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The far-right Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany or AfD) political party has increased in popularity across Germany on anti-immigrant and anti-Islam platforms. The party blames immigrants in general and Muslim immigrants in particular for weakening the German culture and way of life.* The party's manifesto declares forthrightly that “Islam does not belong to Germany.”* In Germany's September 2017 parliamentary elections, AfD became the third largest political party in the German parliament.*

A group of economists established AfD in 2013 out of concern that the European Union's economic policies were weakening Germany's economy. In 2014, AfD won 10 percent of the vote in local elections in the German state of Saxony. Co-founder Bernd Lucke quit in July 2015, declaring that the party had become xenophobic. Later that month, Frauke Petry took over as the party's leader and shifted its focus from economics to immigration.* In 2016, Petry stated her belief that German police should, “if necessary,” shoot at illegal immigrants trying to enter Germany, and AfD deputy leader Alexander Gauland stated that most Germans “wouldn't want to live next door” to German soccer player Jérôme Boateng because his father is Ghanaian.* That June, German Deputy Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel labeled the AfD as xenophobic and compared its positions to those of the Nazi party. At the time, the AfD was represented in eight out of 16 of Germany's state assemblies.*

AfD has specifically targeted Islam. The party's 2016 Manifesto for Germany denigrated Islam as foreign to Germany society and called for its restriction. It sought to distinguish between “law-abiding and well-integrated” Muslims in Germany who are “accepted and valued members” of German society and Islam as a whole, which “does not belong to Germany.”* The manifesto further condemned the “ever-increasing number of Muslims in the country…as a danger to our state, our society, and our values.”*

Although Petry shifted AfD's focus from economics to immigration, the party has maintained its belief that the European Union has been economically detrimental to Germany. According to AfD's 2016 Manifesto for Germany, the core treaties of the European Union have undermined Germany's sovereignty. AfD accuses a “small and powerful elite within the political parties” of controlling Germany's government and ceding power to the European Union.* Much like its anti-immigration stance, AfD's aversion to the European Union suggests an overarching fear of the deterioration of the German identity.

While AfD's rhetoric has largely focused on Islam, the group has also targeted Germany's Jewish community. AfD has rejected ritual circumcision—practiced by both religious communities—as a “serious violation of fundamental rights.”* In a January 2017 address to an AfD youth group, senior AfD leader Björn Höcke condemned Germany's ongoing commemorations of the Holocaust and called for “a 180-degree reversal on the politics of remembrance.”*

Petry resigned from the party shortly after the September 2017 elections because of concerns over “how the AfD is likely to develop.”* Following AfD's third-place victory in Germany's September 2017 elections, AfD remained outside the governing coalition, making it Germany's main opposition party.* In June 2018, a poll in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper recorded a 16 percent approval for AfD, its highest rating ever in the newspaper's poll. The poll came as the governing coalition faced a crisis over immigration policies.*

In March 2020, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency labeled the AfD faction known as Flügel (“wing”) as a threat to the country’s democratic order. The agency, Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV), also announced that it would place Flügel under systematic surveillance, allowing the BfV to recruit informants, keep personal data on file, and monitor phone calls.* The head of AfD in the German state of Thuringia, Björn Höcke, leads the extremist wing. Flügel commands strong support in eastern Germany and has an estimated 7,000 members, representing approximately 20 percent of AfD’s overall membership.* According to a BfV official, the increased scrutiny comes as the faction is believed to be uniting far-right extremist groups, including neo-Nazis, and coordinating online.* On March 20, 2020, AfD’s executive committee voted to dissolve Flügel by April 30, 2020, fearing the faction could bring increased scrutiny to the entire party.* In May, AfD co-chair Jörg Meuthen pressured AfD’s central committee to annul the membership of Flügel leader Andreas Kalbitz. Meuthen has since faced rebuke from AfD members for calling for a division between the western and eastern factions in order to separate out the far right. In June 2020, Meuthen called for a “firewall” against far-right extremism in AfD.*

European Ethno-Nationalist and White Supremacy Groups

AfD was founded by Bernd Lucke, Alexander Gauland, and Konrad Adam.* AfD is co-chaired by Jörg Meuthen and Tino Chrupalla.* Björn Höcke leads AfD’s Flügel faction.*

Germany

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube

As of March 2020, AfD reportedly had 35,000 members across Germany.* In Germany's September 2017 parliamentary elections, AfD won 92 out of 631 seats to become Germany's third-largest political party in parliament.* In February 2018, German Prime Minister Angela Merkel signed a coalition agreement between her conservative Christian Democrats party and the center-left Social Democrats, making AfD Germany's main opposition party.*

AfD's propaganda focuses on the restoration of German culture and sovereignty, both of which the party believes have been weakened by an influx of immigrants and the open-border and economic policies of the European Union. Its plans to restore German sovereignty and restrict Islam in Germany are outlined in its 2016 Manifesto for Germany.*

The AfD maintains a social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. As of June 29, 2020, AfD had 501,726 likes on Facebook and more than 160,000 followers on Twitter. The AfD’s Twitter page posts in German while its Facebook page posts in German and English.* AfD’s YouTube channel had more than 82,200 subscribers as of June 29, 2020, compared with 33,812 as of March 19, 2019. The channel hosted more than 542 videos that had drawn more than 21 million views, an increase of more than 16 million since March, 19 2019.* AfD’s Instagram account had more than 83,000 followers in June 2020.*

AfD is not linked to specific acts of violence.

