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What kind of party is the AfD growing up to be?

Alan MacKenzie
December 5, 2018

The far-right AfD's deputy leader, Georg Pazderski, says his party rejects right-wing radicalism. But with the party's youth wing under surveillance and supporters marching alongside neo-Nazi activists, how true is that?

DW Conflict Zone | Interview mit Georg Pazderski (AfD)
Image: DW

Georg Pazderski on Conflict Zone

"There are certain people … who certainly use the party just to spread their hatred," a senior AfD politician has said.

Georg Pazderski, a member of the Berlin city parliament and a deputy leader of far-right Alternative for Germany party (known as the AfD), told DW he did not know whether these "certain people" were members of the party, but said "[w]e have to do something against that. That’s very clear."

On DW's top political interview show Conflict Zone, host Tim Sebastian confronted Pazderski over protests in Chemnitz in eastern Germany, where the AfD marched alongside neo-Nazi activists and far-right anti-immigrant party Pegida.

The AfD politician blamed organizers of the march, saying they "didn't look very deeply into it, how to organize a march" and that there was "no place" in the party "for right-wing extremism or Nazis … We are very strict on that."

Björn Höcke und Lutz Bachmann Chemnitz
Björn Höcke (centre), leader of the AfD in the German state of Thuringia, in Chemnitz, with Pegida leader Lutz Bachmann standing in the background. Pazderski told Conflict Zone that Bachmann was "no partner for the AfD" and "mistakes have been made."Image: picture alliance/dpa

But Pazderski said footage showing protestors chasing people who looked like foreigners was "fake news" circulated by people "trying to bring the AfD in a right-wing corner."

The fear button 

Founded as a Eurosceptic party in 2013, the AfD has found growing support across Germany for its anti-immigration platform following Angela Merkel's decision to allow mass immigration in 2015. Last year, the party won more than 90 seats in national elections and is now represented in every one of Germany's 16 regional parliaments.

But Pazderski denied that his party had pushed the fear button over migration.

"We have an increasing crime rate and we have an increasing rate of knife attacks in Germany. This is pure statistics and we see it and it's by migrants it's done. And this means that people have the feeling that Germany becomes more and more unsecure," he said.

Islam in Germany

Was Pazderski's party trying to turn the German public against Muslims? 

The Berlin politician said this was "nonsense." 

"The position of the AfD is very clear," said Pazderski. "We say the Islam doesn't belong to Germany but certainly Muslims belong to Germany."

Pazderski went on to say that the AfD wants to help those seeking asylum for religious or political reasons, but that migration to Germany and Europe was economic.

When confronted by Tim Sebastian over the party's slogans claiming some schools have only migrants as students and teachers were being beaten up, Pazderski said, "If you are reading German newspapers then you see that we really have a problem."

People reading German newspapers reporting on his own party leaders' comments may also see a problem.

In May, AfD co-leader Alice Weidel said in the parliament that the country's prosperity and welfare system would not be secured by "[b]urqas, girls in headscarves, knife-wielding men on government benefits and other good-for-nothing people."

Weidel was censured by Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble for her comments.

"I was not happy with that," said Pazderski on Weidel’s remarks. "But on the other hand, sometimes you have also to make very sharp statements just to describe what is going on."

In 2016, AfD co-leader Alexander Gauland said that while Germans might like black footballer Jerome Boateng – who was born in Berlin – on the pitch, they wouldn't want "a Boateng for a neighbor."

Pazderski said Gauland had "talked nonsense" with his comments, but accused host Tim Sebastian of trying to put his party in "a racist corner, to put us in a Nazi corner" as the media and political opponents have done, which "was in the past always a good means just to get rid of a new party."

Unruly youth

Concerns over the AfD's youth organization, the Junge Alternative (JA), and its connections to extremist groups have led AfD leaders to consider dissolving it altogether.

Several JA chapters are already under surveillance by security services and Pazderski himself has already suggested severing links with some or having more direct control.

Ex-AfD member: 'I was met with hate'

On Conflict Zone, Pazderski denied he and his AfD colleagues had let the youth wing get out of control.

"Certainly we have currently a problem with our youth organization, with parts, only with certain people of our youth organization," he said, and that the party was trying to find out what was going on before its board made a decision.

Franziska Schreiber, who quit the board of the JA, said half of all its youth members sympathized with the far-right Identitarian Movement as far back as 2014.

Pazderski said this attack was a result of Schreiber's failed ambition. "She was by herself very right-wing. And then she didn't make any career in the party and she left the party and now she is talking about how evil the party is."