemeinschaft.4Responding to criticism of this word choice,
the local head of the AfD in Sachsen-Anhalt, André Poggenburg, wrote that
apparently “certain entirely unproblematic and even highly positive terms
are not supposed to be used” today.5A few months later, the national party
head at the time, Frauke Petry, sang from the same songbook when she
wanted to rehabilitate the word völkisch in September 2016, asserting that
this Nazi term needed to put back in a positive light.6
With these efforts, the AfD is effectively trying to ignore the fact that the
Volksgemeinschaft term is historically and inextricably tied to Nazism.7But,
even if one retreated to the excuse of historical naiveté, the term is in itself
untenable within a democracy: combining Volk with Gemeinschaft produces
a twofold exclusion, one that can only be interpreted ethnically, and never
democratically (Volk corresponds to “folk,” but variously means people,
nation, or ethnonation, while Gemeinschaft means “community.”)8The Volk,
••• 76 •••
Samuel Salzborn
as an alternative to the civic conception of “nation,” is not defined by ratio-
nal, democratic criteria such as the subjective will (i.e., deciding to belong—
or not), but instead by pre-political aspects, such as the fiction of a
collective’s ostensibly shared descent. And the Gemeinschaft, if used in this
way, is conceptually opposite to the Gesellschaft (society), namely a form of
association that is open, plural, accepting of contradictions, and ultimately
voluntary.9In contrast, the Volksgemeinschaft stands only for coercion, one
that is repressive and totalitarian towards both the included and the ex -
cluded. This is why the notion is inherently incompatible with the ideas of
democracy. The concept of the Volksgemeinschaft is not only profoundly anti-
democratic due to political and historical reasons, but is also inimical to
democracy in terms of its fundamental incompatibility with Germany’s
modern constitution, as confirmed in early 2017 by the country’s highest tri-
bunal, the Federal Constitutional Court: “This political concept violates the
human dignity of all those who do not belong to the ethnic Volksgemeinschaft,
and is incompatible with the constitution’s principle of democracy.”10
This highlighting of the Volksgemeinschaft by the AfD is a direct reflection
of völkisch thinking,11 and it is no accident that Petry had likewise tried to
rehabilitate the word völkisch itself, which lies at the heart of far-right
thought. The “völkisch Volk” (i.e., an ethnonationally defined body politic) is
the countermodel to the democratic nation: whereas the democratic nation
makes all citizens into political subjects, regardless of their cultural, reli-
gious, or ethnic self-ascriptions, the völkisch Volk demands the exclusion of
all persons who do not belong to the ostensible ethnic homogeneity of the
collective—at least according to pre-political criteria, meaning ones that are
entirely accidental and without any conscious choice by the subject, and yet
are considered paramount by an outside observer. The political subject of
the democratic nation is the demos, while the völkisch Volk takes the ethnos as
the foundation of its political conception. The real and already existing
demos is to be transformed according to the premises of ethnopolitics into an
ethnos, whereby the belief in a völkisch collective identity is to be consoli-
dated through an ethnicization process “in which originally irrelevant con-
stituent aspects are gradually transformed into significant constituent
characteristics, in order to create a separate social group.”12
Through this ethnicization process, the völkisch vision strives to transform
the Gesellschaft into the Gemeinschaft, so that the plurality of interests is
replaced by the monolith of identity, rational thought by direct action,
processes of conflict by irrefutable destiny, the legitimate opponent by the
mortal enemy, and the argument by the battle. This terminological embrac-
ing of the Volksgemeinschaft and of völkisch thought is thus tied to a rejection
••• 77 •••
Antisemitism in the “Alternative for Germany” Party
of the modern civic conception of the nation, which is not guided by the
political principle of the ethnos, but that of the demos.13
The AfD and Antisemitism
Public opinion surveys conducted over recent decades have shown that Ger-
many’s overall populace has consistently included around one-fifth who are
antisemites and one-quarter who are racists.14 While these percentages may
fluctuate here and there, this discriminatory antiliberal baseline has remained
stable. Not all of these people, however, are organized neo-Nazis: while some
may join far-right organizations, and others might openly sympathize with
right-wing parties, most are outwardly politically inconspicuous in their
everyday lives, precisely because they do not see themselves as far right and
would strongly reject such a label for themselves. In today’s Germany, such
people prefer to present themselves as simply “concerned citizens,” despite
actually having racist, völkisch, and nationalist attitudes, with a disdain for
rational thought, equal rights, and the heritage of the Enlightenment.
These are very much people who are socially well integrated, mostly
from the lower-to-middling middle class, often with an academic education,
not infrequently male and with a solid income, but nonetheless with consid-
erable irrational fears. Their attitudes are hard right but they do not want to
admit it, so they invent labels enabling a self-image that is as far away as
possible from the analytically objective ascription of “right-wing extremist.”
Before the emergence of the AfD, it had been difficult for this clientele to
find a political home. In terms of available options, the political system
offered either openly neo-Nazi parties, such as the National Democratic
Party of Germany (Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands, NPD) and
the German People’s Union (Deutsche Volksunion), or else the traditional
conservative parties, which tried to distance themselves from the far right,
regardless of whether for genuinely ideological reasons or purely strategic
ones. There was no party that united the full range of discriminatory and
antiliberal resentments while also consistently refusing a far-right label.15
With the departure of several prominent members in the summer of 2015,
the last fragments of the AfD’s conservative veneer have long since flaked
away, although it still maintains the image of a party that should not
entirely be classified as far-right—also as a result of the media’s excessively
mild treatment of it.16
The AfD is thus a manifestation of modern Germany’s political system
that is only somewhat comparable to the other populist-oriented move-
••• 78 •••
Samuel Salzborn
ments operating on the right-wing fringes of other European countries.17
Perhaps the closest comparison would be to the Freedom Party of Austria
(Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs), a far-right party with a strongly populist
public image that has long established itself as a force for antidemocrats
within Austria’s democratic system.18 This desire to express essentially Nazi
positions without being called a far-right extremist is particularly pro-
nounced in Germany, a country where most have never explored the ques-
tion of their own grandparents’ complicity in the Nazi regime, even now.19
In fact, perpetrators have often been recast as victims in German family
memories, as seen when children and/or grandchildren remember their
parents and/or grandparents as victims; they do so precisely because they
lack detailed knowledge about the Nazi past and the Shoah (or choose to
have none), and furthermore see their own parents and/or grandparents as
the victims of surveillance, state terror, war, bombing, and imprisonment,
as has been demonstrated in the family biography study conducted by Har-
ald Welzer, Sabine Moller, and Karoline Tschuggnall.20 Since Nazi perpetra-
tors have been morally condemned as “bad” and “evil” by the descendent
generations, the latter have recast their own parents and/or grandparents as
victims of Nazism, and even as resistance fighters against it. Historical stud-
ies, however, have shown that the fraction of those who actually gave assis-
tance to potential victims of Nazism was only around 0.3 percent, which
would mean around two hundred thousand persons in a population of sev-
enty million.21 This makes it entirely impossible that even a small fraction
of all those claiming a story of victimhood or resistance for their families
could be anywhere close to reality.