Bernd Lucke
Alexander Gauland
Konrad Adam
Jörg Meuthen

Introduction

The far-right Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany or AfD) political party has increased in popularity across Germany on anti-immigrant and anti-Islam platforms. The party blames immigrants in general and Muslim immigrants in particular for weakening the German culture and way of life.* The party's manifesto declares forthrightly that “Islam does not belong to Germany.”* In Germany's September 2017 parliamentary elections, AfD became the third largest political party in the German parliament.*

A group of economists established AfD in 2013 out of concern that the European Union's economic policies were weakening Germany's economy. In 2014, AfD won 10 percent of the vote in local elections in the German state of Saxony. Co-founder Bernd Lucke quit in July 2015, declaring that the party had become xenophobic. Later that month, Frauke Petry took over as the party's leader and shifted its focus from economics to immigration.* In 2016, Petry stated her belief that German police should, “if necessary,” shoot at illegal immigrants trying to enter Germany, and AfD deputy leader Alexander Gauland stated that most Germans “wouldn't want to live next door” to German soccer player Jérôme Boateng because his father is Ghanaian.* That June, German Deputy Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel labeled the AfD as xenophobic and compared its positions to those of the Nazi party. At the time, the AfD was represented in eight out of 16 of Germany's state assemblies.*

AfD has specifically targeted Islam. The party's 2016 Manifesto for Germany denigrated Islam as foreign to Germany society and called for its restriction. It sought to distinguish between “law-abiding and well-integrated” Muslims in Germany who are “accepted and valued members” of German society and Islam as a whole, which “does not belong to Germany.”* The manifesto further condemned the “ever-increasing number of Muslims in the country…as a danger to our state, our society, and our values.”*

Although Petry shifted AfD's focus from economics to immigration, the party has maintained its belief that the European Union has been economically detrimental to Germany. According to AfD's 2016 Manifesto for Germany, the core treaties of the European Union have undermined Germany's sovereignty. AfD accuses a “small and powerful elite within the political parties” of controlling Germany's government and ceding power to the European Union.* Much like its anti-immigration stance, AfD's aversion to the European Union suggests an overarching fear of the deterioration of the German identity.

While AfD's rhetoric has largely focused on Islam, the group has also targeted Germany's Jewish community. AfD has rejected ritual circumcision—practiced by both religious communities—as a “serious violation of fundamental rights.”* In a January 2017 address to an AfD youth group, senior AfD leader Björn Höcke condemned Germany's ongoing commemorations of the Holocaust and called for “a 180-degree reversal on the politics of remembrance.”*

Petry resigned from the party shortly after the September 2017 elections because of concerns over “how the AfD is likely to develop.”* Following AfD's third-place victory in Germany's September 2017 elections, AfD remained outside the governing coalition, making it Germany's main opposition party.* In June 2018, a poll in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper recorded a 16 percent approval for AfD, its highest rating ever in the newspaper's poll. The poll came as the governing coalition faced a crisis over immigration policies.*

In March 2020, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency labeled the AfD faction known as Flügel (“wing”) as a threat to the country’s democratic order. The agency, Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV), also announced that it would place Flügel under systematic surveillance, allowing the BfV to recruit informants, keep personal data on file, and monitor phone calls.* The head of AfD in the German state of Thuringia, Björn Höcke, leads the extremist wing. Flügel commands strong support in eastern Germany and has an estimated 7,000 members, representing approximately 20 percent of AfD’s overall membership.* According to a BfV official, the increased scrutiny comes as the faction is believed to be uniting far-right extremist groups, including neo-Nazis, and coordinating online.* On March 20, 2020, AfD’s executive committee voted to dissolve Flügel by April 30, 2020, fearing the faction could bring increased scrutiny to the entire party.* In May, AfD co-chair Jörg Meuthen pressured AfD’s central committee to annul the membership of Flügel leader Andreas Kalbitz. Meuthen has since faced rebuke from AfD members for calling for a division between the western and eastern factions in order to separate out the far right. In June 2020, Meuthen called for a “firewall” against far-right extremism in AfD.*

Leadership

AfD was founded by Bernd Lucke, Alexander Gauland, and Konrad Adam.* AfD is co-chaired by Jörg Meuthen and Tino Chrupalla.* Björn Höcke leads AfD’s Flügel faction.*

  • Bernd Lucke

  • Alexander Gauland

  • Konrad Adam

  • Jörg Meuthen

Base of Operations

Germany

Membership Size and Relevance

As of March 2020, AfD reportedly had 35,000 members across Germany.* In Germany's September 2017 parliamentary elections, AfD won 92 out of 631 seats to become Germany's third-largest political party in parliament.* In February 2018, German Prime Minister Angela Merkel signed a coalition agreement between her conservative Christian Democrats party and the center-left Social Democrats, making AfD Germany's main opposition party.*

Recruitment and Propaganda

AfD's propaganda focuses on the restoration of German culture and sovereignty, both of which the party believes have been weakened by an influx of immigrants and the open-border and economic policies of the European Union. Its plans to restore German sovereignty and restrict Islam in Germany are outlined in its 2016 Manifesto for Germany.*

The AfD maintains a social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. As of June 29, 2020, AfD had 501,726 likes on Facebook and more than 160,000 followers on Twitter. The AfD’s Twitter page posts in German while its Facebook page posts in German and English.* AfD’s YouTube channel had more than 82,200 subscribers as of June 29, 2020, compared with 33,812 as of March 19, 2019. The channel hosted more than 542 videos that had drawn more than 21 million views, an increase of more than 16 million since March, 19 2019.* AfD’s Instagram account had more than 83,000 followers in June 2020.*

Violent Activities

AfD is not linked to specific acts of violence.

Rhetoric