Opinion: The nationalist AfD′s nonexistent German ′normal′ | Opinion | DW | 11.04.2021

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Opinion: The nationalist AfD's nonexistent German 'normal'

The Alternative for Germany has spent the weekend determining what a restoration of "normal" would look like. The party's aggressive program is a danger to Germany, DW's Hans Pfeifer writes.

Masked AfD members sit under the party's Germany. But normal slogan in Dresden

The AfD spent the weekend determining what "normal" would mean for Germany

In the latest commercial for the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, a bearded garden gnome in a pointy hat is standing on a flowery lawn. "Normal is a homeland," a voice intones, "and secure borders."

Releasing its election program and first campaign ad at the party's congress over the weekend, the AfD has begun its 2021 Bundestag effort in earnest under the slogan: "Germany. But normal."

Hans Pfeifer

DW's Hans Pfeifer

The AfD is advertising what it sees as a German norm or normality. The video features grandparents hugging children, a laughing family at the dinner table, happy schoolkids, a small dog — and the garden gnome. In summary, it is an ode to what the AfD considers a certain German nostalgia: During a time of pandemic and the exceptional circumstances it has required, the party is offering to restore an imagined ideal.

However, more telling is what the AfD highlights as a contrast to normal. The video shows cafes closed to slow the transmission of the coronavirus, burning barricades at protests, antifascists, a pale young women demonstrating against climate change. According to the ad, these are not normal: They are not German. The pandemic policies of the federal government, the left and environmental activists are the enemies of the nation. 

Defining the 'non-Germans'

Behind the facade of German normality that the AfD is offering in its ad, there is a project to remake society. That's not in the video, but it was on ample display at the party congress in Dresden over the weekend.

Under the AfD's election program, being German will once again be a matter of heritage. With that, the party would ideologically declare hundreds of thousands of Germans to be "non-Germans." Immigration will be effectively made impossible — only open to people who bring €5 million ($5.95 million) to the country. People with anything less will be permitted to enter as "gastarbeiter," or guest workers, a loaded term that recalls a recent history of reducing large swaths of society to second-class citizens.

The AfD would like to wall Germany off, to isolate it off from debates about gender-neutral language and equality for LGBTQ+ people — and also to literally close it off with a new border fence. ("Fence" is the term of choice because "wall" has a traditionally negative association in Germany.)

Withdrawing from world

The party is repeating its call for Germany to withdraw from the EU and stop using the euro. The AfD might as well pitch its approach as "Germany first," to borrow from the defeated US President Donald Trump's views on diplomacy and international security.

It is a long agenda. Should the AfD win, the party would deport hundreds of thousands of people — even those who come from countries that might be too dangerous to return to, such as active war zones. If a child arrives alone and is granted asylum status, the AfD would ensure that the child remains in Germany alone, a large majority of members have decided, voting to endorse an end to refugees reunifying with their families. 

The AfD would also allow for trying children as young as 12 as adults. But otherwise, the party is otherwise mostly not concerned with matters of law and justice. Björn Höcke, the leader of the AfD's most extreme faction, formerly known as the Wing, had made clear that party must send a political message and cannot allow itself to be concerned with law as it currently is.

After all, the AfD is only interested in law and justice when they do not stand in the way. This is exactly what makes the party a danger to Germany.

The AfD is extremely unlikely to install the next chancellor, nor would it be invited to form a coalition with other German parties following the elections for the Bundestag in September. But, sometime in the near future, the AfD could become the strongest party in the state of Saxony-Anhalt: For that alone, its extreme stance must be taken seriously.

In the AfD's view, the friendly German garden gnome is the answer to the menaces of a globalized world. What the AfD apparently doesn't get is that the German garden gnome is also an immigrant. He comes from Turkey, where workers used the ornaments to ward off evil spirits in the mountains of eastern Anatolia 800 years ago, and was eventually brought here by Italian traders. That's human history: What was foreign yesterday is typically German tomorrow. The world moves. It changes.

But that's nothing to worry about. It's normal.

This article has been translated from German.