Mobilizing Against Germany’s Far-Right – Three Key Insights

Germany Far Right

Since the Wannsee 2.0 scandal broke in Germany in early 2024, roughly 1½ million people have been rallying against the far-right, right-wing extremists, and the neo-fascist AfD.

At the recent Wannsee conference, one of Germany’s far-right’s plan was the mass deportation of those whom  the AfD deems not to be ‘German’ enough. As a consequence, there was a massive protest against the far-right with 150.000 people in attendance on the first weekend of February in Berlin, alone.

To understand this mass mobilization, there are six stories of people who got involved in politics. They organized rallies against the far-right throughout Germany. A few weeks ago, at least 820,000 attended “Against AfD” rallies in more than 300 German-wide locations. Here is why and how the mass mobilization was achieved.

1. The Regional Town of Friedberg – Christine Kube

The first story is about Christine Kube, from a regional town called Friedberg located in the state of Hessen. Kube argues that it was good to exchange ideas and not to be alone in this. She was glad that protests were taking place all over Germany. But Kube was also worried that the mass rallies would subside.

By early February 2024, there was no sign that anti-far-right rallies would wane – rather the opposite was the case. Meanwhile, in Friedberg and prior to the mass rallies, the political atmosphere had shifted to the right. It was a rather quiet process and came slowly during recent years.  

The fact that 23% of locals voted for the far-right AfD had shocked many. Strangely, there was hardly any discussions about the election outcome. Yet, for many, it was a wake-up call. For Kube, it was the reason why she had decided to get involved into politics.

Today, Kube is part of a rather loose group of young people who oppose the AfD, in her hometown of Friedberg. The group is not alone. Members of her friendship group live all over Germany, but they all grew up in Friedberg. Many have families and are still locals.

That made it important for Kube and friends to get involved. The main thing for her group was to take back a piece of public space and not to leave it to Germany’s far-right.

For example, around Christmas in 2023, Kube had noticed how many right-wing stickers were plastered on all sorts of places throughout the city. Something like that did not happen in the past years.

Kube’s group started with online discussion rounds in which they simply exchanged ideas. A few weeks later, the group published an open letter in several local newspapers and online news portals in which they spoke out against the AfD.

The group also outlined their vision of an open-minded, diverse, cosmopolitan, and democratic society – even for Friedberg. It directly challenged the AfD’s plan to forcefully deport people under what the AfD and far-right Neo-Nazis euphemistically call remigration. The group’s openness and support for democracy also challenged the AfD’s anti-democratic authoritarianism.

After their open letter, Kube and her group received lots of emails from people thanking them. But there were also comments from right-wingers who offended them. Either way, it was a first step for the group to make a mark. Kube thinks, there are a lot of people who want to get involved, but haven’t found a proper way to do it, yet.

She also thinks that many people who have been voting for the AfD aren’t aware of the kind of world one will be living in if that party came into power.

Kube also reasons that it is important to be brave and to get into conversations with the people on the right. On the whole, Kube thought that people need to understand that politics is not something abstract. It has something to do with us.

2. An East-German Regional City – Andrea Luther

Seventy-year-old Andrea Luther from East-Germany’s Aschersleben in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, feels that there is something wrong in Germany’s society. Luther had heard about an anti-AfD rally in a nearby town from an acquaintance and said, we ought to go! The rise of the far-right has been bothering her for a long time. Yet, she thinks that it is not only the AfD that is to blame for this.

But when Germany’s far-right wants to deport people and when the revelations about their secret meeting are defamed as Stasi methods, it made her sick. Luther got scared. The recent anti-far-right rally was actually organized by the people who had gathered in 1989 – on the eve of German unification.

Then as today, they said, we are the people. Luther thought, now is the time to take to the streets and defend what we have achieved. It is our rule of law and our democracy.

Luther notes, my conscience demands this of me. Luther has a daughter and three grandchildren. She emphasizes that for them, life must also be worth living for and that means an open democratic society.

For Luther, it is about showing that there is democracy and that people want to continue to have democracy. In early 2024, Luther found out about a soon-to-be held anti-far-right rally. Luther asked her neighbor, did you get the announcement too? She replied, yes, let’s go together.

