1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Germany's far-right AfD under mounting pressure

May 14, 2024

Two court rulings this week have dealt a blow to the Alternative for Germany party (AfD). Pressure is now mounting for the party to be banned.

Björn Höcke entering a stage against an AfD logo backdrop
The far-right AfD party has suffered two defeats in court this weekImage: Michael Reichel/dpa/picture alliance

The debate about a possible ban on the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) never really went away, but it is once again getting louder. That's because the Münster Higher Administrative Court (OVG) has on Monday rejected a complaint by the party against its classification by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) as a suspected right-wing extremist case. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution is the domestic intelligence service.

On Tuesday, a court ruled against Thuringian AfD leader Björn Höcke for allegedly using a slogan from the paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party, the Storm Troopers (Sturmabteilung). The graduate historian and former history teacher denies knowing the origin of the banned slogan "Alles für Deutschland" (Everything for Germany).

Höcke was fined €13,000 ($14,060) which is to go to a grassroots anti-extremism program.

In his closing statement, Höcke complained about the far-reaching restrictions on freedom of opinion in Germany. "I have the feeling of being a politically persecuted person," he said.

Höcke is the top candidate for state elections in Thuringia later this year and is leading in the polls.

How much do neo-Nazi views influence Germany's AfD?

AfD is classified as extremist in some states

"Now the prospects of success for a procedure to ban [the party] must be examined in concrete terms," commented Saxony's justice minister Katja Meier, of the Green Party, on the court ruling regarding the classification of the AfD. In Saxony and Thuringia, the party has already been classified as "confirmed as right-wing extremist" — more than just a suspected case.

Following the AfD's defeat in court, Saxon member of parliament Marco Wanderwitz of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) announced that he would initiate a motion in the German Bundestag to ban the party. The Christian Democrat explained his initiative to the German weekly paper Die Zeit, stating that the party could no longer be kept at bay by political means, especially in eastern Germany.

Despite the legal setbacks, the AfD looks set to become the strongest political force in elections in three eastern federal states in September.

Hendrik Cremer from the German Institute for Human Rights in Berlin has long warned against underestimating the AfD. His book about the party, published in February, is titled "The longer we remain silent, the more courage we will need." With this, the lawyer said, he wanted to express how dangerous he considers the AfD to be.

The AfD's goals are underreported in the traditional media, Cremer told DW. "The willingness to use violence is often omitted. It must therefore become much, much clearer which course the party is taking. It needs to be called what it is," he said.

Germany's AfD classified as potential threat to democracy

Revealing AfD chats 

Cremer sees an increasing radicalization of the party that has been going on for years. He pointed to fantasies of violence shared in AfD chat groups which numerous members of the state and federal parliaments were a part of. In these forums, ruling politicians were derided as "criminals," with one post reading: "Without an overthrow and revolution, we will no longer achieve a change of course here."

"In my view, the next step should also be taken: namely to classify the entire AfD as a right-wing extremist movement," Cremer said.

He warned against cooperating with the AfD on any political level. The "firewall" against the AfD invoked by all other parties already has holes in it, Cremer argued, adding that this is particularly evident at the local level. "However, it is absolutely necessary, and the basic prerequisite for being able to effectively counter the AfD at all."

The longtime AfD observer said he found it difficult to understand any doubts in a successful procedure to ban the party, so long as the application for such a move was carefully examined and submitted. His book on the AfD ends like this: "It is high time that society recognized the danger posed by the AfD. It is not yet too late. But time is running out."

This article was originally written in German.

While you're here: Every Tuesday, DW editors round up what is happening in German politics and society. You can sign up here for the weekly email newsletter Berlin Briefing.

Marcel Fürstenau
Marcel Fürstenau Berlin author and reporter on current politics and society.