ZDF Ambushes Björn Höcke

Björn Höcke is the regional spokesman for the Thuringia chapter of the AfD (Alternative für Deutschland, Alternative for Germany). He a popular leader of the party, but has caused controversy in the past due to his unwillingness to bend his use of language to fit within the strictures of Political Correctness. As a result of the outrage (much of which came from within his own party) generated by one particular incident, he withdrew from campaigning for a seat in the Bundestag, and confined himself to working at the state level in Thuringia. More than any other AfD leader, Mr. Höcke is painted by the political establishment and the media as a “Nazi”.

The following video shows the way ZDF, the state broadcasting service, set Mr. Höcke up for an ambush during an interview. Reneging on his previous statements about what would be discussed in the interview, the ZDF interviewer used the opportunity to paint Mr. Höcke’s rhetorical style as Hitlerian. After more than ten minutes of such hostility, the AfD spokesman terminated the interview.

Many thanks to MissPiggy for the translation, and to Vlad Tepes for the subtitling:

Video transcript:

00:00   ZDF: Mr. Höcke, I would like to examine with you, your language and your view of this country.
00:06   You yourself say that you have often been misunderstood and deliberately misinterpreted.
00:12   We played two quotes from you to your own party colleagues in the Bundestag and now I would like to
00:18   show you their reactions. “A few corrections and reforms will not be enough;
00:24   German moral absolutism will guarantee that we will tackle the matter thoroughly and fundamentally.
00:29   Once the turning point has come, then we Germans won’t do things by halves,
00:33   then the waste heaps of modernity will be removed.”
00:38   Is this quote from “Mein Kampf” or from Mr. Höcke?
00:45   Jens Maier [AfD]: Yes, I’m not going to answer that now. —Could it be from both?
00:50   If anything probably more from “Mein Kampf”, I would say, but not from Mr. Höcke.
00:55   Is this from “Mein Kampf” or from Mr. Höcke?
00:59   Kay Gottschalk [AfD]: I haven’t read either book, so I pass.
01:03   What a pity, actually. —Doesn’t it say enough that you can’t answer the question?
01:07   Are they linguistically so similar? —I really don’t know which book you have taken it from.
01:12   Karsten Hilse [AfD]: “I can’t tell you that. I haven’t read all the speeches, uh,
01:15   seen all the speeches by Mr. Höcke. I didn’t read “Mein Kampf” either.
01:18   That’s why I don’t know. —A second quote.
01:21   “The longing of the Germans for a historical figure, who once heals the wounds of the people,
01:26   overcomes the inner conflict and puts things in order, is deeply anchored in our soul”.
01:32   Is this from “Mein Kampf” or from Mr. Höcke? Martin Renner [AfD]: I don’t know that at all.
01:37   Jürgen Pohl[AfD]: I couldn’t tell you that. —Is this from “Mein Kampf” or from Mr. Höcke?
01:40   Martin Reichardt [AfD]: Well, I won’t be able to answer the question
01:43   because I didn’t read “Mein Kampf”.
01:46   And I don’t know if that is from Mr. Höcke either.
01:49   Martin Renner [AfD]: If I say now that I don’t like it, then if it’s from Höcke,
01:53   then I don’t like that Höcke said that.
01:56   And if it’s from the other gentleman who also begins with H, then I don’t like it twice over.
02:02   So in that case, I can’t really say anything about that.
02:06   That’s right, Mr. Höcke, your own people can’t tell whether it’s from Höcke or Hitler.
02:12   What does that say about your use of language?
02:15   Above all, it says that most people didn’t even read my book,
02:19   as they themselves clearly articulated it. Actually that’s quite a pity, because of course I had a
02:24   purpose with the book. I wanted to put down my thoughts, and make an analysis of the situation in
02:31   this country, as I see it. And of course this book is, let’s say,
02:35   something unusual for a politician, both in terms
02:39   of the content, the historical perspective, and also the language,
02:43   the philosophical statements, and so on.
02:46   Nowadays, hardly any politician has the courage to do so,
02:49   and that is something that I regard as a loss.
02:52   I think it’s good if we have politicians who equally have the courage
02:55   to express themselves in an original way
02:58   and perhaps also use language that is sometimes a little too poetic. That must remain permissible.
