Over 100,000 Germans took to the streets to oppose the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party. The protests were triggered by revelations of AfD members engaging in discussions with extremists about mass deportation plans.

The largest demonstration occurred in Frankfurt, where approximately 35,000 people gathered under the banner “Defend Democracy—Frankfurt against the AfD.” Similar scenes unfolded in Hanover, where protesters, some holding signs declaring “Nazis out,” mirrored the sentiments expressed in Frankfurt. The demonstrations spread into smaller towns and cities like Braunschweig, Erfurt, and Kassel, with significant turnouts.

The mobilisation was widespread and sustained, with daily protests spanning a week and organised in approximately 100 locations across the country.

The AfD plans targeted migrants, asylum seekers, and German citizens of foreign origin perceived as having failed to integrate. Martin Sellner, a leader of Austria’s Identitarian Movement, known for promoting the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, attended these talks.

The AfD experienced a surge in opinion polls and confirmed its members’ presence at the meeting, but distanced itself from endorsing the remigration project advocated by Sellner. The revelations come just months before the primary regional elections in eastern Germany, where the AfD has substantial support.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz and other prominent politicians characterised the prospect of mass deportation plans as an attack on democracy and a threat to the entire population. Scholz participated in a demonstration against such plans the previous weekend, urging citizens to stand for cohesion, tolerance, and democratic values in the face of right-wing extremism.

Friedrich Merz, leader of the opposition conservative CDU party, expressed encouragement at the peaceful demonstrations against right-wing extremism. However, reports that two members of the hard-right faction Werteunion of the CDU were present at the controversial meeting near Potsdam raised eyebrows. In response to the outrage, the Werteunion, led by Hans-Georg Maassen, announced its decision to split from the CDU, claiming around 4,000 members.

The AfD, initially formed in 2013 as an anti-establishment, anti-euro party, has transformed into an anti-immigrant party. Gaining prominence in 2015 amid a significant influx of migrants and refugees, the AfD entered the Bundestag 2017 as the leading opposition party. Its recent resurgence in popularity, post-Russian invasion of Ukraine, is fuelled by discontent over high energy bills, food inflation, and perceived moral and financial costs of supporting Ukraine.