Another aspect that is specific to the AfD and its success among a certain
segment of society, namely those who may be socially and economically
embedded in the middle class but nonetheless adhere to far-right views, is
the desire to defend one’s own prosperity at all costs, a prosperity that is
always felt to be inadequate. This racist segment of the middle class seems
to have subconsciously sensed that the source of their prosperity was not
simply the postwar achievements of the grandparents’ generation, a founda-
tional myth known as the Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle.) Here, the
argument is very much about feelings: feelings of grievance, feelings of
neglect, feelings of inferiority. Of course, these are not necessarily present
in each and every AfD voter, but they nonetheless characterize the general
sentiment shared by many, a sentiment that is not based on any realistic
assessment of actual achievements (and indeed also weaknesses), but on a
one-sided overestimation of one’s own achievements—and thereby also an
underestimation of those of others In fact, the main origin of their own priv-
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Antisemitism in the “Alternative for Germany” Party
ileged position, which the AfD would defend by proxy through its völkisch
and racist slogans (i.e., “We prefer bikinis to burkas”), was historically the
astounding willingness of the Allies to give the Germans a second chance,
even after the evils of Nazism and the mass murder of Europe’s Jews. There
is also another, much deeper sense in which the source of Germany’s pros-
perity lay beyond its borders, as emphasized by migration researchers who
point out that “without guest workers, the German economic miracle would
not have been possible at all.”22 Furthermore, the guest workers were essen-
tial for sustaining the boom.
But, admitting this would not only highlight one’s own inabilities, it
would also open a back door allowing the question of family complicities
during the Nazi era to be put back on the agenda. Indeed, there exists a
deeply conflicted relationship between these two levels of German history:
Unlike the history of victimhood during the Second World War, the his-
tory of Nazism and its crimes is inserted by very few Germans into the
personal context of themselves and their families. Factual history is per-
ceived as an abstract one, and is also to be remembered as this abstract
history … Our official remembrance does not pester us with all too per-
sonal questions about individual or familial involvement. It leaves us in
peace and no longer jolts us. And it also does not call upon young peo-
ple to confront this very personal past, since the actual culprit genera-
tion is barely still breathing.23
The AfD is tied to the perceived promise of being able to avoid both of
these things and offers a space for projecting one’s own alternative narra-
tives about them. This cannot actually work in sociopsychological terms,
however, leading to an increasing aggressiveness and readiness for violence
in the radicalized milieu represented by the AfD as a party and by Pegida
as a street movement (PEGIDA is an acronym translating as Patriotic Euro-
peans Against the Islamization of the Occident).24 This is because what is
being evaded is the burden of German family histories, the latter of which
is denied and projected onto others, causing one to seek it out in others and
persecute them even more brutally.
Deflection of the Nazi Past and the Desire for Collective Blamelessness
Therefore, the deflection of the Nazi past cannot be sociopsychologically
separated from the völkisch and racist stances seen in today’s right-wing dis-
course. This handling of Nazi history is exemplified by a long interview that
Alexander Gauland, a leading figure in the AfD, gave to the weekly newspa-
per Die Zeit in April 2016. During this discussion, Gauland was asked to
explain an expression he had used in another setting, “Sittengesetz des
Volkes” (moral law of the Volk,) which needed defending. Here he answered:
••• 80 •••
Samuel Salzborn
It is the thing from which a Volk has developed, from history and tradi-
tion, from upheavals. You could also replace this expression with the
word “identity,” and this identity is defended much more strongly by
other Völker [the plural of Vo l k ]. Of course, this has to do with
Auschwitz. I was recently in Auschwitz for the first time, when I real-
ized that it was no longer grabbing me, unlike during my visit to
Buchenwald. It’s like a frozen horror. When you see all the hair, the
brushes, and the suitcases, you suddenly get the feeling that this is petri-
fied, it doesn’t speak anymore. I believe that Auschwitz, also as a sym-
bol, has destroyed much within us.25
Of course, the immediate and obvious question was whether it was not in
fact the Germans “who destroyed something there,” which was the follow-
up question promptly posed by Bernd Ulrich and Matthias Geis, the jour-
nalists conducting the interview. Here, Gauland responded:
That’s correct, but much more was ruined at the same time. The Nazis
touched upon many things that suddenly can no longer be said, due to
their touch. The national pride felt by every Englishman and French-
man is intensely called into question among ourselves, according to the
idea: Are we actually allowed to still say this?26
Here too, the interviewers followed up with the obvious objection that “out-
side of German history, there has been no crime like Auschwitz.” On this
point (and Gauland was obsessively fixated on Nazism throughout the inter-
view, even when it was not necessarily addressed, such as when he
answered the question about the “moral law of the Volk” by bringing up
Nazism and Auschwitz without any need), he replied with: “Yes. Hitler
destroyed much more than cities and human beings, he broke the spine of
the Germans, to a great extent.”27
What Gauland apparently meant with this metaphor was that the actual
“victims” of Nazism were the Germans, and that this victimhood also goes
far beyond the issue of Nazism: in this view, it was ultimately because of
Hitler that an assertive and self-confident German politics was no longer
possible—and with this embodiment in the person of Hitler, any responsibil-
ity for the Shoah on the part of the German people was also denied. This
interview is highly revealing of the AfD self-image in relationship to
Nazism, not only in terms of explicit statements, but also in regards to sub-
conscious motivations, which speak here through Gauland’s comments—
thereby making apparent without self-editing that the AfD is virtually
obsessed with Nazism, and for a long time has simply been better at disguis-
ing the revisionist implications of this, more so than the openly neo-Nazi
NPD, for example.
This denial of German responsibility for Nazism, as expressed through
Gauland’s attempts to absolve German guiltiness (including his own) in
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Antisemitism in the “Alternative for Germany” Party
both historical and political terms, is tied to the desire for a German collec-
tive guiltlessness, and the fiction of German victimhood in this situation.
According to this, it was not that the Germans did something, but that
something that was done to them, in a rhetorical trick achieved by separat-
ing Hitler—as the personal embodiment of evil and Nazism—from his peo-
ple, so that guilt can be expatriated and denied. In Gauland’s worldview, it
seems that there are no more perpetrators, except for Hitler and perhaps a
few leading Nazis.
Regardless of whether intentionally or not, this ignores the fact that the
Nazi regime enjoyed great approval among the German populace, and that
the vast majority of Germans were either actively or passively involved in
the mass extermination of Europe’s Jews, be it through direct participation
in confiscations, plundering, denunciations, executions, deportations, etc.,
through looking away and not resisting, through the spreading of antise-
mitic and racist sentiments, through refusing to speak about Nazi crimes, or
through profiting from forced labor and the “Aryanization” of property and
jobs. And this also ignores the fact that the reason why this völkisch ethnopo-
licy and antisemitic extermination policy could be implemented to such a
monstrous extent was precisely because there existed a very wide-reaching
consensus between the Nazi leadership and the German populace.