03:03   Not everything needs to be smoothed down and subjected to
03:07   contemporary formalism and moralisation. That’s not right.
03:11   That contradicts my sense of freedom, which I also wish to exercise. And I believe
03:15   that this is also what most people in the country want to be able to experience again. Freedom.
03:19   It’s not about poetry… whether it’s poetic, but whether it reminds us of Nazi terminology.
03:26   You’re a history teacher, aren’t you? We’re permitted to assume that this confusion with
03:30   Nazi terminology, which your colleagues obviously pick up on, cannot be a coincidence.
03:36   So, the permanent reference to Nazism is somewhat absurd in this context, that has to be said.
03:42   What is Nazi at all? Who defines what Nazi is?
03:45   I don’t think there is in general a valid definition for Nazi diction,
03:49   or what defines Nazi language is, correct?
03:52   The German language has certainly evolved over the last 75 years.
03:55   It’s hasn’t always been a development for the better, I have to say.
03:58   Especially when I think of Denglish [English and German combined], for example. However,
04:01   I don’t think anyone who has certain academic standards would dare to say
04:04   that this is now the Nazi language or that it’s the language
04:07   of Romanticism or that it’s the language of the Enlightenment. That would be presumptuous.
04:11   There are numerous examples, even from recent years. You used the phrase “nucleus of the nation”.
04:17   Hitler often used this in his speeches, Mr. Hitler
04:21   used it quite often. “Degenerate” is another such term or
04:25   “corrupter of the people”. Then there’s the AfD-internal report from two and a half years ago
04:29   which states “affinities with National Socialism” were established.
04:34   Are all these coincidences? You are a history teacher.
04:38   No, everything is not. So they are coincidences in the sense that they can’t be pinned down
04:44   for any period of time. All the terms you have just mentioned here
04:48   existed before and after, in various fields.
04:51   If you’ve had some experience in biology, which you certainly did
04:55   at school, then you have also certainly been
04:58   confronted with the concept of degeneracy in molecular biology or cytology.
05:02   Therefore, these are all terms which
05:05   are defined as provocative by a political-media establishment
05:08   and are thus — yes — to be removed from
05:11   the use of language in order to achieve a political goal. That’s unacceptable.
05:15   If I may interrupt… —Let me elaborate on that, please.
05:18   We have a tendency in this country to narrow the language
05:21   and opinion corridors more and more. And that is not good for our democracy.
05:25   If 70 percent, over 70 percent of German citizens in current surveys, say that they no longer
05:29   address certain issues in public because they are concerned about
05:32   negative consequences, then something is rotten in this
05:35   country and something is rotten with our democracy. And that must not be allowed to happen.
05:39   It’s not political opponents. We just heard your party colleagues, we quoted from your book,
05:44   several of your party colleagues couldn’t tell whether it was
05:48   from “Mein Kampf” or from you. And then we have
05:51   the internal AfD report from you former party chairwoman. From the former national chairwoman,
05:54   and as you know, Mrs. Weidel, for example, who is now the co-chair
05:57   of the AfD parliamentary group, was one of the driving forces behind it.
06:00   So why is this accusation made again and again by your own party? —Well, I’m sure you’re
06:03   familiar with the term “hostile witness”, and unfortunately a political party
06:07   is not like kindergarten. It also has a system, and within
06:10   that system power struggles occur. Why and what are the motivations? It varies widely.
06:14   At that time, the party chairwoman declared me personally
06:19   as her favourite enemy, and accordingly tormented me.
06:25   I think this is an open secret. So, unfortunately,
06:28   one or another party colleague has also made himself
06:32   a hostile witness by using and abusing the arguments of a political opponent
06:36   for the internal party struggle in an indecent way, or at least not to
06:39   the advantage of the party, but to the advantage of the political opponent.
06:42   The polemic of the our party’s political opponents was used and abused for an internal
