Over the past few years, the far-right has made strides across the world. In Europe alone, Italy has elected a member of the country’s neo-fascist party as head of state, far-right parties have had impressive showings in Finnish and Swedish elections, French President Emmanuel Macron has only won office after tight races with far-right candidates, and far-right parties have long held significant power in Hungary and Poland.
In Germany, the far-right Alternative für Deutschland has also enjoyed a growing base of support and power. On Wednesday, German investigative reporters published a bombshell report indicating how they intend to use it.
The German publication Correctiv detailed a secret resort meeting in which AfD politicians sat down with right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis to discuss a strategy for mass deportations, including of naturalized German citizens, should the party come to power—a “masterplan,” according to an invitation reviewed by both Correctiv and the Guardian.
Attendees included Roland Hartwig, a former AfD member of parliament who serves as a personal aide to the party’s co-chair; one current AfD member of the Bundestag; two lower-level AfD politicians; Hans Christian Limmer, part owner of a German burger chain; and two members of the mainline conservative Christian Democratic Union party.
Martin Sellner, a far-right Austrian extremist, spoke at the meeting. Sellner founded the Identitarian Movement of Austria, which is a part of a pan-European far-right movement of the same name. Sellner has also been associated with Generation Identity, a similar European far-right group whose French faction has carried out attacks on Arab women. He’s established himself as a figure on the European far-right by building a significant social media following, though he has since been banned from many mainstream platforms. He remains active on Telegram and alternative social media sites with limited reach.
Miro Dittrich, a far-right researcher based in Germany, says Sellner and his rise illustrate important currents shaping the far-right in Europe. “His idea is to influence politics through culture. If you change the culture, politics will follow,” Dittrich explains, adding that extremist researchers have been attracted by Sellner’s open discussion of his attempts to gain influence. “The meeting shows he’s still sought after by rich people and thought leaders,” Dittrich adds.
Sellner is married to the American far-right figure Brittany Pettibone, and maintains an interest in U.S.-based extremism. He has seemed to imitate Patriot Front, getting his own group to don facemasks and hat costumes and similarly load up into box trucks to stage protests. Sellner also had ties to the Christchurch shooter who killed 51 people at a mosque in New Zealand. The two communicated over email in 2018, and the shooter sent Sellner’s Austrian identitarian organization 1,500 euros, according to The Guardian.
In the recently revealed meeting, Sellner argued that “metapolitical, pre-political power” must first be built to “change the climate of opinion” in Germany before deportations could be carried out targeting three large groups: asylum seekers, foreign residents, and “unassimilated citizens.” Sellner floated creating a “model state” in Africa where 2 million people could “remigrate.”
Correctiv (via Google translate) noted the dark history Sellner’s ideas rest on:
What Sellner designs is reminiscent of an old idea: in 1940, the National Socialists planned to deport four million Jews to the island of Madagascar. It is unclear whether Sellner has the historical parallel in mind. It may also be a coincidence that the organizers chose this villa for their conspiratorial meeting: the house of the Wannsee Conference is almost eight kilometers away from the hotel, where the Nazis coordinated the systematic extermination of Jews.
While Correctiv framed its report, Dittrich says, “around the secret meeting and secret plan” he explains that in practice, similar AfD “plans have been in the open.”
Since shortly after the party’s 2013 inception, AfD members have recurringly met with neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists, including Sellner. Some of them have been outed as working for the AfD. And party members have been exposed as neo-Nazis, though the party denies it is a neo-Nazi organization. Alongside the party’s rise, immigrants across the country have faced increased discrimination and violence, not only in AfD-supporting areas in the east, but also in Berlin.
While Sellner’s interaction with the AfD isn’t unusual, Dittrich says the presence of supporters of the Christian Democratic Union at the meeting was concerning. He also found it noteworthy that several prominent businesspeople were named on a list of donors and potential donors to extreme-right wing organizations and causes linked to the meeting.
German Chancellor Olaf Schloz criticized the meeting on Thursday, tweeting “We protect everyone—regardless of origin, skin color or how uncomfortable someone is for fanatics with assimilation fantasies,” according to Deutsche Welle.
Sellner and other participants in the meeting tried to distance themselves from the report. Sellner told the Guardian that the discussion had not been about a “secret masterplan,” and argued his words had been taken out of context. The AfD denied to Reuters that it has plans to deport “unassimilated migrants” and said the party officials who attended were there only in a “private capacity.”