Gauland’s conception of history is based on a positive self-identification
with the German nation, so that “being German” is not subjected to interro-
gation, nor does a critical examination of German history’s negative sides
take place. Here, any feelings of ambivalence are either very limited or
completely nonexistent—instead, there is only the desire to highlight and
exaggerate whatever is seen as positive. This was also seen in early 2017
with the AfD parliamentary group in Baden-Württemberg, when it called
for the elimination of local state funding for a concentration camp memor-
ial and tried to justify this with the need for a “balanced culture of remem-
brance,” while also repudiating “a one-sided focus on the dark chapters of
history and a suppression of our historical achievements.” The goal, accord-
ing to the AfD, is a “positive self-identification with Germany and our his-
tory.”28 Beyond that, there was also a proposal that grants for visiting
“memorials to Nazi wrongdoings” should be dedicated instead to visiting
“significant sites of German history.”29
On the federal level as well, the current party platform of the AfD
explicitly downplays the objective historical reality of German responsibil-
ity for Nazism and the Shoah, so that the general push towards historical
revisionism has even become an official plank in the federal party’s plat-
form: “The current narrowing of the German culture of remembrance to
••• 82 •••
Samuel Salzborn
the time of National Socialism is to be broken up in favor of an expanded
historical view that also includes the positive, identity-building aspects of
German history.”30 This identifying with the German nation lies at the heart
of this world view. Gauland’s intervention into the politics of memory is
thus also an attempt to suggest that Germans in general are victims of
Nazism. The remarkable thing about this act of self-projection is the indi-
rectly expressed desire to claim the status of the victim, which often seems
like a badge of honor in public debates—and this despite the fact that every
victim of violence would prefer to have never suffered this, since actually
being a victim is anything but desirable. This victim envy in the context of
Nazism is then expressed through the belief that Jews are somehow trying
to profit from the Nazi past, a notion that has been documented through
numerous empirical studies.31
It is thus about deflecting feelings of inferiority and guilt by projecting
not only one’s own sullied state on the Jews, but also one’s envy of their
accomplishments and successes, be they real or imagined. Here, on the
path taken by the AfD towards openly invoking central components of Nazi
ideology, the whitewashing of the Nazi past has been not simply a minor
detour, but in fact the primary route. Gauland’s historical revisionism was
then further escalated in January 2017 by Björn Höcke, the AfD parliamen-
tary leader in Thuringia’s state assembly, when he similarly took up the
myth of the German victim and tried to whitewash history, but now tied
this to an antisemitic stance that also included a brazen threat of violence
against the modern German republic.
During a speech at a Dresden event organized by the Young Alternative
for Germany (the AfD’s youth organization), Höcke declared that the bomb-
ing of Dresden had been a “war crime” and that “even today, it is not possi-
ble for us to mourn our own victims” (which is simply a barefaced lie,
considering the ubiquitous war memorials across Germany, including the
commemoration of the flight and expulsion of Germans in the wake of
World War II, manifested in countless dedicated sites and thoroughly
anchored in the official culture of remembrance: besides the countless
memorials in almost every German cemetery, there are also numerous com-
memoration sites not only in larger localities, but also smaller ones, with
extensive information on the topics of flight and expulsion). He thereby
called for a “turnaround in remembrance policy” to highlight the “magnifi-
cent achievements of our forebears” and called the Holocaust Memorial in
Berlin a “memorial of shame,” one that the German Volk had “planted … in
the heart of its capital.”32 Here, Höcke added an explicit threat: “The AfD is
the last revolutionary chance, the last peaceful one, for our Fatherland.”33
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Antisemitism in the “Alternative for Germany” Party
Höcke’s speech reflects the real substance of assertions like the ones
expressed by Gauland, and clearly demonstrates how a historically revi-
sionist antisemitism is combined with an ahistorical, anti-factual belief in a
German victim identity. Here, in creating a historical facade or “cover iden-
tity,” the still dominant strategy is to cultivate the myth of collective guilt-
lessness: the goal is to talk about “German victims” without actually
mentioning Nazism.34 The historical context is meant to disappear, so that
we forget how German ethnopolicy and extermination schemes ultimately
led to the bombing of German cities and the mass resettlement of German
populations; such connections are redacted from memory, without ever
being subjected to serious reflection in public discourse. Constantly imag-
ined accusations of German collective guilt, a concept that never actually
guided the policy conduct of the Allies and their associates, are met with an
interpretation of history aimed at creating precisely the opposite: the myth
of German collective guiltlessness.35
This was shown very clearly by a speech that Gauland gave in Septem-
ber 2017, in which he tried to completely reverse perpetrator/victim roles
by denying the criminality of the Wehrmacht, a central institution in Ger-
many’s antisemitic war of extermination, believing it had been unfairly sin-
gled out; but he conveniently forgets that the Wehrmacht was quite unlike
the Allied armies, which had not conducted a war of extermination, but had
instead prevented the Wehrmacht from murdering even more people.
According to Gauland, if the British can be proud of Churchill and the
French of Napoleon, then “we have the right to be proud of the achieve-
ments of German soldiers from two world wars.” He furthermore stated
that “there is no longer a need to reproach us for these twelve years. They
no longer pertain to our identity. This is why we also have the right to take
back not only our country, but also our past.”36
The fact of having followed in Nazism a doctrine that promised special
privileges to Germans above all other people, and of having projected one’s
own aggressions upon fellow human beings and thus made them into “sub-
humans,” did not lead to a sense of shame among the vast majority of Ger-
mans after the war, but instead to the childish excuse of having “only”
followed the leader. As already highlighted by Alexander and Margarete
Mitscherlich, this explains:
the tendency of many Germans to take on the role of innocent victim
after the war. Each individual feels the disappointment of his own
desires for protection and direction; he has been misled, seduced, aban-
doned, and finally expelled and condemned, although he had only
been obedient, as commanded by the citizen’s first duty.37
••• 84 •••
Samuel Salzborn
This childish attitude not only “forgets” the historical facts, it also inverts
the perpetrator/victim roles in one’s own favor: an act of destruction and
extermination is indeed regretted, but only in regards to one’s own position
and desires. Gauland encapsulates this with just a few sentences in his cited
interview, while Höcke conveys the same idea in his cited speech, yet
expressing it even more clearly than Gauland and combining his revisionist
stance with an explicit threat of violence.
The deflection of German culpability and the denial of the Nazi past, as
already seen right after the end of World War II, thus goes together with
an almost ritualistic cultivation of personal guiltlessness and personal vic-
timhood. If this myth of German collective guiltlessness is now being reac-
tivated by the AfD, however, then the implications of this go far beyond
the politics of memory. After all, if one manages to minimize or entirely
jettison Nazism by making its terminology and worldview seem acceptable
and by freeing its central geopolitical and ethnopolitical ideas from the
Nazi context, then it becomes possible to once again pursue the implemen-
tation of concepts like the ethnonationally oppressive Volksgemeinschaft.
And it is precisely here that one finds the deeper meaning behind the
instrumentalization of German history by the AfD: whoever manages to
excise Nazism from memory can then implement Nazi ideas without being
seen as a Nazi or right-wing extremist. This is exactly why so many in the
AfD have been unwilling to recognize the clearly, explicitly, and unmistak-
ably articulated antisemitism of Wolfgang Gedeon as such: because accept-
ing the obvious would have meant a real roadblock to the entire political
program of the AfD.
