For the first time, the AfD’s votes are decisive for the election of a prime minister. A taboo break that shows how deep the cracks in the dams are against the advance of the right, says Ines Pohl.

A week ago, on January 29, 2020, the German Bundestag commemorated the victims of the Holocaust in a solemn hour. The occasion was the liberation of the Auschwitz extermination camp 75 years ago. In a haunting speech in Israel, President Rivlin in Berlin called on the Germans to never forget. And to fight stubbornly against anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia. According to Rivlin, the Germans and their parties have a special duty towards liberal, democratic values, a special responsibility to act historically. “Germany must not fail,” were his words.

And a day later that: With the help of the right-wing populist AfD’s votes, a liberal in the federal state of Thuringia is elected Prime Minister. A choice that shakes Germany. An election that is more than evidence that the CDU and FDP state politicians who made this election did not understand their historical responsibility. An election that puts the democratic parties to the test, which could even result in new elections to the Bundestag.

Are the temptations of a power stronger?

In the coming weeks, it will have to be seen whether the words of the top German politicians, never to seek majorities with the support of the AfD, really hold up. Or whether in the end, the temptations of power are not stronger.

Ines Pohl comment picture app (DW / P. Böll)DW editor-in-chief Ines Pohl

The federal chairwoman of the CDU, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, had made a clear announcement to her state association Thuringia not to enter into an alliance with the AfD. But what does their apparent weakness mean? What will the German Chancellor do if her party’s mandate holders, of all people, join forces with Björn Höcke, head of the Thuringian AfD, who declared the Germans crazy because they had “planted a monument to shame” in the capital? And what will the SPD do, which governs the Federal Republic in a coalition with the CDU?

History-forgotten Germans

This memorable day must shake Germany to the core. And the democratic forces must now show how firm they are. What they are willing to risk to prevent this once unique process from becoming a new normal. A few days ago, Federal President Steinmeier said at the Yad Vashem memorial that “National Socialism did not fall from the sky”.

On that day in early February in Germany, it became clear how many Germans are now forgotten about history. And that the words “Germany must not fail” by Reuven Rivlin concern us all. And that nobody can believe that history can never be repeated.


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