06:46   party struggle. I very much regret and deplore that because I have never done something like that.
06:51   “Hostile witness” would be a term that one could perhaps talk about.
06:54   Does it also come from the…? No.
06:57   That’s not a term that many democrats use,
07:00   but I would like to point to something else. You’ re aware that
07:04   these terms may be contaminated or have a certain meaning. You’re playing with it. For example,
07:09   you probably remember the Hermann Meeting last year. You made a speech and you talked about
07:16   “settlement and living space” and then you paused and grinned.
07:21   Then you said “Oh, now I said living space”.
07:25   This shows you are aware that this term, I mean “living space”, you know that as a history teacher,
07:30   “living space in the East” was the central term of the National Socialist expansion ideology,
07:34   which also justified the war of annihilation against the Soviet Union.
07:38   So you are aware that this term has a history, that’s why you
07:41   made the pause and laughed. Why do you do that? —You just asked a rhetorical question.
07:46   You gave the answer already. When you described the scene. —Exactly, but I’m asking you.
07:52   At the Hermann meeting. Let me briefly explain; maybe I made the pause
07:56   because these place-markers, who are everywhere
07:59   in this republic and are currently trying to somehow find something that’s contaminated
08:03   and supposedly no longer sayable. They’re the ones damaging
08:06   this democracy, with their way of conducting
08:09   politics, with their way of defining terms. This is an attempt
08:12   to exercise the domination of terms. Yes.
08:15   And that’s what we refer to — also as AfD members — as the rule
08:20   of political correctness. This country is suffering
08:24   under the rule of political correctness. There are certain policy areas
08:28   that can only be entered with great caution.
08:31   I’m referring to the issue of immigration, the issue of Islam, for example, or the issue
08:35   of family policy alone. If, for example, one favours an active family policy,
08:38   and we as AfD do, because we haven’t been bringing
08:41   enough children into the world in Germany for the last 40 years,
08:45   or rather people in Germany have too few children,
08:48   Then one is very quickly lumped together with the Nazi pro-family policy.
08:52   That’s just absurd, isn’t it?
08:56   The point is that we should make a realistic analysis of the situation, and we should also finally
08:59   clarify the question of how we want to live together in Germany in the future,
09:03   with a solution-oriented and taboo-free discussion.
09:07   It’s just not good. We’re not well-advised to exclude certain concepts
09:11   and certain opinions from the outset.
09:14   Well, phrases like “living space in the East”, on which, as I said,
09:18   a war of extermination was founded, you’re saying
09:21   we should accept it as matter of course, something we can cope with and not something that
09:24   should be forbidden to say, but to deal with it in a calculated way. Let me come to something else.
09:28   I didn’t speak of living space. No, stop. I wasn’t talking about living space in the East. OK?
09:31   You were talking about habitat. And you made… —Yeah, that’s… a habitat. Excuse me …
09:34   I have an item on the plenary agenda right now, which concerns habitats,
09:38   for example nature conservation areas.
09:41   We are also talking about the habitat of Milvus. You can find this term in any
09:44   parliamentary speech in this republic, perhaps the one held today, if you were to look for it.
09:49   This is not exclusive to Björn Höcke, or is not used exclusively
09:52   by Björn Höcke. This is unfortunately a rather absurd assumption.
09:56   I’ll say that you consciously made this pause in this speech,
09:59   and therefore played with it, but let us move on
10:02   to your understanding of democracy. —Gladly. AfD spokesman: May I interrupt for a moment?
10:08   We’re almost through. —That’s why. I’d say we should redo that. This is unacceptable.
10:14   It doesn’t work that way. You confront Mr. Höcke with questions that strongly emotionalised him.
10:18   This emotional dimension shouldn’t be presented on television like that. You should do it again
10:23   from the beginning, then he’ll know approximately which questions he has to answer calmly.
10:30   But, Mr. Lachmann, we never do that. —That’s not possible. This isn’t not possible.