The Tip of Many Icebergs: The Gedeon Affair and Deep-Rooted Antisemitism
The originating circumstances of the Gedeon affair can be quickly summa-
rized: Wolfgang Gedeon became a member of the Baden-Württemberg state
legislature for the AfD in the spring of 2016, and had previously expressed
extensive, indisputably antisemitic sentiments in his writings. For any Ger-
man legislator, this in itself was already a scandal. But the even bigger scan-
dal was how the AfD dealt with the Gedeon affair—and it is the party’s
handling of this that offers greater insights into antisemitism in the AfD,
more so than what is found in Gedeon’s words alone. The party’s reaction
makes it clear how deeply rooted antisemitic sentiments are in the AfD, and
why, despite having not been an explicitly antisemitic party in terms of its
official platform so far, it is nonetheless undeniably a party for antisemites.
What did Gedeon write? In one book, he described revisionist neo-Nazis
like Horst Mahler, Ernst Zündel, and David Irving as “dissidents,” and took
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Antisemitism in the “Alternative for Germany” Party
the view that in the courts, “the Zionist influence is manifesting itself in a
limiting of free speech.”38 According to Gedeon, the Jews are working
towards the “enslavement of humanity within a messianic empire of the
Jews,” with the goal of “Judaizing the Christian religion and Zionizing the
politics of the West.”39 He further claimed:
Just as Islam is the external foe, the Talmudic ghetto Jews were the
internal foe of the Christian Occident … As the political centre of
power shifted during the twentieth century from Europe to the U.S.,
Judaism, in its secular Zionist form, became a decisively powerful and
influential factor in Western politics … The previous internal foe of the
Occident is now a dominating power in the West, and the previous
external foe of the Occident, namely Islam, has overrun the borders
through mass migration and penetrated deeply into Western societies,
and is reshaping them in many ways.40
The situation is fairly straightforward so far—but then the party and its lead-
ers began desperately casting around for experts who could speak about
Gedeon in their stead, before the AfD parliamentary group in Baden-Würt-
temberg’s state legislature finally underwent a (purely cosmetic) schism in
July 2016. The central question plaguing federal party leader Petry and her
colleagues was: did Gedeon’s words actually constitute antisemitism? With
the desperate search for outside experts to answer this question in the
party’s stead, one might well be tempted to discount this as simply a rhetor-
ical strategy.41 But, it makes more sense to take the party’s actions seriously
here, and to make it accountable for this. After all, it is evident that Gedeon
had made clearly and unmistakably antisemitic statements, drawing upon
numerous aspects of common antisemitic tropes. The fact that AfD mem-
bers could seriously ask whether Gedeon’s utterances were even antisemitic
at all shows that they clearly did not find the content of his statements to be
problematic, instead wanting an outside referee to make an evaluation for
them. Here it is clear that they must find at least parts of Gedeon’s world
view acceptable—there is no other plausible explanation.
This handling of the affair shows two things. Firstly, the AfD wanted to
farm out all responsibility for the conduct of its members, purely so that it
would not have to scare any of them away—in this case, Gedeon might at
worst have been ruled an antisemite by some member of academia (which
is more or less reviled anyway by the AfD and its followers), but this verdict
would not have come from the party itself. Secondly, antisemitism is deeply
rooted in the AfD, with the party attracting antisemites like a magnet. After
all, if the party is unable to see antisemitism even in a case like Gedeon’s,
then where does antisemitism actually begin in AfD eyes? Only with the
onset of mass murder?
••• 86 •••
Samuel Salzborn
When AfD members refuse to acknowledge antisemitism for what it is,
they do so because they are either unwilling to admit sharing antisemitic
opinions themselves, or unwilling to hold antisemites accountable for their
words, as has also been demonstrated by many other cases—and in no case
has the AfD ever admitted, officially and unambiguously, that antisemitism
was involved. Instead, the AfD has failed to distance itself from such ideas,
which is why Gedeon is only one tip of the increasingly visible icebergs of
antisemitism within the AfD.
The cases of antisemitism in the AfD have become so numerous that the
usual right-wing strategy of shrugging them off as isolated incidents has lost
all substance. For example, Gunnar Baumgart, who was a local AfD politi-
cian from the town of Bad Münder (near Hanover), was already defending
the neo-Nazi revisionists and Holocaust deniers Ernst Zündel, Germar
Rudolf, and Fred Leuchter back in 2015, and posted a Facebook link to an
article claiming that “not a single Jew” had died from “Zyklon B or in the
gas chambers.” He further stated that “if I had children, they would not
attend history lessons in Germany.” After several criminal charges were
filed against him, he said he wanted to resign from the AfD, “in order to
deflect any damage to the party.”42
Antisemitic sentiments have also been expressed by other AfD office-
holders.43 For example, Peter Ziemann, local state-level treasurer of the
AfD in Hesse, ranted in 2013 about “satanic elements in the financial oli-
gopoly” and “cover organizations organized by Freemasons,” harking back
to common themes in antisemitic conspiracy theory.44 Or Jan-Ulrich Weiss,
an AfD local state-level politician in Brandenburg who reposted an ostensi-
ble quote from British investment banker Jacob Rothschild, saying “we con-
trol … the media … and your government.”45 Or Gottfried Klasen, an
elected AfD county assembly member in northern Hesse who claimed that
the Central Council of Jews in Germany possessed “political opinion-mak-
ing hegemony and political control over Germany.”46 And Höcke, the AfD
parliamentary party leader in Thuringia’s state legislature defended prolific
neo-Nazi activist Ursula Haverbeck when he spoke at an AfD rally in the
city of Gera in late October 2016—soon after her latest of many criminal
convictions for Holocaust denial.47
After the national elections of September 2017, Germany’s federal parlia-
ment was joined by AfD politician Wilhelm von Gottberg, who had previ-
ously spent almost two decades as head of the Homeland Association of
East Prussia (Landsmannschaft Ostpreussen, a right-wing reactionary
group), and has since failed to unequivocally repudiate the front-page arti-
cle he wrote for the far-right newspaper Das Ostpreussenblatt in 2001, in
••• 87 •••
Antisemitism in the “Alternative for Germany” Party
which he included comments doubting the Holocaust. Here, he approv-
ingly cited an Italian neofascist who stated that the “propaganda steam-
roller” has not weakened over the years, but is strengthening instead, so
that “the Holocaust must remain a mythos, a dogma, exempt from all free
historical discussion.”48 Back in 2003, Gottberg had also defended Martin
Hohmann, a member of the federal parliament who gave an antisemitic
speech in October 2003 and was consequently thrown out of the parliamen-
tary group of the CDU/CSU (Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian
sister party, the Christian Social Union), and then out of the CDU altogether.
In his speech, Hohmann had tried to downplay German responsibility for
Nazi crimes, while also accusing Jews of “perpetratorship” in terms of the
October Revolution in Russia. Hohmann has since returned to the federal
parliament, this time sitting for the AfD.
