JLH has translated a series of articles and opinion pieces about PEGIDA (Patriotische Europäer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes, Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West), the anti-Islamization movement whose meteoric rise over the past two months has earned it daily headlines in the German news media.
The translator includes his own commentary in italicized blocks interpolated within the text below.
This project began when I finally began to ask myself, “Why is this happening in Dresden? Why is it so much more successful than even the most successful HoGeSa demos in former West Germany? Why are its western spinoffs not as fabulously successful as those in Dresden? What foreseen and unforeseen weapons will its opponents bring to bear?”
The answer is complex and perhaps not entirely satisfactory. There is an element of magic in the Dresden demonstrations. Magic, however, can be transformative, or chimerical. Or both. So this is an inquiry into the elements that comprise — as the old film title said — “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”
First, two quick notes from ZUERST — a steadily right-leaning blog — to set the stage.
December 23, 2014
Dresden. Police estimated the tenth PEGIDA demonstration at 17,500 people.
So the organizers achieved another increase over their last number of 15,000. The head of PEGIDA, Lutz Bachmann, declared a hiatus for next Monday. The next demonstration is set for January 5th — one day before Epiphany. The group will announce time and place on Facebook.
December 22, 2014
On January 12th, PEGIDA intends to demonstrate for the first time in Leipzig. The left-extremist group ANTIFA has committed a major error in its battle against one of the organizers who is located there.
A man named Silvio R. was briefly mentioned on the leftist extreme internet portal “Indymedia” as the presumed leader of the LEGIDA demonstration. Thereupon, his house in the city’s Connewitz district was hit by a paint bomb; front door and mailbox smeared with tar. This “R.” was not the alleged organizer — just someone with the same name. In fact, someone with leftist sympathies: “I am absolutely the wrong guy,” he said to the Leipzig Internet Newspaper, and pointed out that he is in regular contact with the left-alternative scene in his district. This was confirmed by a local legislator of the Left party, Juliane Nagel. “He is not part of LEGIDA,” said the politician.
That was a preview of the Good and the Ugly. Now for a look at the Bad. How much will the leader’s past haunt him and the movement? Is he what seems to be, or what he once was? Is he a rascal in disguise or a redeemed sinner? Elmer Gantry or Paul on the road to Damascus? A mildly but palpably hostile review from t-online.de. This article refers throughout to “Pegida” rather than PEGIDA, and I have “normalized” it.
December 16, 2014
(German Press Agency, French Press Agency)
[Photo caption: PEGIDA founder Lutz Bachmann acts middle class. He says he is not a racist. (source: Reuters)]
On Monday, 15,000 people followed the call of PEGIDA. More than ever before. Criticism from established political parties seems to have garnered the anti-Islam movement and its initiator more rather than fewer supporters. Who is the man who weekly draws thousands of demonstrators to the streets? Details about the trained chef — including his criminal past — have come to light gradually. Bachmann is now attempting to present them in the framework of PEGIDA.
“Yes, I was convicted. Yes, I tried to escape legal punishment 17 years ago,” wrote the PEGIDA founder on his Facebook page, at the beginning of December. After his true name and passport surfaced in South Africa, where he had fled, he was deported. “That country really deports quickly and un-bureaucratically and suffers no indulgences or rights of residence,” he said of that country.
South Africa as a Model
The 41-year-old would like the same procedure here at home. At the PEGIDA demonstrations, the convict Bachmann fulminates against criminally liable immigrants and strongly advocates a zero-tolerance-policy.
By his own account, the baccalaureate-holding, trained chef founded his own small photo and ad agency. After that, he came into conflict with the law several times. As researched by various media, Bachmann carried out break-ins at a total of 16 businesses in and around Dresden, was sentenced to three years in prison, and escaped to South Africa before the onset of his sentence.
After deportation from South Africa and finally serving his sentence, he was caught with cocaine several times. According to information discovered by TAGESSCHAU, he is still in trouble with the law because of support payments for his son.
Getting to Like the Spotlight
According to Bachmann, the investigations of the organization by what they disparage as “the lying press” have not changed their goals. “There could be a personnel change” he wrote on Facebook. Meanwhile, however, the large 41-year-old seems to like the spotlight. On Monday, he was at the speaker’s lectern again.
In the twelve-person organizational team, Bachmann has two colleagues who — according to research by SPIEGEL — are known to the police. One member of the leadership is registered with the Dresden police under “general criminality (including crimes of violence) ”. Another has been suspected of fraud.
When they shout “Fewer Islamists!” they mean “More Germany!”
Right Extremist Hooligans At the March
According to SPIEGEL, police identified members of the hooligan groups “Fist of the East” and “Hooligans of Florence on the Elbe” at the marches. According to that report, several hundred demonstrators had connections to the soccer fans of Dynamo Dresden. 250 of them are so-called problem fans. It is also said that there are connections to Hooligans Against Salafists (HoGeSa).