10:34   That wasn’t an interview he was going to…
10:38   Yes, and the intro at the beginning. I think it wasn’t really honest.
10:43   So if you want to do it again, then… —Yes. —No, we won’t do it again.
10:47   You’ re aware of that, Mr. Lachmann. —Then I won’t approve the release of it in this form. I can’t.
10:51   Yes… Is this something you do? Have you ever done this with other colleagues from the old parties?
10:55   Of course we do that with other colleagues. —That’s completely absurd. No.
10:59   We should have talked about it beforehand. —No, we did. Lachmann, we discussed it.
11:03   No, this wasn’t. These topics were not announced. —No, it was supposed to be about state
11:07   parliaments. That’s what you told me. It was supposed to be about state elections and mainly about
11:10   the election campaign. It’s about the election program. Maybe a short mention of
11:13   the AfD Flügel meeting. That’s what Mr. Lachmann actually told me beforehand.
11:16   And I really must be able to rely on that.
11:19   No, the interview will not take place like this and won’t be released. —Mr. Lachmann,
11:22   we discussed the interview. I said it wasn’t about Thuringia. It’s about Mr. Höcke’s
11:26   federal political importance. It’s about his use of language and his understanding of politics.
11:31   And that is where we are now. —I understood something else beforehand.
11:35   It’s supposed to be about the federal political significance against the background of
11:40   the state elections. Of course we won’t talk about state-specific issues then, is what you said.
11:43   I said that’s OK. But now we have only spoken about his language.
11:46   We are in the process of coming to an understanding of democracy.
11:49   He had already said “gladly”. —It has been ten or twelve minutes.
11:53   We should have discussed this better beforehand. We didn’t discuss this.
11:57   So, I also think this isn’t serious journalism.
12:01   I’m happy to answer any unpleasant questions, but this,
12:04   this is unacceptable. As you are aware, we live in a situation that is already polarised enough.
12:09   Do you really want throw something like this out there now? I mean, as a public broadcaster, you
12:13   have also been strongly criticised. Don’t you recognise this kind of thing is eroding this country?
12:16   Do you want to continue to play this game? —I’m not playing any game, Mr. Höcke. —Yes, you are.
12:21   I just quoted you… to your party colleagues. That’s allowed. —It is not about the questions.
12:25   It’s about being a top politician of a party.
12:28   I’ve been doing political reporting for six years now.
12:31   I’ve never had to repeat an interview for television before.
12:34   There would always be something that’s not going
12:37   the way someone thought it would. —It’s not about that.
12:40   No, I’m sorry. If you want to end this,
12:43   we’ll end it at this point. —Look, then we have a obvious problem which will have consequences.
12:48   I can tell you that this has massive consequences. —In what way?
12:52   By creating a lack of trust within the confidential cooperation between politician and journalist.
12:55   The point is, and you can sense this, that we have now reached a stage
12:59   where politicians and journalists can no longer speak openly
13:02   with each other because one has the feeling as a politician, I’m speaking as an AfD politician,
13:07   that the journalist is no longer neutral, but is somehow
13:11   executing a political mandate. To perpetuate an image
13:15   that has somehow already been created, in this case. And that’s just not honest. That’s not honest.
13:21   I relied on Mr. Lachmann’s guidelines. It was clearly defined,
13:25   as Mr. Lachmann said to me at any rate,
13:28   that we were primarily talking about the election campaign,
13:31   touching on the hundred-page parliamentary
13:34   election program that we just adopted. I am the leading AfD candidate here in Thuringia.
13:38   I have a few statements to make on state policy, which of course also always has an effect
13:41   politically at the federal level. There’s no question about that.
13:44   We could talk about that. Instead, we’ve been discussing semantic analysis
13:47   here for more than ten minutes now. You told me that the whole thing takes ten to twelve minutes,
13:53   that’s not what was agreed upon. There has to be some sort of agreement
13:56   in order to prepare oneself mentally.
13:59   You can understand that, right? Did you know I’ve just come out