During the Berlin municipal election campaign of 2016, Hugh Bronson,
deputy head of the local AfD, made his worldview clear when he trivialized
the Shoah in his tweet: “Extremes are typically German. Like with people
on trains, it’s either Auschwitz or Refugees Welcome. Both are wrong!”49
Meanwhile, Kay Nerstheimer, the AfD politician who won a seat represent-
ing the district of Lichtenberg I at the same election, repeated a conspiracy
theory that the “powers” behind the First and Second World Wars were
now trying to start a third one, while also denigrating the modern German
state as a “Federal German Trust Company headquartered in Frankfurt,”
thus adding a financial conspiracy theory as well.50 The fact that Ners-
theimer was excluded from the AfD parliamentary group upon its establish-
ment in Berlin’s state legislature is no more than a cosmetic ruse, just like
what was seen in Baden-Württemberg’s state legislature with the schism of
its AfD parliamentary group, orchestrated to effectively stifle media criti-
cism of antisemitism in the AfD, but then rescinded again just a few months
later in October 2016.
As for Wolfgang Gedeon himself, it seems he was entirely unmoved by
the public criticism of his words, and simply added fuel to the fire when he
responded to an article in Die Zeit that analyzed his antisemitic comments,
written by a scholar working at the Center for Research on Antisemitism at
Berlin’s Technical University.51 Gedeon demanded to know “from what
non-state actors” this center receives its financing, as “this would certainly
interest a few readers.”52 Here, Gedeon does not really want an answer to
his question: for him it is enough to simply make an insinuation, thus utiliz-
ing the common antisemitic strategy of suggesting a conspiracy without
naming any specifics. And within the now reunited AfD parliamentary
group in Baden-Württemberg’s state legislature, there are once again
••• 88 •••
Samuel Salzborn
elected members who do not see any antisemitism in the statements of
Gedeon, now sitting as an independent, and continue to support him.53 By
November 2017, he was being invited to participate in AfD committees as a
“parliamentary guest.”
It is with increasing frequency and clarity that antisemitic beliefs are
manifesting themselves in openly antisemitic statements, as shown by the
examples seen so far. In its handling of the Höcke affair, the AfD took a
fateful step in January 2017, when its leadership ultimately decided not to
expel him after his revisionist and antisemitic speech, thereby granting him
their political backing. As it was put in Der Spiegel, the AfD has thereby lost
all “democratic accountability;” furthermore, “it has become a party for
Nazis and their followers. And whoever votes for them must now know:
you are one as well.”54 This appraisal of AfD voters as equivalent to Nazis is
shared by sixty-two per cent of all German citizens, according to a survey
conducted by the Forsa Institute.55
It is simply a matter of time before a party for antisemites ultimately
becomes a decidedly antisemitic party. This trajectory is demonstrated by
the obsessive efforts seen within the AfD to revive positive feelings for Nazi
terms like Volksgemeinschaft and völkisch: not only does this incorporate the
ethnonationalist and antisemitic extermination policy of the German Volks-
gemeinschaft, these words also have a historical reality in the implementation
of this extermination. The völkisch worldview represents the essential foun-
dation of German antisemitism—and of the Nazi regime’s antisemitic exter-
mination program.
Furthermore, the evolution of the AfD since its foundation has demon-
strated a steady radicalization towards the far right, so that classical conser-
vative stances, let alone liberal ones, no longer exist at all in the AfD today,
with the latest party infighting clearly about personal dominance and not
about any real differences in political agenda. Even now, nobody of rank
and influence in the AfD has ever publicly acknowledged, clearly and
unequivocally, that representatives like Gedeon and Höcke had been
plainly antisemitic in their statements. Debates within the party are focused
only on whether such statements might damage the party’s image—and so
are only strategic in nature. The same thing applies to the lip service paid to
Israel by the AfD. Its support is not based on fighting antisemitism—which
the AfD clearly propagates in its treatment of the Nazi past, its inversion of
••• 89 •••
Antisemitism in the “Alternative for Germany” Party
perpetrator/victim roles, and its glorification of criminal institutions like the
Wehrmacht. The AfD only wants to use Israel, firstly to deflect accusations
of antisemitism by exploiting the notion that whoever is pro-Israel could
not possibly be antisemitic, and secondly to find strategic allies in its fight
against Muslim immigration.
Nevertheless, even the supposedly pro-Israel stance of the AfD has now
become largely a myth, one based mostly on statements by politicians who
have since left the AfD. More recently, during its 2017 federal party con-
vention in Cologne, a motion to consider a clause entitled “strengthening
German-Israeli friendship” for inclusion in its federal election platform
failed to pass; in a speech against further considering this proposal, it was
argued that there existed a problem with Israeli “war criminals.”56 A few
months later, the leading AfD figure Gauland even questioned whether the
championing of Israel’s right to exist, long an element of Germany’s
national consensus, is actually in Germany’s “national interest.”57
In order to understand the party’s true nature and its progression towards
right-wing extremism, one cannot overlook the antisemitism that has
become an established fixture in the worldview of the AfD. It would clearly
prefer to downplay the antisemitism displayed by many of its members and
officials, since acknowledgement of this would remove the last obstacle to
recognizing the AfD as simply one more of the many far-right parties that
have emerged in Germany’s postwar history—with the only difference being
that the AfD has managed to profit from the middle-class image of its early
phase, thus allowing it to achieve double-digit results in the federal elections
of 2017, making it the first far-right party to enter the German parliament
since the end of the Nazi era. For the development of the AfD, the result of
a representative opinion poll is particularly enlightening. The renowned
Allensbach Institute for Demoskopie has shown in June 2018 how common
antisemitism is among supporters of the AfD: 55 percent of the supporters
of the AfD agree with the statement: “Jews have too much influence in the
world.”58 Compared with the other German parties, the approval in any
other party is a maximum of 20 percent. The results show that antisemitism
not only unites the officials of the party, but also its supporters.
PROF. DR. SAMUE L SALZBORN is a Visiting Professor for Research on Anti-
semitism at the Center for Research on Antisemitism (ZfA) at the Technical
University of Berlin, and a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Analysis of the
Radical Right (CARR). He received his doctorate in 2004 from the Univer-
sity of Cologne and habilitated at the University of Giessen in 2009. He has
••• 90 •••
Samuel Salzborn
also been a Research Fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a Visit-
ing Lecturer at the University of Economics in Prague, and a Visiting Pro-
fessor at the University of Marburg. Email:
1. Christoph Kopke and Alexander Lorenz, “Auf dem Weg in die ‘Nationale Opposition?,’”
vorgänge: Zeitschrift für Bürgerrechte und Gesellschaftspolitik, no. 216 (2016): 15–28, here 24.
2. For a closer look at this, see Samuel Salzborn, Antisemitismus als negative Leitidee der Mod-
erne: Sozialwissenschaftliche Theorien im Vergleich (Frankfurt, 2010).
3. See Samuel Salzborn, “Renaissance of the New Right in Germany? A Discussion of New
Right Elements in German Right-wing Extremism Today,” German Politics and Society 34,
no. 2 (2016): 36–63.
4. Quoted in Patrick Gensing, “Die AfD und die ‘Volksgemeinschaft,’”, 29
December 2015.
5. Quoted in ibid.
6. See Beat Balzli and Matthias Kamann, “Petry will den Begriff ‘völkisch’ positiv besetzen,”
Die Welt Online, 11 September 2016.
