The following interview with Tatjana Festerling, one of the leaders of PEGIDA Dresden, was recorded and aired by TV Libertés just before last weekend’s Europe-wide PEGIDA demos. Rembrandt Clancy has kindly translated and subtitled the interview, and includes an introduction as well as a transcript.
by Rembrandt Clancy
Just prior to the Fortress Europe protests on 6 February 2016, Lionel Baland of the French Internet channel TV Libertés conducted an interview in German and French with the prominent PEGIDA leader Tatjana Festerling in Dresden. Below is the video record of that event. Mr. Baland, in his four-minute introduction to the interview, compares the reaction of France and the demographically weak Germany to the crisis, and addresses the difference between Eastern and Western Germany in respect to popular reaction.
With the aid of film excerpts, Baland describes the setting of the weekly demonstrations on Dresden’s Theaterplatz, drawing attention to artefacts ranging from the counter-revolutionary Wirmer flag to the magnificent architectural backdrop of the demonstrations. For example, Baland shows how the splendid baroque building the Semperoper, which overlooks the Theaterplatz where the demonstrations occur, is currently marred by a large screen flaunting multicultural propaganda.
In the interview itself, Tatjana Festerling covers the following topics:
|1.||The specific event which triggered the founding of PEGIDA;|
|2.||Why the people of East Germany turn out more demonstrators than in the West of the country;|
|3.||The parallels between today’s demonstrations in East Germany and the Leipzig demonstrations of 1989, which were associated with the collapse of the East German regime;|
|4.||Whether Angela Merkel’s popularity in the official polls is a reflection of her true popularity;|
|5.||The difference between Viktor Orbán’s solution to the migration problem in Hungary, and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s ‘broken water main’ solution;|
|6.||The stance of the PEGIDA leadership toward the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party and the possibility of PEGIDA establishing a party of its own.|
|7.||PEGIDA’s strategy for the future.
TV Libertés provides its own introduction to the video as follows:
A TV Libertés team led by Lionel Baland and Nicolas de Lamberterie travelled to Dresden in January of 2016 to interview Tatjana Festerling, front-figure of PEGIDA and formerly a candidate of the movement for the office of mayor of Dresden.
TV Libertés is a nationally oriented Internet television broadcaster which began at the end of January 2014. At the time of the launching of the channel Martial Bild, the managing editor, declared that TV Libertés will be “non partisan, participatory, but also, and this is important, free and independent” (Metapedia, French).
Original Video Source: TV Libertés
Lionel Baland, TV LIBERTÉS: From the beginning of the migrant crisis, the German nation led by Angela Merkel represents the main driving force for calling upon migrants to out for Europe. Thus in 2015 Germany received more than a million migrants, and at the same time sermonised for them to be distributed among the various member states of the EU.
Few European countries have openly opposed this policy, except the four belonging to the Visegrád group [Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia].
The French governing elites have not contradicted Germany in this policy. However, a considerable difference between France and Germany is noticeable.
While the respective governments of France and Germany — whether by intention or toleration — have a corresponding policy in the migration crisis, the mood in the population is varied. This is shown as much by the results of elections as by opinion polls.
While in France the national sentiments with regard to the migrant phenomenon appear rather strong, in Germany, the indifference of a demographically weakening population toward the migrants is surprising, being the migrants are more numerous than the yearly birthrates.
Up until the massive sex-attacks committed on New Year’s Eve, the Germans gave almost no reaction to the migration phenomenon. However, there is a genuine cleft within Germany, or better said, between two Germanys: West Germany, and the former East Germany, or the GDR, which was under Soviet influence for half a century.
In the Saxon capital Dresden, an unprecedented mobilisation took place against Merkel’s migration policy. This mobilisation was achieved by a movement founded in October 2014: PEGIDA. The acronym means “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of Europe”.
Every Monday several thousand people, sometimes tens of thousands, gather for a peaceful walk. Like the Gallic village of Asterix, which fought against the Romans, Dresden has come to be a symbol of Germany which will not go away.
This Germany appears with an original flag which many foreign visitors could take for the Norwegian flag. It is the Wirmer flag, also known as the “German Resistance flag of the 20th of July”, in reference to the attempt of German opponents of the Nazis to physically eliminate Hitler and his regime in 1944.
PEGIDA offshoots in other cities have not come close to such a success as in Dresden. But the rising popularity in Dresden is shown, among other things, by the fact that for several days the PEGIDA-hymn was at the top of Amazon’s song chart, so that Amazon announced that part of the profits from the sales would be donated in favour of organisations which help migrants.
In order to understand this Dresden phenomenon better, a team from the television broadcaster TV Libertés travelled to Dresden. This city of half a million inhabitants, also known as “Florence on the Elbe”, is well-known on account of the bombing it had to go through in February 1945 shortly before the end of the Second World War. The city, which had been completely destroyed, has since been for the most part rebuilt.