To all that, Bachmann declares he is not a racist. “I had a Turkish best man, and I have a lot of Muslim friends,” he says, acting very middle class. His Facebook pictures of his wedding and walks by the water bear this out.
It looks different now and then on his Twitter profile. Among other things, you can read: “These eco-terrorists ought to be shot! Above all Claudia Fatima Roth!” He has apologized for that tweet, but not deleted it.
Now a view from the center of the journalistic universe in Germany — the most respected MSM newspaper, The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung or FAZ. This treatment of the Dresden PEGIDA demonstrations seeks the answer in Dresden — the “Florence on the Elbe” apocalyptically destroyed by Allied air action.
With a notable lack of sympathy, it emphasizes the eccentric character of Dresden — as only a “disinterested” Wessi or a disaffected Ossi can. Not only is the old glory gone, but what is new is ghastly, and the residents are too dense to see it. This article in the paragon of MSM journalism in Germany is a remarkable exercise in regional bias, to say nothing of sloppy thinking and stylistic stumbles. Think “redneck” jokes.
What humor there is reminds us of Gandhi’s aphorism: “First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.”
December 22, 2014
Dresden likes being different from the rest of the world. There are particular reasons why the PEGIDA demonstrations are so popular there. This is an attempt to track them.
On this Monday, instead of shouting mottos, the PEGIDAs want to sing German Christmas carols — “Alle Jahre wieder,” “Stille Nacht,” Oh Du Fröhliche.” They want to sing in opposition to the “Islamization of the West.” The demonstrations of these German chauvinists, intended to do battle against foreigners, the authorities and the press, are admired across the country, and yet they are a Dresden phenomenon. A closer look is needed.
Few people are making that effort. SPD politicians speak of “racists and nationalists,” “rabble-rousing and slander.” Minister of Justice Heiko Maas called the demonstrations a “disgrace for Germany.” PEGIDA is a huge success. Last time, 15,000 demonstrators came. But only in Dresden. Elsewhere the aggressive Westerners manage at most 400 old folks. So we should not be asking, What is wrong with Germany? At most, we should be asking, What is wrong with Dresden?
If you had come to the gathering point this week on the field by the Dresden Hygienics Museum, you would have been reminded of a gathering of Saxon craftsmen. Mostly middle-aged men, sturdy types, dressed in outdoor jackets and solid shoes — dressed for all the tasks in construction. Here and there a few older men, all kinds of women, few young people. Then, before their eyes, the former Dresden small-time crook who organizes these demonstrations positions his sausage stand podium. From here, for weeks, Lutz Bachmann has been hurling platitudes about the foreign infiltration of his bratwurst universe. The man was a serial break-in artist and drug courier.
None of the listeners seem to be bothered by that. For Bachmann is a Dresdener. Born and bred. Son of a butcher. Not a Muslim and not an incoming Wessi. He and his co-speakers shout out things like “We want to preserve our identity, our customs, our traditions!” and anyone who doesn’t agree is “out of place here in Germany.” But the immigrants are not as out of place here as some of the Dresdeners.
At least since the end of WWII, they have been following their own path. Amid the remains of devastated splendor and dismal new edifices, they have maintained the belief that they are living in the most beautiful city in the world. That was easier during the GDR age, when Florence or Paris were known only by word-of-mouth. For a long time, Dresden was without Western television — a city of books and music, which resisted being deceived by the official GDR broadcasts. Anyone who was deceived anyway is now likely to shout “lying press” because he despises reality.
Even now Dresdeners believe nothing is more beautiful than their city. Citizens of Cologne believe that too, but you are allowed to disagree with them.
The view down the banks of the Elbe surrounded by a green riverside landscape is wonderful. There is now a new, ugly bridge here. Most of the Dresdeners wanted it that way. When their status as a World Heritage cultural site was threatened if this concrete creation was built, they became agitated at these cultural aliens, and proudly lived on without the distinction. A comparatively rare incident. There was a similar disagreement in Cologne. But there they chose not to disgrace themselves in front of the entire world. The Dresdeners actually enjoyed it.
Not much was left of the old glory after the Allied air attacks of February 1945. The ruins of the Frauenkirche, remains of several palaces and museums, and outer districts like Striesen, Blasewitz or Weißer Hirsch. Many people believed to the last minute that the bombers would spare their “Florence on the Elbe,” because it was so beautiful, or at least because an aunt, or cousin or some other relative of Churchill lived there. Wrong. In February 1945, Dresden was destroyed.
