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A history lesson with the AfD


How Oliver Kirchner reinterprets the history of democracy and dictatorship

On the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the Reichstag's approval of the Enabling Act, a topical debate took place today in the state parliament of Saxony-Anhalt. The AfD parliamentary group leader Oliver Kirchner used the rhetorical means and strategies that the AfD has used again and again since entering the state parliament in 2016: the interplay between provocation and a well-calculated breaking of taboos. In the process, ideology and the history of National Socialism are used again and again - from André Poggenburg's Christmas greetings to the "Volksgemeinschaft" to Kirchner's most recent use of a Goebbels quote.

Kirchner stated today, among other things, "In the end, it was your SPD where I was just waiting for the unvaccinated to have their citizenship revoked in the Corona crisis. After all, you had already taken away people's freedom at that time." Pandemic-related restrictions of the present are here placed in the context of the deprivation of liberty in the year of the Nazi "seizure of power" and the Nazi dictatorship. Kirchner suggests that the deprivation of citizenship, i.e., the expatriation of political and ideological opponents* practiced by the Nazis, was on the horizon of potential measures in the context of the Corona crisis. Such equation is deliberately implied but not explicitly stated.

For the AfD, the parallelization of today's political measures with the ruling practices of National Socialism fulfills two functions: First, it serves to relativize the totalitarian and terrorist character of Nazi rule and its political measures. On the other hand, the AfD uses it to present itself as the only remaining democratic force that would have the courage to contradict the Corona measures.

Kirchner proceeds similarly when he reads out the biographies of those SPD functionaries and elected officials in the parliamentary past of the old Federal Republic who had previously been NSDAP members. Kirchner thus places the SPD as a party in the continuity of National Socialism. At the same time, he presents the AfD as the only party without a Nazi past in order to morally legitimize its actions in the debate on the occasion of the commemoration of the passing of the Enabling Act and to stage it as the heir of the steadfast SPD Reichstag member Otto Wels. Consequently, Kirchner then makes the claim that Otto Wels would be a member of the AfD today - an ahistorical and brazen political presumption, especially in view of the fact that the AfD parliamentary group leader is known as an admirer of the anti-democrat Paul von Hindenburg.

Kirchner continues his production and locates the NSDAP in the political spectrum of the workers' movement - taking up well-known claims of the extreme right. He quotes Josef Goebbels, of all people, as supposed proof and thus triggers expected indignation in the plenum of the state parliament. Kirchner deliberately positions himself against all undisputed analyses of the anti-Marxist, anti-liberal and authoritarian character of National Socialism.

But that is not the end of the AfD's provocations in the tradition of right-wing extremism. Its parliamentary group leader also positions himself on the debate about commemoration and remembrance: "And we must also let the past pass once." With this, he refers to the historians' dispute that took place in 1986 under the motto "Past that will not pass. Past that will not pass." Here, Kirchner echoes his party's central demand for a "final line" in historical reappraisal. At the same time, he again places today's German state in a totalitarian tradition, accusing the Office for the Protection of the Constitution of using Gestapo and Stasi methods to monitor the AfD.

Conclusion for today: The AfD parliamentary group leader Oliver Kirchner takes the debate on the anniversary of the Enabling Act as a welcome opportunity to stage well-calculated taboo-breaking and provocations. The deliberate distortion of historical contexts as well as the moral and political presumption expressed in his speech are in the tradition of the practice of the first AfD parliamentary group in Saxony-Anhalt from 2016-2021, which under André Poggenburg literally staged taboo-breaking in order to polarize the public, to present the AfD as a democratic party, and to equate the practice of rule under National Socialism with today's political realities.