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An homage to populism sounds a lot like Hitler

Source: Imago [M]

Two historians of the Nazi period say an op ed by a right-wing populist paraphrases a speech Hitler gave in 1933.

Alexander Gauland, co-leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany, penned a piece for the Frankfurter Allgemeine, a conservative daily, about the causes of populism. He described an elitist, globalized business and political class that enjoys privileges while the middle class and those on lower incomes suffer from international competition and immigration. It’s a colorful jibe at the English speakers he describes as detached and egotistical, stuck in their own bubble as they glide from Berlin to London to Singapore, indifferent to the places where they live. And, he says, that place, valued by those who live there and cannot move away, is being taken away by migration.

The piece seems to echo a speech by Hitler in Siemensstadt, a working-class Berlin neighborhood. Hitler spoke of a rootless, international clique that’s at home nowhere and anywhere, in contrast to the people, who are chained to their homeland and can’t flit between Vienna and Berlin, London and Prague. The FAZ article is a modern version of this speech, say two historians of the Nazi period, Michael Wolffsohn and Wolfgang Benz. They say it’s as if the speech were lying there on Mr. Gauland’s desk as he wrote for the FAZ. Not so much plagiarism as paraphrasing.

Mr. Gauland’s article drew an angry response from Sigmar Gabriel, the former leader of the Social Democrats. In a piece for the Tagesspiegel, a left-leaning Berlin daily with which Handelsblatt Global shares an owner (and office building), Mr. Gabriel says the only difference between the Hitler speech and Mr. Gauland’s FAZ piece is that he targets democrats rather than Jews.

Mr. Gauland has since denied he modeled his text on Hitler’s. But conservative CDU politicians (among others) are ditching their FAZ subscriptions. Mr. Gauland’s timing isn’t accidental – there are elections in Bavaria this Sunday and in Hesse at the end of the month. The AfD is a political chameleon and we’re seeing it morph from a party of business professors to a spurious ethno-socialism. We’re going to see this party rise: It wants to be a people’s party and while Germany’s economy is strong, there are plenty of people who aren’t benefiting.

The family of German murder victim Sophia Lösche is fighting back after she was murdered by a Moroccan truck driver. Far-right demonstrators have used her portrait on signs during anti-immigrant rallies as a “victim of forced multiculturalism.” But it isn’t true: she was killed by a man driving through Germany who worked for a Moroccan logistics company and who lives in Morocco. He isn’t an immigrant. Many compared the story to the instrumentalization of Mollie Tibbetts, who was killed in the US, allegedly by a Mexican immigrant. Conservative politicians there have used Ms. Tibbets’s death to justify tougher immigration policies even though she was opposed to xenophobia and racism. Both the Lösche family and Tibbets have asked that their deaths not be instrumentalized. Ms. Lösche’s family is fighting back in the courts, with some success. “We stand firm,” her brother has written.

The Frankfurt book fair has opened and it should be better news than it is: Germany’s book market is the world’s third-biggest behind the US and China. Germans spend the most on books per capita in the world. But even the land of thinkers isn’t immune to the seductions of ever-better series on telly. Frank-Walter Steinmeier is talking with authors today about the basis of a free society in stormy times, and other events address press freedom.

Other parts of Germany are fretting about Brexit and if it were a song, German industry would sing, “Don’t leave me this way.” (I can’t survive…) More specifically, an industry association fears a Brexit that would disrupt supplies because many German factories in the UK depend on deliveries from the continent. They might have to shut down. And cumbersome customs processing would thwart the just-in-time business model of many factories. Meanwhile, Brits are busy fretting over whether a non-working royal will marry in a horse-drawn carriage.

Sigh? Cry? Or one last thing, and if it feels like I have you by the lapels and am ranting in your spittle-flecked face, then apologies. Lunch is just around the corner. But Berlin. Dude. What were you thinking? Yesterday Germany lobbied for less restrictive EU emissions targets on the very same day Berlin was forced to ban diesel cars on some thoroughfares. Germany said a 30 percent reduction from 1990 levels was fine while the EU wants 45 percent. And were we the only ones who also saw the report yesterday that suggested 3 million homes in Germany could be flooded as sea levels rise? Deutschland? I’m calling it Dieselland.

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