The Germans Have Learned Nothing and Forgotten Nothing*

In 1933, Hitler became Chancellor of Germany because the mainstream parties were unwilling to make common cause with the left.

Now discover that the German Christian Democrats are cutting deals with the Fascist AfD because they are unwilling to make common cause with the left, specifically die Linke:

Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats have prided themselves on the strict cordon sanitaire they built around the far-right Alternative for Germany — ruling out any co-operation or contact. Many now wonder whether it is time for the barrier to come down.

Events of the past week, where a local row over dealings with the AfD culminated in national leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer deciding to quit, have shown just how consequential the CDU’s attitude to the far-right has become.


This month’s upheaval was sparked in Thuringia, where the CDU sided with the AfD in the eastern state’s parliament to elect a little-known politician as prime minister. He was the first regional leader in post-war German history brought to power with the support of the populist right.

 It was also a startling rebuff to Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer, who had warned the Thuringian branch of the party not to vote alongside the AfD. Her authority in tatters, she announced on Monday that she would step down as CDU chairwoman and abandon her campaign to succeed Ms Merkel as chancellor.

Since then more CDU politicians have come forward to criticise the party’s anti-AfD fatwa. Raymond Walk, secretary-general of the CDU in Thuringia, described it as a “straitjacket” and demanded a rethink.


In Germany, the issue is even more emotional. Any discussion of a possible tie-up between CDU and AfD is overlaid with memories of the Nazi era and of how mainstream conservative parties facilitated Adolf Hitler’s rise to power.


The AfD itself, which is the largest opposition party in the Bundestag, with 89 seats, has strongly criticised the CDU’s cordon sanitaire. Alice Weidel, leader of the AfD group in the German parliament, has called such “rejectionism” “foolish and deeply undemocratic”.

But for most in the CDU, the AfD, with its stridently anti-Islam and anti-immigration tone and its revisionist views of Germany’s 20th century history, is beyond the pale. Its Thuringian branch, led by the right-wing radical Björn Höcke, presents a particular problem: a court in the state ruled last year that Mr Höcke could legally be termed a “fascist”, saying such a designation “rests on verifiable fact”.

The CDU’s problems are compounded by the equally strict firewall it has constructed around another radical party — the hard-left Die Linke, which has its roots in the East German communist party.


Ms Prien pointed to the CDU’s refusal to back Thuringia’s previous prime minister, Bodo Ramelow, a relatively moderate trade unionist from Die Linke. By boycotting him, the party had in effect equated him with Mr Höcke.

Ms Prien insisted she was a “committed anti-Communist”, but to put “a respectable prime minister like Bodo Ramelow on a par with someone like Mr Höcke is a political and historical distortion”.

Germany in general, and the CDU in particular, seem determined to recreate the conditions which led to the rise of the Nazis in the 1930s, whether it is its insistence on austerity, or its refusal to deal with the non-racist left.

This will not end well.

*Once again, though this quote is frequently attributed to Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, but he almost certainly did not create the quote.

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