Although Europe has a reputation for being generally more receptive to liberal, progressive and left-wing ideas than the United States, Europe has its far right as well — including Marine Le Pen and the National Front in France, Hungarian President Viktor Orbán, Germany’s Alternative for Germany movement. And journalist Katrin Bennhold, in the New York Times, reports that the German far-right is finding inspiration in President Donald Trump.
Bennhold notes that when far-right agitators recently tried to storm the Bundestag (the German Parliament), a German woman chanted, “Trump is in Berlin!”
“Mr. Trump was neither in the embassy nor in Germany that day — and yet, there he was,” Bennhold explains. “His face was emblazoned on banners, t-shirts and even on Germany’s pre-1918 imperial flag, popular with neo-Nazis in the crowd of 50,000 who had come to protest Germany’s pandemic restrictions. His name was invoked by many with messianic zeal.”
That demonstration even echoed one of the top complaints of far-right Trump supporters in the U.S.: opposition to social distancing measures that have been enacted in response to the coronavirus pandemic — only instead of storming the state capital in Michigan and railing against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, they were in Berlin expressing their disdain for German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Bennhold points out that although Trump is “deeply unpopular among a broad majority of Germans,” the German far right is a major exception and admires his “unvarnished nationalism and tolerance of white supremacists, coupled with his skepticism of the pandemic’s dangers.” To make matters worse, the extremist QAnon cult has been gaining German converts.
“In Germany, as in the United States, Mr. Trump has become an inspiration to these fringe groups,” Bennhold observes. “Among them are not only long-established hard-right and neo-Nazi movements, but also, now followers of QAnon — the internet conspiracy theory popular among some of Mr. Trump’s supporters in the United States that hails him as a hero and liberator. Germany’s QAnon community, barely existent when the pandemic first hit in March, may now be the biggest outside the United States along with Britain, analysts who track its most popular online channels say.”
Matthias Quent, director of Germany’s Institute for Democracy and Civil Society (das Institut für Demokratie und Zivilgesellschaft in German) told the Times that Germany is seeing the “Trumpification of the German far right.”
“Trump has managed to attract different milieus, and that’s what we’re seeing here, too,” Quent observed. “We have everything from anti-vaxxers to neo-Nazis marching against corona measures. The common denominator is that it’s people who are quitting the mainstream, who are raging against the establishment.”