“Achtung Fake News.”
This was the response by Germany’s foreign ministry to a series of tweets and Facebook posts issued by Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany party over the weekend, alleging that a travel warning had been issued for Sweden.
“A serious travel warning applies, effective since March 1,” tweeted Berlin’s regional AfD offices, linking to the German foreign ministry’s travel information on Sweden.
The response from the German foreign ministry was unequivocal: “There is no travel warning for Sweden,” they wrote on both Twitter and Facebook, explaining that current travel and safety alerts for Sweden are simply notifications of Sweden’s own terror level assessment.
The ministry further pointed out that since March 2016, Sweden has actually downgraded its terror assessment from “high risk” to “increased danger.”
“We apologize if that sounds less interesting,” they added sarcastically.
In their respective posts and tweets, both the AfD and the German foreign ministry used the hashtag #lastnightinsweden, which was initially created to mock U.S. president Donald Trump’s false claim of a terror attack made during a rally in Florida on February 19.
Since then, however, right-wing populists on social media, and the AfD in particular, have increasingly attempted to reclaim the hashtag by linking it to alleged crimes committed by foreigners in Sweden.
This appears to be part of a larger strategy of provocation employed by the AfD, who have nevertheless seen a significant drop in poll numbers recently from 15 to 10 percent.
Experts partially attribute the party’s slump to the recent controversy created by soon-to-be ex-AfD leader Björn Höcke. In a speech given at an AfD youth rally on January 17, the former history teacher and regional AfD leader in the state of Thuringia called Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe a “monument of shame” and demanded that Germany needed to end its “culture of remembering Nazi crimes.”
In response, the AfD has narrowly voted to expel Mr. Höcke – a decision he is appealing.
Elsewhere, a few weeks later on February 8, fellow AfD party member and representative in Saxony, André Wendt, sent a letter to the regional parliament inquiring about the costs of sterilizing refugees, as well as medical and insurance costs for unaccompanied minors and pregnant asylum seekers.
Only time will tell if the party’s extremist antics will cost them more voters than they gain. Federal elections in Germany will be held on September 24.