In 2016, intelligence services estimated that there were just over 23,000 right-wing extremists in Germany. A myriad of groups networking covertly, utilizing social media to extreme effect, was sowing major social discord. Germany has in modern times been regarded by the rest as immune to the reach of the far-right, partly out of collective shame for Nazism. The country had seen where hate led and would not saunter down that path again.
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But today, the country exists as a hotbed of far-right extremism. The proliferation of populist, racist movements has caught many within its political class off guard. One such group is Pegida.
The movement caught on fire in late 2014 through to early 2015, whipping up mass anger around immigration. The organisation threatened Germany’s long held social cohesion, fracturing it in the backwaters of east Germany where anti-immigration attitudes had been rapidly bubbling for a while. Pegida’s aim was to force into the national conversation the concept of a national cultural identity being threatened by refugees and asylum seekers. It was dangerous, but for a while, it was effective. The group came to influence the political system, and particularly, the part Alternative for Germany (AfD). This report will look into their tumultuous history, their peak moments, setbacks, controversies and structural reasons for why they were as popular as they were.
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