by Thomas Klikauer and Meg Young
In Germany, conspiracy myths linked to the Coronavirus pandemic are spreading particularly well in the former East-Germany state of Saxony. Not by accident, Saxony remains a stronghold of Germany’s Neo-Nazi party, the Alternative for Germany or AfD. In 2021, believers in conspiracy myths are getting a lot more attention with their numbers decreasing compared to the year 2020. Yet, there are huge regional differences inside Germany.
For months, German politicians – from ex-chancellor Merkel (conservative) to newly elected social-democratic chancellor, Olaf Scholz – have been trying to convince Germans of the need to get a Corona vaccination. As a consequence of their endless appeal to common sense, about 30% of Germans still remain unvaccinated. By mid-December 2021, infection rates and Covid-19 deaths were on the rise again.
Yet, there are way too many Germans who are simply not interested in facts about the pandemic. Beyond Germany’s anti-vaxxers, there are also plenty of people who still deny the existence of the Coronavirus pandemic despite ample evidence to the contrary. Recently however, the proportion of people in the camp of believers of a global Corona conspiracy myths, while also denying the existence of the virus, has actually fallen, somewhat.
According to a recent study on German Covid-19 denier, supporters of Corona conspiracy myths in Germany’s population has actually decreased from 14% in 2020 to 9% in 2021. One of the important key findings is that, hard core Covid-19 denier represent no more than 6%.
Among the 9% who believe in conspiracy myths, researchers were able to identify these 6% of hard core deniers – a very small group. According to the study, Germany’s hard core anti-vaxxers are a microscopic 6% – no more. These 6% can be considered inveterate corona deniers.
On the upswing, about 8% of Germans described themselves as ex-deniers by 2021. They no longer denied the existence of the Coronavirus pandemic. Surprisingly, 3% can be considered newly convinced. They have joined Germany’s Covid-19 denier. How all of this pans out can be seen in a region in Southern Germany where the local population has a long history of anti-vaccination believers.
The regional town of Rottweil is a stronghold of Corona denier. It is located in the south-western state of Baden-Württemberg, half way between the city of Stuttgart and Lake Constance. Rottweil experienced not only protests but also graffiti campaigns of anti-vaxxers, and the setting up of a so-called Corona School run by anti-vaxxers.
The anti-vaxxers’ Corona School of nearby Waldmössingen is located between the town’s primary school and the local town hall. In September 2021, five local families all of whom were anti-vaxxers got together to organize school lessons. Was this done out of a fear of a corona infection? No, it happened because of a fear of Covid-19 tests. Worse, local anti-vaxxers believe that outsiders wouldn’t understand them.
The principal of Waldmössing’s state-run primary school is scared of local anti-vaxxers. The state school has lost children after the setting up of the anti-vaxxer school. Why children aren’t at school, the principal can only guess. It is probably related to the mask-wearing obligation in his classrooms and because of the government’s Covid-19 testing requirement. The local school board is responsible for children attending state schools.
The village’s mayor believes that if there is a non-registered private, i.e. anti-vaxxer school in Waldmössingen, then he must be notified. Any school outside of Germany’s public school system should be registered with him as the local school administrator. If anti-vaxxer parents keep their children out of a public school, then this violates Germany’s compulsory schooling. But, this is a matter for the state’s school authorities in faraway Freiburg.
Unsurprisingly, the seven-day average of Corona infections in the state of Baden-Württemberg was 511, according to Germany’s 1891 founded Robert Koch Institute that measures the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic in Germany. The region of the anti-vaxxers’ school marks the 6th highest infection rate after Saxony in former East-Germany, Bavaria (west), Thuringia (east), Brandenburg (east), and Saxony-Anhalt (east).
The state’s premier in which the town of Rottweil is located recently announced even tougher anti-Covid-19 measures. In the future, soccer matches will only take place in Baden-Württemberg without an audience. Christmas markets and night clubs could also be closed and a ban on alcohol in public spaces is likely to be imposed.
Health officials in the state of Baden-Württemberg have started planning to transfer patients to other states and even abroad. Most recently, 622 Corona patients were in intensive care units; 334 needed ventilation, and with 28% of all intensive care beds occupied by Corona patients.
Worse, the high infection area of Rottweil is close to handguns, rifles, submachine guns, and grenade launch manufacturer Heckler & Koch. The armament factory is the largest employer giving people jobs. Some local workers do believe in conspiracy fantasies about the Coronavirus pandemic. Others are so-called vaccination sceptics. As one might expect, Rottweil’s local district has a particularly low vaccination rate. Just 66% of the people in the Rottweil area are vaccinated.
Many infections in the hamlet of Rottweil have been traced to a wedding party at a local restaurant. Out of the 90 people present – many were unvaccinated – a high number of people were infected. The restaurant Sonne closed a few days after the infamous super-spreader wedding, now selling sausages as pick-up only! Its operator makes his anti-vaxxer position clear on Facebook: the closure is in protest against the government’s anti-Corona regulation.
The Facebook post gets plenty of local approvals. Facebook “likes” come in throughout the region, but also from other parts of Germany. Nobody has ever asked how many of the restaurant’s employees fell ill at the wedding.