Dresden as the Symbol of Random Air War
After that, it became the national sacrifice city. Symbol of a random air war against civilians and civilization. There were said to have been nearly 100,000 dead. Maybe more. When a commission of experts reviewed the numbers a few years ago, it arrived at different numbers. Still terrible, but 25,000 — much fewer than the original legendary estimate. Outside of that, many Dresdeners believed that Allied fighter jets in February 1945 had strafed people running away. The West German teacher and historian, Helmut Schnatz, refuted this as legend on the basis of technical evidence. There were enraged protests against him and the laws of physics. In Dresden, facts are sometimes less important than feelings. That is the only reason people in Dresden can demonstrate against “economic refugees” although there are hardly any foreigners in Dresden. Well, some could come… So there!
Dresden’s playing the victim eased their own guilt — connected with persecution of Dresden’s Jews. The local NSDAP gauleiter Martin Mutschmann was one of the worst anti-Semites in the Reich. Dresden had trouble recognizing that. They were after all just victims.
In his novel “The Tower,” Uwe Tellkamp described sensitively how a small group of citizens at the White Stag in GDR times resisted the gradual disintegration of their values and also, of course, their physical plant. They created their own world. It existed as a special spiritual place, at that time, alongside Socialism, and now as a parallel to a nation of economy, soccer and immigration.
(It is interesting to compare the statement in this article — “there are hardly any foreigners in Dresden” — to a TAGESSPIEGEL interview with “SPD politician Petra Köpping who has just visited the Dresden Muslim community: ‘Our Muslims are afraid,’ she says and needs to say no more. The threat is there. It is not easy for Muslims in Saxony.” It makes you wonder what the number of immigrants here really is, and if the impact is proportional.)
Another FAZ article devotes a long and quasi-philosophical discussion to the definition of stupidity and why stupid people are the only group we can still make fun of. Then it concludes by saying that the PEGIDA people don’t ALL say stupid things. But most of them do. And it gives a few selected quotes. So much for the MSM.
Finally — on December 19th — a short, positive comment from Politically Correct interprets some of the same facts from a different perspective.
by Götz Kubitschek
December 19, 2014
Approximately 20,000 citizens are expected Monday on Theater Square in Dresden [final count – 17,500], who will once again demonstrate under the name PEGIDA against abuse of asylum, Islamization and the war against our cities. They will once again remain peaceful and not be impressed by blockades and counter-demonstrations. Why is something like this succeeding in Dresden? Why not in Hannover or Mannheim or Cologne? Dresden is in Saxony. Saxony is different, and in Saxony, Dresden is something like the essence. Three reasons for that:
- Saxony is a proud federal state. After the “turning,” it chose the status of free state. It is not a “hyphenated” state, but an entity clearly defined by common traditional roots and a strong self-identification. It can point to a proud history and outstanding personalities — and was historically a power center of the German empire.
- Possibly nowhere in the “new states” is the feeling of having been treated unjustly by recent history greater than in Saxony. Granted: In Saxony-Anhalt and Mecklenburg too, there is resentment at having been left behind because of the stagnation in the GDR . But this dissatisfaction is often expressed as cursing and moaning and in despairing resignation. The Saxons, on the other hand, are toiling meter-by-meter toward their old greatness and would not care to be dependent on transfer payments nor on the typical western models. They are stubborn and tough.
- Within Saxony, Dresden is the “courtly” core: proud, courteous, self-confident and deeply middle-class. People here don’t like experiments. And PEGIDA is anything but an experiment. Its development was classic. It began small, took a middle-class form (“a walk”); there were the early counter reactions; it stubbornly held on to the idea and completely ignored the schoolmasters sent from the West and from a great height.
If you walk along with the demonstrations and talk to the people, you get two impressions. First, there is a lot of laughing about recent political phrases. “Taking the fears of people seriously” or “Simple answers to difficult questions” have no weight for someone who is taking to the street determined and self-confident. Second, people cannot calmly anticipate that there could be a “broad coalition” against PEGIDA in the shape of students released from their classes to attend a counter-demonstration.
There you have an — admittedly subjective and unprofessional — survey of opinions. Take your pick or weigh them all against each other. The one point of view not covered here is that of the people who began the movement of Monday Demonstrations and built up the internal pressure that helped to create the Wende — the turning. I know only one, and he does not believe that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Specifically, he — and I suspect some of his old comrades — do not like the appropriation of the motto: “Wir sind das Volk!” because, as he puts it, “We WERE the people” and they were standing up against one of the most repressive regimes in the world.
I have to respect that. It was a unique time in history and a unique achievement following in the spirit of Martin Luther King and Gandhi. But, as some have noted, the former GDR lands now are different. They have not had such long exposure to the advantages of the social cushioning available in the West. And some of them may still see clearly what is obscured for many in the West. If we in the minority are correct and there is a creeping totalitarianism across the West, both nationally and supra-nationally, we need a place and an ambience that will welcome our resistance. I cannot decide the ticklish question of “Wir sind das Volk” but I can recognize that the spirit underlying the PEGIDA demonstrations until now has its inspiration in the actions of the “89ers.” For better or worse, this may be the most fertile ground for resistance.