It was another political rally of the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany party, this one last week in the eastern German town of Merseburg near Halle.
It drew just 450 people in a city of more than 35,000, according to a reporter from the local newspaper Mitteldeutsche Zeitung. They looked like many AfD followers – retirees in dark parkas, young neo-Nazis in leather coats, middle-class citizens obviously not bothered to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with right-wing extremists.
Throughout the program, the party supporters bellowed popular AfD slogans like “Lügenpresse” (lying press) and “Volksverräter” (betrayers of the state) and demands like Chancellor Angela “Merkel needs to go.”
They came to hear the outspoken AfD member Björn Höcke, head of the party in the neighboring state of Thuringia. His rhetoric on this cold evening was also toned down. He spoke of the need of the “German people to feel safe in their own country” and of the future of the country being at risk “by the illegal immigration of an historical dimension.”
Earlier in the week, at a party demonstration in Erfurt, the 43-year-old Mr. Höcke said Germany was being “governed by idiots” and that Ms. Merkel needed to be put into a “straightjacket.”