7. See Markus Brunner, Jan Lohl, Rolf Pohl, and Sebastian Winter, ed., Volksgemeinschaft,
Täterschaft und Antisemitismus: Beiträge zur psychoanalytischen Sozialpsychologie des National-
sozialismus und seiner Nachwirkungen (Giessen, 2011); Dietmar von Reeken and Malte
Thiessen, ed., “Volksgemeinschaft” als soziale Praxis: Neue Forschungen zur NS-Gesellschaft vor
Ort (Paderborn, 2013); Detlef Schmiechen-Ackermann, ed., “Volksgemeinschaft”: Mythos,
wirkungsmächtige soziale Verheißung oder soziale Realität im Dritten Reich? (Paderborn, 2012);
Peter Schyga, Über die Volksgemeinschaft der Deutschen: Begriff und historische Wirklichkeit jen-
seits historiografischer Gegenwartsmoden (Baden-Baden, 2015); Michael Wildt, Hitler’s Volksge-
meinschaft and the Dynamics of Racial Exclusion (New York, 2012).
8. See Samuel Salzborn, Ethnisierung der Politik: Theorie und Geschichte des Volksgruppenrechts in
Europa (Frankfurt, 2005).
9. See Samuel Salzborn, Demokratie: Theorien, Formen, Entwicklungen (Baden-Baden, 2012).
10. Bundesverfassungsgericht, “Urteil des Zweiten Senats vom 17. Januar 2017: 2 BvB 1/13—
Rn. (1-1010);” available at, accessed 20
January 2017.
11. See Uwe Puschner and G. Ulrich Grossmann, ed., Völkisch und national: Zur Aktualität alter
Denkmuster im 21. Jahrhundert (Darmstadt, 2009).
12. Wolf-Dietrich Bukow, “Soziogenese ethnischer Minoritäten,” Das Argument, no. 181
(1990): 422–426, here 423 (emphasis in original).
13. See Anthony D. Smith, National Identity (London, 1991), 8.
14. See Wilhelm Heitmeyer, ed., Deutsche Zustände, 10 vols. (Frankfurt 2002-2011).
15. On the party’s early history, see David Bebnowski, Die Alternative für Deutschland: Aufstieg
und gesellschaftliche Repräsentanz einer rechten populistischen Partei (Wiesbaden, 2015); Sebast-
ian Friedrich, Der Aufstieg der AfD: Neokonservative Mobilmachung in Deutschland (Berlin,
2015); Alexander Häusler and Rainer Roeser, Die rechten “Mut”-Bürger: Entstehung,
Entwicklung, Personal und Positionen der Alternative für Deutschland (Hamburg, 2015);
Andreas Kemper, Rechte Euro-Rebellion: Alternative für Deutschland und Zivile Koalition e.V.
(Münster, 2013).
16. See Samuel Salzborn, Angriff der Antidemokraten: Die völkische Rebellion der Neuen Rechten
(Weinheim, 2016).
17. See Frank Decker, Bernd Henningsen, and Kjetil Jakobsen, eds., Rechtspopulismus und
Rechtsextremismus in Europa: Die Herausforderung der Zivilgesellschaft durch alte Ideologien und
neue Medien (Baden-Baden, 2015); Ralf Melzer and Sebastian Serafin, ed., Right-wing
••• 91 •••
Antisemitism in the “Alternative for Germany” Party
Extremism in Europe: Country Analyses, Counter-Strategies and Labor-Market Oriented Exit
Strategies (Berlin, 2013).
18. See Anton Pelinka, “Die FPÖ in der vergleichenden Parteienforschung: Zur typologis-
chen Einordnung der Freiheitlichen Partei Österreichs,” Österreichische Zeitschrift für Poli-
tikwissenschaft 31, no. 3 (2002): 281–299; Heribert Schiedel, Der Rechte Rand: Extremistische
Gesinnungen in unserer Gesellschaft (Vienna, 2007).
19. See Jan Lohl, Gefühlserbschaft und Rechtsextremismus: Eine sozialpsychologische Studie zur Gen-
erationengeschichte des Nationalsozialismus (Giessen, 2010); Ingrid Peisker, Vergangenheit, die
nicht vergeht: Eine psychoanalytische Zeitdiagnose zur Auseinandersetzung mit dem Nationalsozial-
ismus (Giessen, 2005).
20. Harald Welzer, Sabine Moller, and Karoline Tschuggnall, “Opa war kein Nazi”: National-
sozialismus und Holocaust im Familiengedächtnis (Frankfurt, 2002).
21. See Jana Hensel, “Opa war kein Held,” Die Zeit Online, 3 March 2018.
22. Thomas K. Bauer, “Einwanderung ist kein Minusgeschäft (Interview),” Die Zeit Online, 21
October 2010. See also Klaus J. Bade and Jochen Oltmer, Normalfall Migration: Deutsch-
land im 20. und frühen 21. Jahrhundert (Bonn, 2004).
23. Hensel (see note 21).
24. See Kai Arzheimer, “The AfD: Finally a Successful Right-Wing Populist Eurosceptic
Party for Germany?,” West European Politics 38, no. 3 (2015), 535–556; Hans Vorländer,
Maik Herold, and Steven Schäller, PEGIDA: Entwicklung, Zusammensetzung und Deutung einer
Empörungsbewegung (Wiesbaden, 2016).
25. Alexander Gauland, “Hitler hat den Deutschen das Rückgrat gebrochen (Interview),” Die
Zeit, 14 April 2016.
26. Ibid.
27. Ibid.
28. Alternative für Deutschland Landtagsfraktion Baden-Württemberg, “Pressemitteilung
‘Gedenkstätte Gurs,’” 23 January 2017.
29. Quoted in Roland Muschel, “AfD will Fördergelder für Gurs-Gedenkstätte streichen,”
Badische Zeitung, 21 January 2017.
30. Alternative für Deutschland, Programm für Deutschland: Das Grundsatzprogramm der Alterna-
tive für Deutschland (Stuttgart, 2016), 48.
31. See Samuel Salzborn, Antisemitismus: Geschichte, Theorie, Empirie (Baden-Baden, 2014).
32. Björn Höcke, “Vollständiges Transkript der Rede vom 17. Januar 2017 im Ballhaus
Watzke, Dresden im Rahmen der Veranstaltungsreihe ‘Dresdner Gespräche’ organisiert
vom Jugendverband der Alternative für Deutschland, der ‘Jungen Alternative;’” available
at, accessed 19 January 2017.
33. Ibid.
34. On the concept of “cover identity” (Deckidentität), see Elisabeth Brainin, Vera Ligeti, and
Samy Teicher, Vom Gedanken zur Tat: Zur Psychoanalyse des Antisemitismus (Frankfurt, 1993),
35. On the fiction of collective German guilt, see Norbert Frei, “Von deutscher Erfind-
ungskraft oder: Die Kollektivschuldthese in der Nachkriegszeit,” Rechtshistorisches Journal
16 (1997): 621–634.
36. Quoted in “Gauland fordert ‘Stolz’ auf deutsche Soldaten,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
online, 14 September 2017.
37. Alexander Mitscherlich and Margarete Mitscherlich, Die Unfähigkeit zu trauern: Grundlagen
kollektiven Verhaltens (Munich, 1980), 53–54.
38. Quoted in Hans-W. Saure and Anton Maegerle, “Skandal um antisemitisches Buch von
W. Gedeon,” Bild, 1 June 2016.
39. Quoted in Justus Bender and Rüdiger Soldt, “Im Eiferer-Modus gegen Juden,” Frankfurter
Allgemeine Zeitung, 4 June 2016.
