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German authorities set sights on youth wing of far-right AfD

  • April 26, 2023

For the last four years, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence service, has been monitoring the youth organization of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) more intensively than ever.

The group has long been considered suspicious, as members continued to show signs of increasing radicalization – inciting hatred against refugees and migrants, propagating an ethno-nationalist view of German society, and promoting the idea that Germans who are part of immigrant communities are second-class citizens.

This is why the Young Alternative (JA) has been upgraded to what the BfV calls a “certified right-wing extremist endeavor.”

German authorities have tried several times to ban the nationalist NPDImage: Ole Spata/dpa/picture alliance

Increased surveillance

BfV President Thomas Haldenwang justified the decision by saying the group is spreading hateful content online that, for example, promoted violence against minorities.

At the same time as JA, far-right think tank Institut für Staatspolitik (“Institute for State Politics,” IfS) and a network known as “One Percent” were also classified as extremist. This allows for increased surveillance from law enforcement on group members, including monitoring their electronic communications.

Haldenwang explained that the decision was made because the BfV not only focuses on potentially violent extremists, but “also keeps an eye on groups of people who constantly spread ideologies that violate human dignity as well as democracy.” The first line of Germany’s constitution, or Basic Law, is “Human dignity shall be inviolable.”

According to the BfV’s reasoning, the three groups are actively trying to normalize ethno-nationalist ideology that excludes everyone but white native-born Germans from society. Beyond the increased surveillance, the only higher step German authorities can take is an outright ban on all three organizations.

Joerg Meuthen
The departure of former AfD leader Jörg Meuthen signaled a further shift to the right for manyImage: Stefan Boness/Ipon/imago images

Bans prove difficult

Germany’s Federal Interior Ministry has banned several far-right extremist organizations in the past, but a blanket ban on an established political party has always proven more difficult. Several attempts to ban the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) have floundered in the past due to various legal technicalities, on one occasion because it was established that the party was riven with informers.

Nevertheless, classifying the JA as an extremist organization sends a powerful signal. Since March 2022, the BfV has been surveilling the entire AfD for suspicious activity. The party has unsuccessfully appealed being put under such strict monitoring, which began after former co-leader Jörg Meuthen stepped down.

Meuthen stepped down in part, he said, because the party had departed from democratic principles. This view has long been shared by the BfV, who now considers the JA even more dangerous than the party that created it. The agency argues that the JA is violating the Basic Law by calling into question the human rights of who they consider to be non-ethnically German.

In particular, the JA targets immigrants who are Muslim or who they perceive to be Muslim, accusing them of being violent criminals. According to the BfV, however, the JA’s behavior goes far beyond sharing racist memes online. They suspect that the group is actively trying to subvert the state and disrupt German democracy – for this reason, they will continue to be watched as closely as possible.

This article was originally written in German.

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