Luther and her neighbor were on the street in 1989. For both, it was a familiar feeling. Yet, the motivation was different. When Luther looked around the town’s market square, she noticed familiar faces. But there were also a lot of young people on the cold day in early 2024. At the rally, a former work colleague of Luther sang, Hevenu Shalom Alechem – we want peace for everyone. He sang in different languages.

Luther wanted to sing in Ukrainian but had a hard time with the pronunciation. The atmosphere at the rally was friendly and supportive. Everyone was laughing. No-one was upset.

Yet, the AfD, too, had organized rallies from time to time, but they were pathetic. Worse, there was also a bunch of Reichsbürger. Perhaps the overwhelming support for the anti-far-right rally will put pressure on them.

3. A Regional City in Rhineland-Palatinate – Jutta Plambeck

Jutta Plambeck lives in the mid-size city of Koblenz in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. She studies biology at a nearby university. Plambeck is convinced that people need to defend democracy.

With the rise of the far-right during 2023, Plambeck felt helpless. But when she read the Correctiv’s report on the secret far-right plan to deport people, Plambeck knew that this is not the society in which she wanted to live in.

She then asked around in Koblenz. But there was nothing planned. On one cold dark winter evening, three of her friends were sitting in a local pub. And on that Thursday evening, they decided that they had to do something. So, the very next day, the group registered an anti-far-right rally at the city’s office.

Plambeck and friends posted a call on social media. The group was excited and motivated. At the same time, they were also afraid that they might end up being alone at the rally.

The group was hoping for 70 people – at the most. But it turned out to be more – in fact, six times more. To justify their rally, the group simply said, we can’t stand it any longer. We have to stand up, now!

The group wanted to address those who have so far watched in silence. Three days later, more than 10,000 people showed up in the state’s capital of Mainz. This included the highly popular state governor Malu Dreyer and half of her state government.

Plambeck and her group were overwhelmed. The group had no specific demand like the much- debated banning of the AFD. Plambeck thinks that what people do against the right-wing, is up to everyone.

Yet, it is important that anti-far-right signals are being sent in Koblenz, Mainz, and throughout the country. Civil society is not helpless.

People can fight against this and protect democracy from those people who have racist and misanthropic views. For Plambeck, it remains important that people stick together in this undertaking. Her group is encouraged after seeing so many people rallied against the right in such a short time. People are able to counteract the political shift to the far-right.

4. A City in Upper Bavaria – Walter Peter Stoll

Walter Peter Stoll is from the city of Würzburg in upper Bavaria. He, too, was shocked by the Correctiv’s report detailing the AfD’s plan on mass deportations.

At the same time, Stoll was not surprised. For several years, more and more right-wing rallies have taken place in his city – especially during the pandemic of COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021.

Stoll had observed an increase in far-right activities. More and more right-wing radicals were coming along to those rallies. Yet, ever more people from the middle of Germany’s society started to worry.

That is why Stoll joined an alliance called Würzburg ist bunt – Würzburg is colorful. It shows that the city is a colorful place for everyone – unlike for Neo-Nazis that feature the color brown as in the Nazi’s brown shirts.

This is the first time Stoll has been actively involved in politics. Yet, there was no classic Neo-Nazi scene in Würzburg. But now, right-wing forces were trying to make themselves felt. They also tried to intimidate Stoll and his alliance.

Stoll has never been directly threatened even though others have been approached on the street. There was also an incident in which a pile of horse manure was put in front of the door of a venue where the alliance meets. At Würzburg ist bunt, Stoll is part of the organizing team and his alliance is fighting right-wing extremism.

Stoll believes that opening one’s mouth, and what he called “counter-speech” against the far-right could help to stop the spread of right-wing ideologies. He is convinced that it helps to understand democracy’s counterpart, i.e. Germany’s right-wing extremists.

Yet, this also includes resisting the understandable impulses to put the opposing side automatically in a box labeled “Nazis”. Stoll argues that establishing conversations is vital and that you can reflect on yourself, and, in the best case, convince others of your own democratic values. This doesn’t however, always work out right away, but it is important.