40. Quoted in ibid.
41. On the search for outside experts, see Martin Krauss, “Rechtspopulisten halbiert. AfD
spaltet sich wegen Umgang mit Antisemiten,“ Jüdische Allgemeine, 6 July 2016.
••• 92 •••
Samuel Salzborn
42. Quoted in Jens Rathmann and Thomas Thimm, “Vorwurf der Volksverhetzung,” Han-
noversche Allgemeine, 13 August 2015.
43. See also Jan Riebe, “Wie antisemitisch ist die AfD?,”, 10 May 2016.
44. Quoted in Armin Pfahl-Traughber, “AfD: Antisemiten finden Durchlass; Es ist kein
Zufall, dass in der ‘Alternative für Deutschland’ ständig judenfeindliche Skandale auf-
tauchen,” Jüdische Allgemeine, 9 June 2016.
45. Quoted in ibid.
46. Quoted in Carsten Meyer and Joachim F. Tornau, “Antisemit in der AfD,” blick nach
rechts, 25 July 2016.
47. See Knut Krohn, “Höcke verteidigt Holocaust-Leugnerin,” Stuttgarter Zeitung, 22 Novem-
ber 2016.
48. Quoted in “AfD-Politiker lehnte Distanzierung von Holocaustzitat ab,” Die Zeit online, 15
March 2017.
49. Quoted in Frederik Bombosch, “Auschwitz-Vergleich: Berliner AfD-Vize Hugh Bronson
relativiert Shoah,” Berliner Zeitung, 16 September 2016.
50. Quoted in Oliver Das Gupta, “AfD-Abgeordneter schmäht Flüchtlinge als ‘widerliches
Gewürm,’” Süddeutsche Zeitung Online, 20 September 2016.
51. See Marcus Funck, “Wolfgang Gedeon: Wie antisemitisch ist dieser AfD-Politiker?,” Die
Zeit, 11 August 2016.
52. Wolfgang Gedeon, “Zur Kritik von Marcus Funck in der Zeit;” available at www.wolf-, accessed 17 September
53. See Rüdiger Soldt, “Unangemessene Formen,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 16 Novem-
ber 2016.
54. Stefan Kuzmany, “Höcke darf in der AfD bleiben: Partei für Nazis und Mitläufer,” Spiegel
Online, 23 January 2017.
55. See “Nazi-Ideologie in der AfD,” stern, 25 January 2017.
56. See Benjamin Steinitz and Daniel Poensgen, “Die AfD im Spannungsfeld zwischen
Relativierung und Instrumentalisierung des Antisemitismus,”, Novem-
ber 2017.
57. See “Gauland bringt kritische Sätze über Israels Existenzrecht,” Berliner Kurier, 25 Sep-
tember 2017.
58. See Thomas Petersen, “Wie antisemitisch ist Deutschland?” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung,
20 June 2018.
••• 93 •••
Antisemitism in the “Alternative for Germany” Party
... While selected incidents of primary and secondary antisemitism and the general historical revisionist ambitions and statements of the Af D have thus been the subject of academic elaborations (Salzborn, 2016;Pfahl-Traughber, 2016;Salzborn, 2017;Grimm and Kahmann, 2017;Salzborn, 2018;Schmalenberger, 2021, forthcoming), a systematic analysis of less direct, implicit ways in which the Af D promotes an antisemitic worldview is missing. We argue that social media is the primary space where the Af D disseminates forms of antisemitism that are more indirect and thus harder to identify, yet also rather pervasive and thus not less dangerous. ...
... Overall, our findings provide further evidence that the Af D can be considered an antisemitic party (Salzborn, 2018). Based on our findings, however, we conclude that the Af D on social media communicates antisemitic messages that cannot be fully captured with the concepts of primary or secondary antisemitism. ...
This chapter analyzes social media posts of Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe on May 8, 2020. With the help of the mixed-methods software MaxQDA we developed a code system that identifies antisemitic cues. As a result of our analysis, we formulate a definition of tertiary antisemitism to extend the established concepts of primary and secondary antisemitism. In our research we find that the AfD uses social media strategically to communicate a revisionist interpretation of World War II and the Holocaust by employing antisemitic cues, rather than explicit expressions of antisemitism. Further we identify four rhetorical strategies present in the AfD’s social media communication that normalize, mainstream, and vindicate antisemitism.
... This ethnocentric federalism can be traced to Schmitt and other thinkers covered by the chapter, and Samuel Salzborn is well positioned to analytically capture it (cf. Salzborn, 2018a). ...
... The two concepts, while remaining under-conceptualized, are linked through an understanding of right-wing populism as a strategy of right-wing extremism, with an ideology of inequality at its core. As in the previous chapter, this essay would have benefitted from more input from the author's other works discussed above, especially on the AFD (Salzborn 2018a). ...
This review follows the structure of the book, exploring the key elements raised by the author, starting with the introduction and proceeding through each of the three sections. The introduction discusses the limits of the friend versus foe narrative in the absence of clarity by drawing upon the theoretical lit- erature on populism and its relationship to democracy (Canovan, 1999; Urbinati, 2014, 2019). This review will focus the discussion around the main themes of each section, namely; the tensions between freedom and sovereignty in the first section, nationalism and antisemitism over time in the second section, and the rejection of the emancipatory promise of modernity by reactionary elements of the radical right in the third section. This review will conclude by assessing the limits and potential of the book, drawing on Popper’s paradox of tolerance (Popper, 2020).
... In its most outright forms, antisemitism includes Holocaust denial propagated by state actors such as Iran and by neo-Nazis in the West (Litvak, 2006). Holocaust denial reaches the core of right-wing thinking, such as Germany's Alternative for Germany party or the American "alt-right" (Gallaher, 2021;Salzborn, 2018). Antisemitism is not a fringe issue, extending its purchase into mainstream political organizations such as the British Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn (Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2020). ...
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What does antisemitism look like in the context of political discussions on Twitter? In this article, we introduce the notion of platformed antisemitism. We first define it as a platform-agnostic concept, and then explore it through an exemplary case study of Twitter and its affordances by way of a mixed-methods analysis of discourse surrounding the 2018 US midterm election. Via qualitative textual analysis, we document how political discourse on Twitter is marred by antisemitic conspiracy theories that intersect with QAnon and Trump/MAGA support. Through quantitative content analysis of a sample of 99,062 tweets, we highlight a list of terms and hashtags most often associated with antisemitic speech on Twitter and showcase how specific affordances on the platform (quote-tweets, hashtags) amplify and/or diminutize antisemitic speech. Via Lasso regression, we introduce an antisemitism classifier that can be used to further refine future detection efforts of antisemitic speech.
... Seit den islamistischen Terroranschlägen von 9/11, aber noch weiter verstärkt durch die Rechtsradikalisierung der bundesdeutschen Gesellschaft und ihre Repräsentation durch eine rechtsextreme Partei in allen Länderparlamenten und im Deutschen Bundestag, die in umfangreichem Maße antisemitische Positionen vertritt und gerade das antisemitische Motiv der Schuldabwehr und der Täter-Opfer-Umkehr paradigmatisch in ihrem Weltbild verfolgt (Salzborn 2018), lassen sich in jüngster Zeit mindestens drei Momente mit Blick auf die antisemitische Selbstfindung der deutschen Gesellschaft herausstellen: erstens die Entgrenzung, zweitens die Trivialisierung und drittens die Bagatellisierung von Antisemitismus. Was heißt das? ...
