The wolves are coming back

The politics of fear in Eastern Germany

Authors: Rebecca Pates and Julia Leser

Since 1990 the wolf has been a protected species in Germany; killing a wolf is a crime punishable by a prison sentence of up to five years. In Eastern Germany, where the political ground is shifting to the right, locals argue that the wolves are not German but Western Polish, undeserving of protection since they have invaded Saxon territory and threatened the local way of life. Many people in Eastern Germany feel that the wolf, like the migrant, has been a problem for years, but that nobody in power is listening to them. At a time when nationalist parties are on the rise everywhere in Europe, The wolves are coming back offers an insight into the rise of Eastern German fringe political movements and agitation against both migrants and wolves by hunters, farmers, rioters and self-appointed saviours of the nation. The nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) represents the third-largest party in the German federal parliament, with representation in the vast majority of German states. It draws much of its support from regions that have been referred to as the ‘post-traumatic places’ in Eastern Germany, structured by realities of disownment, disenfranchisement and a lack of democratic infrastructure. Pates and Leser provide an account of the societal roots of a new group of radical right parties, whose existence and success we always assumed to be impossible.

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