For this, Stoll adds that you have to ask yourself, what do I actually stand for? It is important to Stoll to formulate democratic values as positively as possible.

Rather than saying, I agree about mutual appreciation, we say, we are against hatred. Stoll also thinks that people tend to forget how important these values are and how much they help to counter the growing right-wing extremism.

5. The City of Frankfurt – Lars Taufer

Lars Taufer is a teacher in Frankfurt who said that his children were the reason why he attended anti-Neo-Nazi rallies. Taufer believes that people have to show those right-wing extremists what a civil society can do.

Years ago, Laufer was rallying as a teenager, and then as a young adult. But then stopped for many years. Taufer says, now is the time to show presence. This is in line with the overall anti-far-right rally slogan of

  “never again is now!”  

Taufer says, not only the enemies of democracy can be noisy. People must not leave the streets to them. He, too, was frightened by the secret plans of Germany’s far-right to forcefully expel those people from Germany who do not fit into the ideology of the AfD and their right-wing extremists.

For years, many Germans had convinced themselves that this could no longer happen. Nobody thought that the enemies of democracy could mobilize Neo-Nazi rallies and dominate Germany’s democratic parliaments. Taufer says, that is why the fight against racism and right-wing extremism must be everywhere in the country.

Taufer got goose-bumps when being at Frankfurter’s main square, the Römer, while standing together with 15,000 people. There was a big community.

Of course, there were rally posters that read, brown politics has a blue color. Brown politics means the color of Hitler’s SA-brown shirts and is generally associated with Germany’s far-right. Meanwhile, blue is the camouflaging color of the AfD.

The rally poster emphasizes that the AfD’s blue is in reality – Nazi politics. Historically, Hitler’s Nazi politics meant the planning of the Holocaust that occurred during the infamous Wannsee meeting in the year 1942. In the year 2023, German Neo-Nazis held a similar meeting that also planned the deportation of people. Today, it is a Neo-Nazi meeting.

It was no coincidence that the 2023 Neo-Nazi conference at Berlin’s Wannsee took place close to the location where the 1942 conference also took place.

Knowing the historical significance of the 1942 Wannsee conference that planned the Holocaust, today’s Neo-Nazis selected the location of their conference with purpose.

Why is it brown? one of Taufer’s sons asked. Brown was the color of the Nazis. Blue is the color of the AfD. These are things that are crystal clear to us. But they are not clear to children aged eleven and eight.

After seeing how many people took to the streets, many were impressed and interested in talking about right-wing fanaticisms. As a teacher, Taufer also teaches future educators.

Diversity, racism, justice, and xenophobia are on the agenda. At his school, too, Taufer continues to question himself, what am I doing?, why and how do I deal with different people?, how do I act with an open mind?, and with what interest?

6. A City North of Berlin – Sabine Sternebeck

Sabine Sternebeck, a social worker in a local youth club is from a town called Neustrelitz, just north of Germany’s capital Berlin. Sternebeck has been angry with her own people for not having challenged the far-right. Right-wing extremism has been a topic in Neustrelitz for a very long time – not only since the Correctiv’s report.

She, too, has to deal with right-wing extremist attitudes – almost every day. Yet, Sternebeck is pleased that the people – who have been silent up to now – seemed to have woken up and are going to rally against the far-right and Neo-Nazis. There is hope, she says.

Sternebeck is gratified that not everyone is willing to come to terms with the fact that the AfD could soon be involved in the state of Brandenburg’s government. When she saw the Correctiv’s report, she was fuming. And she says that it is not so much about the AfD, but at the fact that we, as a society, have allowed right-wing populism to be accepted for so long.

Sternebeck also says, deporting unwanted German citizens is inhumane. Today, right-wingers avoid our youth center. Neo-Nazis call it a tick shed – the animal tick is used in a misogynistic way.

Yet, she insists, we are not hard-core left-wing. Neither the Nazis nor today’s Neo-Nazis need that to exercise extreme brutality.

Yet, Sternebeck’s youth club is distinctively anti-fascist. She sees herself as center-left. Meanwhile, there is a lot of verbal violence among young people in Neustrelitz.