Some of the completely hyper-heated stones, which had been left over from the ruins of the Frauenkirche, were used for restoring the church to a form identical to the original.
The effect of PEGIDA in the city can be quickly ascertained: on the Theaterplatz, where the weekly demonstrations of the movement conclude, conspicuous multicultural propaganda announcements are continuously shown on a gigantic screen mounted on the Theater [Semper Opera House].
Fortunately Dresden has other advantages at its disposal, which make a visit to the city very pleasant, even in cold weather.
We are meeting with Tatjana Festerling just prior to the first demonstration of 2016. This dynamic 51-year-old woman is the spokesman of the PEGIDA movement; she was a candidate in 2015 in the mayoral election and received almost 10% of the votes.
She explains and introduces her [PEGIDA] movement to us.
Good Day Frau Festerling! Thank you for receiving us here in Dresden, the capital city of resistance. Along with Lutz Bachmann, you are one of PEGIDA’s front-figures.
When was PEGIDA founded, and why?
TATJANIA FESTERLING: PEGIDA was founded in October of 2014. In this period, September-October, confrontations took place between Turks and Kurds in several cities here in Germany. This was when the occasion arose for the founders of PEGIDA to say: “It cannot be that here proxy fighters are appropriated to German soil”. And they became aware of this increasing Islamisation of our country and said: “We must do something to oppose this, now we are taking to the streets”.
And that is how the first PEGIDA demonstration came about on the 20th of October, 2014, with as many as 400 people on the street; then on the following Monday 800, and so PEGIDA’s history of success continued in this way.
TV LIBERTÉS: Is PEGIDA only against Islamisation or are there other demands or other subjects which the movement articulates?
TATJANIA FESTERLING: First of all, PEGIDA is — if you will — a movement which started only on a single theme, namely, against the Islamisation of the West.
We characterise ourselves also as patriotic Europeans; that is, already it has to be seen in a larger context.
A very important central theme of PEGIDA is in any case the participation of the citizen. We call for elements of direct democracy, like referenda, because we do not have confidence in the decisions of our politicians, and rightly so.
TV LIBERTÉS: You are a woman at the forefront of PEGIDA and come from West Germany. You can therefore observe with confidence the difference between both parts of the country.
Why do the PEGIDA demonstrations in the East of Germany, for example in Dresden and Leipzig, draw so many people, while on the other hand, there are so few in the West of Germany?
TATJANA FESTERLING: Yes, that is an interesting phenomenon. This entire year of PEGIDA has shown that this so called German unification has actually not been truly accomplished; which is to say, at least not by way of the peoples’ thinking and also not in the perception of the people.
Here in the East, the reason for PEGIDA’s success certainly lies in the peoples’ experience of having lived twice in succession under a totalitarian system. And the sensibility of the people here is clearly shaped by totalitarian, dictatorial and restrictive state infringements. Therefore, freedom of expression is a very, very highly valued good here; above all, liberty. The people here appreciate liberty differently from the people in the West.
Added to that, of course, is that in the West — it is presumably no different in France — we have experienced over many years an insidious habituation; that is, Islamisation, or the foreign alienation of our culture, which has been taking place since the early 1970s and which was largely sugar-coated in the beginning: the “Turkish greengrocer”, the “Lebanese alterations-tailor” etc.
In this way a multicultural parallel society has been developing from the outset, as it were; and we lost our attentiveness and missed the moment of transition. And here in the East, the people are not so habituated.
Certainly another reason is this: if afterwards you walk onto the square and see this splendid backdrop on the Theaterplatz or walk on the Castle Square or on the Neumarkt [New Market], then you will readily see here on location, at every demonstration or in daily life, why it is worthwhile to fight; and that is to pay tribute to the cultural accomplishments of our ancestors.
And if one goes to West Germany, to a lifelessly reconstructed city, for example to Kassel or Frankfurt or such like, then of course one finds it clearly more difficult in view of the various buildings with their lack of feeling and what not.
One does not come face to face there with these cultural accomplishments or with what once made Germany marvellously distinct.
And the last reason [for PEGIDA’s success] is that it is Saxons who live here in Dresden, a people who have always been a rebellious type. And in the past, Dresden has always been renowned for having enjoyed a very wholesome civil society, and it is also renowned for being disputatious and argumentative in the best sense of the term.
That has long since been in such pronounced decline in the West. That means that here in Dresden, subjects are often discussed, which in reality are subsequently discussed vicariously for all Germany.
TV LIBERTÉS: Everything began in Leipzig in 1989. The demonstrations began in the setting of the Nikolaikirche [Church of St. Nicholas]. These demonstrations led to the overthrow of the regime.
Do the events of 1989 influence the current demonstrations?
Could they also lead to fundamental changes in the political system, as was the case in 1989?