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Der vorliegende Beitrag setzt sich mit der Geschichte des Schuldabwehr-Antisemitismus in der bundesdeutschen Nachkriegsgeschichte auseinander und zeichnet dessen Entwick-lungen bis in die Gegenwart nach. Dabei werden gleichermaßen die Relationen zu anderen Artikulationsformen von Antisemitismus thematisiert sowie die spezifischen Aspekte des Schuldabwehr-Antisemitismus mit Blick auf die Einstellungsveränderungen dargestellt. Die Grundannahme besteht darin zu zeigen, wie sich die bundesdeutsche Nachkriegsge-sellschaft als Erinnerungsabwehrgemeinschaft konstituiert hat und dass die Relevanz des Schuldabwehr-Antisemitismus bis in die Gegenwart ungebrochen ist.
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Antisemitism on Social Media is a book for all who want to understand this phenomenon. Researchers interested in the matter will find innovative methodologies (CrowdTangle or Voyant Tools mixed with discourse analysis) and new concepts (tertiary antisemitism, antisemitic escalation) that should become standard in research on antisemitism on social media. It is also an invitation to students and up-and-coming and established scholars to study this phenomenon further. This interdisciplinary volume addresses how social media with its technology and business model has revolutionized the dissemination of antisemitism and how this impacts not only victims of antisemitic hate speech but also society at large. The book gives insight into case studies on different platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, and Telegram. It also demonstrates how social media is weaponized through the dissemination of antisemitic content by political actors from the right, the left, and the extreme fringe, and critically assesses existing counter-strategies. People working for social media companies, policy makers, practitioners, and journalists will benefit from the questions raised, the findings, and the recommendations. Educators who teach courses on antisemitism, hate speech, extremism, conspiracies, and Holocaust denial but also those who teach future leaders in computer technology will find this volume an important resource.
We empirically examine the relationship between immigration and votes for the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in the 2017 German parliamentary election. We conduct a cross-sectional analysis, exploiting election results and socio-demographic as well as geographic features of the 401 German administrative districts. We find that immigration has a negative effect on AfD voting. A 1 percentage point increase in the share of foreigners is associated with a decrease in the AfD vote share of up to 0.37 percentage points. The result is robust to several estimation variations, such as addressing the potentially endogenous distribution of foreigners with an instrumental variable analysis.
This book provides a comprehensive analysis of radical right populism in Germany. It gives an overview of historical developments of the phenomenon and its current appearance. It examines three of the main far-right organizations in Germany: the radical right populist party AfD (Alternative for Germany), Pegida (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamification of the Occident), and the Identitarian Movement. The book investigates the positions of these groups as expressed in programmes, publications, and statements of party leaders and movement activists. It explores their history, ideologies, strategies, and their main activists and representatives, as well as the overlap between the groups. The ideological positions examined include populism, nativism, authoritarianism, volkish nationalism, ethnopluralism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, antisemitism, antifeminism, and Euroscepticism. The analysis shows that these ideological features are sometimes strategically interlinked for effect and used to justify specific political demands such as the stronger regulation of immigration and the exclusion of Muslims. This much-needed volume will be of particular interest to students and researchers of German politics, populism, social movements, party politics, and right-wing extremism.
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Right-wing extremism in Germany has recently undergone considerable changes with a new right-wing party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) successfully entering several local state parliaments as well as the European Parliament, "Pegida" demonstrations representing a new type of public action in terms of social movements, and the emergence of institutions like the Library of Conservatism and magazine projects like Sezession. This article considers whether such developments could be seen as a renaissance of the "New Right", representing a long-term success in its strategies. Since the 1970s, the strategy of the New Right has been based on promoting a culturally conservative metapolitics in the pursuit of "cultural hegemony", meaning to influence public opinion in the Federal Republic of Germany and shift it to the right-which at first glance might seem to have succeeded in light of recent events. The developments seen in German far-right extremism, however, have been neither monocausal nor monolithic. Therefore, this article will take a closer look at various aspects of the idea that recent changes in Germany's rightwing extremism might represent a successful implementation of this New Right strategy.
Minderheitenkonflikte gehören in multikulturellen Gesellschaften zum politischen Alltag. Die Lösungsansätze reichen vom liberal-demokratischen Minderheitenschutz bis hin zum völkisch-nationalen Volksgruppenkonzept, um dessen Durchsetzung sich rechte Akteure seit geraumer Zeit bemühen. Samuel Salzborn zeichnet die Geschichte des Volksgruppentheorems vom Ersten Weltkrieg bis in die Gegenwart nach, analysiert dessen theoretische Hintergründe und beschreibt die Akteure ethnischer Politik in Europa. Dabei verknüpft er zeitgeschichtliche Analysen mit Aspekten der europäischen Integration und des Völkerrechts.
Within less than two years of being founded by disgruntled members of the governing CDU, the newly formed Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has already performed extraordinarily well in the 2013 general election, the 2014 EP election, and a string of state elections. Highly unusually by German standards, it campaigned for an end to all efforts to save the euro and argued for a reconfiguration of Germany’s foreign policy. This seems to chime with the recent surge in far-right voting in Western Europe, and the AfD was subsequently described as right-wing populist and Europhobe.
vorgänge: Zeitschrift für Bürgerrechte und Gesellschaftspolitik
  • Christoph Kopke
  • Alexander Lorenz
Christoph Kopke and Alexander Lorenz, "Auf dem Weg in die 'Nationale Opposition?,'" vorgänge: Zeitschrift für Bürgerrechte und Gesellschaftspolitik, no. 216 (2016): 15-28, here 24.
  • See Beat Balzli
  • Matthias Kamann
See Beat Balzli and Matthias Kamann, "Petry will den Begriff 'völkisch' positiv besetzen," Die Welt Online, 11 September 2016.
Hitler's Volksgemeinschaft and the Dynamics of Racial Exclusion
  • Michael Wildt
Michael Wildt, Hitler's Volksgemeinschaft and the Dynamics of Racial Exclusion (New York, 2012).
Januar 2017: 2 BvB 1/13-Rn. (1-1010);" available at www
  • Bundesverfassungsgericht
Bundesverfassungsgericht, "Urteil des Zweiten Senats vom 17. Januar 2017: 2 BvB 1/13-Rn. (1-1010);" available at, accessed 20 January 2017.
Völkisch und national: Zur Aktualität alter Denkmuster im 21
  • G See Uwe Puschner
  • Ulrich Grossmann
See Uwe Puschner and G. Ulrich Grossmann, ed., Völkisch und national: Zur Aktualität alter Denkmuster im 21. Jahrhundert (Darmstadt, 2009).
Soziogenese ethnischer Minoritäten
  • Wolf-Dietrich Bukow
Wolf-Dietrich Bukow, "Soziogenese ethnischer Minoritäten," Das Argument, no. 181 (1990): 422-426, here 423 (emphasis in original).