There has also been violence among adults. As soon as local Neo-Nazis associate you with the youth center, it could happen that you are exposed to hostilities. This is supposed to intimidate members of the youth center.

The center discusses this with young people. Often, youth workers are running against a concrete wall. And all too often, they simply copy their parents. These were East-Germany’s Neo-Nazis of the 90s.

After the release of the Correctiv’s report, the youth center has networked with other youth centers as well as with the alliance Neustrelitz remains colorful.

Together, they organized a rally – for the first time. The center expected 150 participants. Yet, about 300 came and this was despite a railway strike, bad weather, and the presence of some local far-right thugs.

Sternebeck says, everyone can do something to keep the ball rolling. There is support for anti-fascist clubs. People share anti-AfD stories via online platforms. She is convinced that the protests will have a long-term effect. Meanwhile, the youth club is planning for a pride march in June. It would be a first.

Sternebeck and her group is no longer alone. By early 2024, well over 300 German-wide anti-AfD and anti-far-right rallies have taken place. All of them emerged after the secretive Neo-Nazi meeting that planned to deport millions of people from Germany.

The deportation meeting was organized by a nasty mixture of neo-fascists Identitarians, right-wing extremists, Neo-Nazis, and the AfD. After the secret Neo-Nazi-AfD meeting became public, the democratic side of Germany’s society started to gear up for a fight.

In the end, there appears to be three things that the aforementioned six examples have in common. These three elements get people to successfully mobilize against the threat to democracy.

Firstly, there needs to be a trigger. For many years, people have noticed the rise of right-wing extremists in Germany, including the AfD.

But only after their Nazi-style mass deportation plans were uncovered that people started to realize how dangerous Germany’s far-right and the AfD really are. So far, nothing comparable has occurred in Germany.

The only event that came close was last year’s Reichsbürger scandal and their plan for a military coup d’état to make Germany a dictatorship. Unlike the more recent exposure of the AfD’s forced deportation plan, the Reichsbürger’s idea to destroy democracy did not trigger similar mass protests comparable to those seen since January 2024.

So far, the ant-far-right mass rallies – in conjunction with the emergence of a new German political party (the BSW), have already halted the seemingly unstoppable rise of the AfD.

Germany’s newest public polling (early February) says that a whopping 79% of people support anti-far-right rallies. More importantly, 38% think that the protest has weakened the AfD. And indeed, the AfD has lost 3% popular support since the rallies started in January 2024.

Secondly, before people plan to mobilize for rallies and to take part in mass rallies against the far-right, they get together in small groups to plan the logistics of mass mobilization. The mobilization of others did not come from individuals but from individuals working with others. In short, it was a group affair.

Finally, the vital tool were the online platforms. These were used before Germany’s mass media started announcing dates and times of anti-AfD rallies. Via online platforms, these small groups announced their plans for anti-far-right rallies. In sum, and to be effective, the protests need to have these three things in place: a trigger, a small group, and the online platforms.

Thomas Klikauer is the author of over 950 publications including a book on Alternative für Deutschland: The AfDpublished by Liverpool University Press.


Support Countercurrents

Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B.
Become a Patron at Patreon

Join Our Newsletter


Join our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Get CounterCurrents updates on our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Related Posts

Does Europe Want A New Führer?

by Thomas Klikauer and Danny Antonelli A recent study revealed that there is an increasing desire for an authoritarian leader in Europe. As if Europe’s far-right, adjacent Neo-Nazis, and Europe’…

Germany’s Newest Far-Right Party

by Thomas Klikauer and Danny Antonelli Surrounded by menacing and bullish looking security guards, the former boss of the domestic intelligence agency BfV [a kind of west-German Stasi] and outspoken…

Anti-Far-Right Rallies in Germany

It appears as if Germany’s somewhat sleepy and largely depoliticized middle-class has woken up. Mass rallies against the far-right suddenly broke out as a secret meeting was uncovered; and, the…

Join Our Newsletter

Annual Subscription

Join Countercurrents Annual Fund Raising Campaign and help us

Latest News