Germany’s far-right AfD disbands youth groups over police surveillance

He said that his decision was “completely detached” from the violent nationalist marches which swept through the eastern city of Chemnitz last week, but rather based on “a not insignificant ideological and personal overlap” between the regional branches of the AfD and the violent, extremist Identitarian movement, a fringe group similar to the Sovereign Citizen movement in the United States.

Bremen’s interior minister, Ulrich Mäurer, said that he had already commissioned a review of the JA group in the city last year, the final draft of which had been presented to him last week.

These people have dropped their masks several times in the recent past, parts of the messages in this group are pure racism,” Mäurer said.

DW reports that in Bremen, police carried out a search recently over incitement to hatred allegations against a JA member.

Identitäre Bewegung (the Identitarian movement) was established in France and Austria on social media, and the German chapter has been founded in 2012. The movement opposes “uncontrolled mass immigration” – warning of the “loss of [German] identity through foreign infiltration.” The group says that the solution to the danger immigration poses to German identity is “reinen Bevölkerungstausch” (pure population exchange). The German domestic intelligence service said that approximately 400 members of the Identitäre Bewegung are currently under surveillance. Members of the group engaged in violence against Muslim outside Mosques and, more recently, attacked Muslims migrants. The Identity movement is close to Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), which was founded in February 2013 as a reaction to the EU’s approach to immigration.

The revelations that regional branches of the AfD were under intelligence surveillance came at a time when all the mainstream parties in Germany have been calling for the BfV to monitor the AfD for extremist tendencies, particularly in light of right-wing violence in Chemnitz over the last two weekends.

Andreas Kalbitz, the top AfD politician from the state of Brandenburg and one of six sharing the title of “chairman” at a national level, accused the mainstream parties of trying to start an anti-AfD panic.

The call for the AfD to be observed by the BfV is more than a desperate act by the helpless older parties. We’re seeing the desire for an abuse of power unmatched in reunified Germany,” Kalbitz said in a press release.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said that what the BfV investigates is “not a political decision, they are decisions based on facts.”

Merkel said that she had heard from regional leaders that there were individual actions that needed to be monitored, and that the situation would be handled the same way on the federal level.

Current polls show that the AfD has the support of about 16 or 17 percent of Germans nationwide, but research institute Civey’s research also found that a clear majority of Germans approve of the BfV monitoring the AfD and its ties to violent extremists.

Thomas Oppermann, vice president of the German Bundestag, said that surveillance of the AfD was necessary to show “how the AfD and the neo-Nazis cooperate.”

DW notes that Germany’s domestic intelligence service, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, or BfV, is charged with collecting and analyzing information on:

1. Efforts directed against the free democratic basic order or against the existence and the security of the federation or one of its states

2. Intelligence activities carried out on behalf of a foreign power

3. Efforts jeopardizing foreign interests of the Federal Republic of Germany by the use of violence or the preparation thereof

4. Efforts directed against the idea of international understanding, especially against the peaceful coexistence of peoples

For the most part, information is gathered in two ways.

1. By open, generally accessible sources, including newspapers, flyers, programs and public events

2. By the use of intelligence means including the handling of individuals recruited from the extremist scene, covert surveillance, and, if necessary, mail and telephone interception, which is subject to authorization

The German federal government said that, so far, it has seen no case for imposing surveillance on the AfD as a whole. Rather, surveillance decisions on different regional branches of the AfD is made based on the involvement of AfD members in these branches with neo-Nazi and other extremist movements.

The BfV keeps several groups on the far-right under close surveillance, among them Die Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschland - NPD (The National Democratic Party of Germany), Widerstand West (Resistance West), Pro Bewegung (Pro-movement), Anti-Antifa (Anti-Antifascist movement), Die Republikaner (The Republicans), The Right, and Der III. Weg (The Third Way).

Two attempts by the federal government – in 2003 and 2016 — to declare the openly neo-Nazi NPD banned have failed.

The BfV monitors not only right-wing extremists, but left-wing extremists as well. For years, the BfV has been monitoring what the agency calls “openly extremist structures” on the far-left, including the Marxist Forum (MF), the Anti-Capitalist Left (AKL), and the Communist Platform (KPF).