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‘Nazis out’: 250,000 Germans rage against far-right AfD's refugee policies

A huge crowd of people with banners and placards against racism and far-right politics take part in a protest against right extremism and the policy of Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, on January 17, 2024, in front of the main city hall of Berlin.

Around 250,000 people have taken to the streets across Germany after the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party discussed the expulsion of immigrants and “non-assimilated citizens” at a meeting with extremists.

According to the media, the protesters poured onto the streets in towns and cities across Germany including Frankfurt, Hanover, and Berlin on Saturday.

Video footage showed demonstrators holding signs reading “Fascism is not an alternative,” “Nazis out” and “humans rights instead of right-wing people.”

“I’m actually demonstrating for the first time in my life. Well, I myself find it threatening. I know stories from the Nazi era from my grandfather and I don't want that to happen again,” a 29 years old German protestor told AFP in a demonstration in Hamburg.  

The protests came after a January 10 report by investigative media outlet Correctiv revealed that members of Germany’s far-right AfD discussed mass deportation plans for immigrants and “non-assimilation citizens” at a meeting with extremists.

It also sparked debate on whether the anti-immigrant party should be banned.

Around 35,000 people joined the call, titled “Defend Democracy-Frankfurt against the AfD,” and marched through Frankfurt, Germany’s financial heartland, police said.

“Demonstrating against racism is a must for us because the development here in Germany has developed in such a way that racism occurs everywhere in Germany,” another German protester was quoted as saying

Another 30,000 turned out in the western city of Dortmund.

In total, demonstrations were held in around 100 locations across Germany from Friday through the weekend. ARD public television put the total turnout on Saturday at 250,000.

Politicians, churches, and Bundesliga coaches have urged people to stand up against the AfD policies.

News of the gathering cited by Correctiv sent shockwaves across Germany at a time when the far-right AfD party is soaring in opinion polls, just months ahead of three major regional elections in eastern Germany where their support is strongest.

Leading politicians including Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who joined a demonstration last weekend, said any plan to expel immigrants or citizens alike amounted to “an attack against our democracy, and in turn, on all of us.”

He urged “all to take a stand -- for cohesion, for tolerance, for our democratic German.”

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser also told newspapers of the Funke press group that the far-right meeting was reminiscent of “the horrible Wannsee conference,” where the Nazis planned the extermination of European Jews in 1942.

Friedrich Merz, the leader of the opposition conservatives CDU party, also wrote on X that it was “very encouraging that thousands of people are demonstrating peacefully against right-wing extremism.”

However, according to the Correctiv, two members of the hard-right faction Werteunion of the CDU were also at the meeting near Potsdam.

Amid the outrage over the Potsdam meeting, the Werteunion’s leader Hans-Georg Maassen said Saturday it had decided to split from the CDU.

As of November 2015, with the policies adopted by Angela Merkel, the former chancellor of Germany, there has been division and difference in policies between different parties in Germany with regard to immigration.

Various German media reports show that the opposition to the immigration policy in Germany is sharply increasing.

In recent months, by reviewing their asylum policies, European governments decided to increase the number of detention centers at their borders in order to control the migration influx further.

This decision was immediately criticized by rights groups describing the changes by EU member states as “dangerous” and “cruel.”

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