TATJANA FESTERLING: Yes, that is an interesting question. If you look over the plaza there at the gathering of PEGIDA demonstrators and notice their preponderant age, we have very many people here who go regularly to PEGIDA and who also had taken to the streets in 1989.
In the beginning, many people told me that it was like 1989, that there are many parallels; since then, people assess it differently.
I cannot assess it for myself because in that period I was living in the West. But at that time, there was a counterbalance: there were the Western media, one had, so to speak, a partner, who helped one to attain freedom in the West of Germany. And today, many are saying that the situation has even worsened, because we have the entire media against us, with very few independent exceptions.
One can also add, that in the GDR the economic situation was so precarious that the state, as it was at the time, was not able to continue.
There was Perestroika, and we do not have this support at hand today.
TV LIBERTÉS: Angela Merkel, in the course of 2015, let in a million foreigners. The doors are wide open. The migrants continue to arrive, day and night, without control.
Does that really put a strain on Angela Merkel’s popularity? For in the polls, she is not falling all that much. Is PEGIDA gaining more popularity by this?
TATJANA FESTERLING: Yes, of course. Let’s begin with foreign countries, because we travel a lot, for example, to the Czech Republic.
There, Frau Merkel at this time appears to be the most hated woman in Europe, because she expects that all the other member states of the European Union are to cope with the refugee invasion, which she herself unleashed, and is trying to solve the problem through a system of quotas at the level of the EU.
But in Germany too, there is a yawning gap between the officially solicited polls of the public broadcasting media and what one otherwise perceives and what is reported in polls available on the Internet.
Thus Frau Merkel, I believe, is held by an almost overwhelming majority of Germans to be the most dangerous woman in Europe. It is Frau Merkel who fuelled this tide with her selfies [in the company of migrants]. And it is Frau Merkel who disregards laws, justice and treaties in a self-aggrandising way, such that one really has to ask oneself why no one stops this woman.
TV LIBERTÉS: In Hungary, Mr. Orbán had the country’s frontiers closed by having a border fence erected. What do you think of Victor Orbán’s policy?
TATJANA FESTERLING: Viktor Orbán is the only, or at least the first politician in Europe who has reflected, and who has held to European treaties and defended the Schengen Agreement with his fence. And he is the first who has said: “These are illegal migrants who are coming here”.
And in the middle of September I travelled to the fence there when it was just under construction, and there was this attack by these “asylum demanders” who wanted to force their way across the border checkpoint at Röszke from Serbia to Hungary and from Hungary onwards then to Austria and to Germany.
And in this respect, one can only say that Viktor Orbán, I think, is a very admirable politician, who recognised the essence of the problem early on and who said that we have to first of all secure the borders and render the borders impenetrable; and not, as your former President Sarkozy, who said not to think about the ‘broken water main’, but uniformly distribute the flood throughout Europe. But we must seal the water pipe. And Victor Orbán is the one who said we must first of all defend and secure our outer European borders. And then we must consider what to do with those who remain inside, who must leave, who can stay and according to what rules they are to be distributed throughout the countries of the EU.
TV LIBERTÉS: What about the patriotic party, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD)?
TATJANA FESTERLING: In Germany we do not have a real alternative, although we have a party which is called Alternative für Deutschland, but the party is very young and — let us put it this way — it is in the self-discovery phase. We hope that in the future the party will take a clearer position.
For example, it is not so clear why their two European parliamentary representatives have not joined the Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders faction.
And we will continue in any case to watch this party. And it is actually planned, that if nothing changes in this respect, PEGIDA will found its own independent party.
TV LIBERTÉS: Do you think that PEGIDA will continue to develop further in 2016? What do you expect in 2016?
TATJANA FESTERLING: Whether PEGIDA becomes larger or not, I believe is not the question. In any case, PEGIDA is lasting, it is of continuing importance.
PEGIDA has been in existence for more than a year. There is a large number of people who come back here reliably every Monday to stand up and be counted and nail their colours to the mast.
PEGIDA is a thorn in the side of the governmental policy of Frau Merkel, and PEGIDA will not be readily chased away by insults, or be prognosticated away and the like. PEGIDA is staying.
In 2016 we are going to intensify our international interconnectedness. On the 6th of February we are holding a large, collective PEGIDA demonstration and currently I believe there are 11 countries.
We will expand that, for one thing is clear to us; namely, it has to be said that we will not achieve a turnaround in European policy by ourselves. We in Germany cannot do it alone; we will do it only in concert with our European neighbours.
Therefore, I think that for us in East Germany, it is important to watch what is happening in the Visegrád group of nations and then we shall see how Europe in the long term is perhaps rearranged.
I am naturally in complete agreement with Marine Le Pen, that this EU must be destroyed.
TV LIBERTÉS: Thank you Frau Festerling for having received us in beautiful Dresden.
For links to previous articles about PEGIDA (Patriotische Europäer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes, Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) and related movements, see the PEGIDA Archives.