14:02   of a five-hour trial, which was quite demanding.
14:05   It was a legal philosophical deliberation. Very interesting
14:08   legal theory, but one must be mentally involved.
14:11   So with that in consideration, I set our meeting for
14:15   after the hearing, because being the professional I am,
14:18   when I get input from my press officer, I know that I’ll have to shift gears, sort things out,
14:22   and then prepare myself for an interview that lasts ten or twelve minutes.
14:26   However, if I know the interview will be one of those typical interrogation situations,
14:31   then I can do that as well. However, that’s not something I’d like to do after
14:35   just having had five hours of constitutional court proceedings behind me. This is the context
14:40   that you, as a journalist, have to recognise, yes, and which is perhaps also of interest to you.
14:46   This isn’t an interrogation situation; this is an interview. —It’s just about…
14:50   And it’s about me asking the questions. —What you asked for, now let me speak,
14:54   Mr. Höcke has just come, as he said, from a five-hour trial.
14:57   He wasn’t prepared for these questions or
15:00   this form of interview. Now he knows what to expect. Let us simply start the whole thing again.
15:08   It’s not that you are not allowed to ask your questions. You can ask your questions, but he was not
15:13   prepared for it and I’m simply asking that he, by simply preparing himself mentally for it again.
15:20   We can restart the whole thing. You ask your questions again, because the reactions weren’t the way
15:27   they would be if you’re prepared for something.
15:30   And that’s just not fair, considering these questions in this situation.
15:34   I can definitely tell you that we won’t do it again. —Well, then don’t.
15:39   Now we’re entering a sensitive area concerning freedom of the press. Am I supposed to ask
15:43   the questions until you’re satisfied with the answers?
15:47   I’m not talking about the answers.
15:50   It’s not about the answers. You saw his strong emotional reaction because he was not prepared
15:55   for it. And I’m just asking you to understand that when
15:58   he comes out of such a negotiation and now we’re saying,
16:01   okay, calm down, we’ll do it again. Where is the problem?
16:04   We could have started with some factual issues
16:07   about national politics, and you could have asked the questions at the end while we were recording,
16:12   but not directly the same thing again. The same old show.
16:16   I can’t hear it any more. Folks, I can’t hear it anymore.
16:19   This is not about the questions. They’re all right. You can ask what you want.
16:25   It’s just simply the situation, for him, that was not fair.
16:30   In my opinion it’s fair that when we announce an interview
16:35   about federal policy issues, and I even told you on the phone that it will also be about language
16:38   and political understanding. —Of course. —Yes, and now I would like to…
16:42   So now we have only talked about that. —I would have. Now we can decide whether we want to
16:46   finish the interview now or if we want to continue where we left off. Listen, we’re finished with
16:49   the interview, but then it’s clear, we don’t know what’s going to happen,
16:53   and it’s also clear there won’t be any more interviews
16:56   for you with me. —Is that a threat? —No. That’s just a statement, because I’m only human.
17:02   I’m just human, too, you know? —And what could happen? You said we don’t know what’s
17:06   going to happen. Perhaps I could become an interesting personality,
17:09   political person in this country. It could be.
17:12   All right, Mr. Höcke. —Then that’s how we do it. All right.
17:15   Then I wish you every success in your career. Bye. —The interview isn’t going to be used, is it?
17:19   Of course the interview will be used.

2 thoughts on “ZDF Ambushes Björn Höcke

  1. “17:19 Of course the interview will be used.”

    Yup – everything you say against the “regime” will be used to destroy you. We live in happy times: there’s is no Troika sentencing you to the nearest train to gulag or NKVD officers banging on your door in the middle of night, yet: ominous Stalinist diction of that last sentence is obvious to me.

    Well, well, well – last time Stalinism ended it was not good for it but it evidently survived and now lives well in Europe.

    We fools believing that it all ended in 1989.

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