Meanwhile at the local anti-vaxxers’ school, anti-Corona protests have started to hit another school. Even a pop-up vaccination centre at Villingendorf was targeted. The day before the government’s vaccination campaign started, people defaced the school facade with a red skull. Above the skull, the inscription child death injection was placed.
It gets worse. In reference to the cynical Nazi slogan Arbeit Macht Frei – Work Makes You Free that the SS had placed at the entrance of Auschwitz, Germany’s present-day anti-vaxxers use the Nazi slogan when placing, Vaccinating Makes You Free – in German: Impfen Macht Frei at the school.
The school’s headmaster does not think that it is an idiotic prank. Auschwitz was not a prank and it was not banal. German Neo-Nazis are not pranksters. They kill as the NSU has demonstrated. However, the school’s principal is sure that his students understand the horrors of National Socialism and he was delighted with the reaction of his local school community. Eighty parents and students cleaned up the Neo-Nazi graffiti. The Nazi scribbles were removed before people came to be vaccinated.
Yet, the shrill and excessive protests of the Corona deniers and the non-participation in Germany’s vaccination program seem to come more and more often from Germany’s petit-bourgeois middle class. A recent study by Germany’s Heinrich Böll Foundation confirmed that in Baden-Württemberg, vaccination resistance also comes from Germany’s liberal milieus, unlike in Eastern Germany, for example.
Today, some of Germany’s more liberal Covid-19 deniers – ex-hippies, esoterics, return-to-nature believers, religious fanatics, occultism beliers, anthroposophist, etc. – still prefer to go to a naturopath rather than to a conventional medical doctor. At the same time, they also want Wi-Fi and SUVs. In recent weeks, German Covid-19 deniers have started to direct their fight against government rules in the belief that it limits their individual freedom. These are incorrigible and angry people with an un-teachable ego.
Roman Lasota is a typical representative of Covid-19 denier who likes to speak at so-called hygiene rallies of anti-vaxxers. Lasota was a soldier in Germany’s Air Force, now working in the photovoltaic industry. With government Corona regulations, he has found his true calling. He believes that Covid-19 is just a little flu and doubts the official figures of Germany’s esteemed Robert Koch Institute. He claims, with no evidence, that the official mortality rate announced during the first Corona year was excessive.
Interestingly, the Neue Rottweiler Zeitung gave Lasota plenty of space to present his ideology about the Coronavirus pandemic. The week after Lasota’s phantasms, the paper’s editorial staff countered with facts of well-known experts. Yet, no, nothing convinced me, Lasota claimed. He believes the paper’s reporters have simply written down some figures, facts, and data from experts. Lasota scoffs, I can do that! This is the situation in Germany’s deep south-west.
Meanwhile in Germany’s south-east, Covid-19 deniers and adjacent anti-vaxxers held a Nazi-style torchlight march in front of the house of a state minister. Opponents of Germany’s Corona policy have rallied with torches while shouting in front of the apartment building of Saxony’s Health Minister, Petra Köpping.
About 30 anti-vaxxers gathered in the town of Grimma for the infamous Nazi-style rally. When police officers arrived, anti-vaxxers fled in several vehicles but police stopped 15 cars and established the identities of 25 anti-vaxxers. German politicians strongly condemned the rally as an attempt to intimidate. They expressed solidarity with the state minister:
- Germany’s Interior Minister said, what we saw near Grimma is not a legitimate protest. The torch rally was an organized intimidation of a state representative.
- He added, this reminds us of the darkest chapter of German history.
- SPD leader Norbert Walter-Borjans said, what happened in front of the house of Petra Köpping has nothing to do with concern and the urge for freedom. This is fascism in style and appearance.
- Baden-Württemberg’s Premier Winfried Kretschmann (Greens) said, these are methods that the SA…the Nazi Party’s combat unit. Most recently, Germany experienced the workings of such a combat unit when the Neo-Nazi NSU network killed ten people.
In the wake of Covid-19 restrictions, German deniers and anti-vaxxers increasingly operate with brutality and violence. Officials, politicians and other people have been attacked, threatened, and harassed. Anti-vaxxers increasingly target the private lives of officials just because they do their job or are working on Germany’s Corona measures. On a daily basis, officials, politicians, health experts, medial doctors, and others have to deal with hatred and personal attacks.
As a consequence of increasing violent attacks by anti-vaxxers, protective measures for officials and their families have been beefed up. Undeterred, anti-vaxxers plan more rallies against Germany’s Corona policies, not only in Saxony. In Saxony’s capital of Dresden, police are already preparing for the coming anti-vaxxer rallies.
Given Germany’s plan to introduce mandatory vaccination in early 2022, Germany’s Covid-19 deniers, anti-vaxxers, and adjacent Neo-Nazis will continue to rally around with their call that they have a right not be vaccinated. Conveniently forgetting that they do not have the right to infect others – while forcing societies into never-ending waves of Covid-19 and more lockdowns.
Meg Young is a professional number cruncher and Pomeranian lover who enjoys good books, foreign films and music.