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.
The National Socialist Specter, in this account, exposes its sinister face in the crevices of a disintegrating social fabric, and it is here that the battle against it would have to be waged.
Nitzan Shoshan, The Management of Hate 1
EasternGermany is haunted by the spectre of the Nazi, so goes the dominant account, because it is caught in developments of globalisation and depopulation, deindustrialisation and the masculinisation of rural culture. The federal and local governments attempt to tame the new nationalism by pouring ever more resources into
We are seeing demographic change to the extent that not only is Germany coming to be the oldest country in Europe, but Saxony is the oldest region of Germany. And this is particularly significant in peripheral, ageing areas that are left behind. And so the periphery is revolting against being ignored. To summarise, the young are gone, the wolves are coming back. 1
Frank Richter, civil rights activist in the 1989 peaceful revolution, author and politician
The EasternGermans won a revolution, but lost their country
The right-wing populist political
society and the role of the East Germans within it. In this book we would like to answer a number of questions. Why is the wolf – an animal that has not eaten or attacked a human in hundreds of years – given this role? Why are the new right-wing and nationalist parties emerging all over EasternGermany so successfully, and are so much more successful than in the West?
Furthermore, the Bundestag speech by Karsten Hilse provides an occasion to see how the wolf trope functions in political rhetoric. First, in inserting the migrant into an anti-wolf argument, Hilse
– politically, economically, socially – in EasternGermany, as one might come to the conclusion that the situation is coming to its head. 15
Figure 2.1 AfD demonstration in Erfurt, 1 May 2019.
As we have shown elsewhere, until the racist riots of Chemnitz in 2018, two particular types of far-right street protests were predominant in Germany: ‘first, marches by militant neo-Nazis, far-right hooligans, or New Right groups such as the Identitarian Movement, that were numerically small and occurred infrequently; and second, larger far-right anti-Islam PEGIDA
both Western and EasternGermany.
In 2018 alone, the police registered 20,431 right-wing criminal offences. 28 Most of these offences are minor as they include misdemeanours, like publicly giving a Hitler salute or showing a swastika. But we have been witnessing an increase in far-right terrorist attacks across Germany for years. Most notably, in 2000, the deadly series of murders by the terrorist group NSU began. Over a period of seven years, the terrorist network murdered ten people, nine of whom because they seemed to them to be migrants. In 2019 the CDU
It’s not just about mere statistics, but about what the citizen is feeling. Perception is reality. That means what you feel is reality, too.
AfD MP Georg Pazderski, during a talk show on the Berlin-Brandenburg public broadcaster (RBB), September 2016 2
Wolves and the politics of fear
In 2019 wolves became one of the most important topics during the local state election campaigns in many rural areas of three of the EasternGerman Länder , Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg. Politicians from a wide range of conservative to nationalist and far
) and Yalta (1945) the allied powers put into effect an occupation regime for Germany, based on the division of Germany into four zones. The British took the north-west, with its valuable coal-mining and steel-producing area of the Ruhr; the USA had the south-west area, including Bavaria, Hesse and part of what is now Baden-Württemberg; the French occupied an area in the south bordering the river Rhine; 5 and the Soviet Union occupied easternGermany. The capital, Berlin, was subjected to special four-power administration, though it was located entirely in the Soviet
structural and demographic factors related to electoral
abstention (Kleinheinz 1998: 177–9). Lack of interest in politics has been
found to be one of the main motives for non-voting. An Infas survey in
1994 revealed that 38 per cent of western German non-voters in the
Bundestag election of that year, and 25 per cent of easternGerman nonvoters, named that as a reason for abstaining. A ‘Shell’ study of German
youth found that only 34 per cent described themselves as politically
interested, and only 35 per cent would be certain to vote in an election
(Das Parlament 17
should this election be held? It
might be unfair for the system used in West German Bundestag elections
to be adopted without adjustment to the new situation, in which a large
section of the country (easternGermany) was still developing its party
system. The March election to the Volkskammer had shown that newly
established parties in easternGermany would find it diﬃcult to win 5 per
cent of votes in the whole of the newly-reunified FRG, as would the PDS,
the former ruling communist party. A first proposal, to allow parties in
the two parts of Germany to link their