At a farm in the east of the country, one couple tries to forge a nationalism for the intellectual set.
In the waning weeks of 2014, an astonishing right-wing fervor swept Germany. Tens of thousands of demonstrators, stirred by anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment, staged protests under the banner of the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, or Pegida. People streamed through the streets, waving German flags and chanting: “We are the people!” and “Resistance.”
That Pegida erupted in former East Germany, where a stubborn far-right scene persists to this day, was little surprise. But the make-up of these seething masses was far broader than the region had ever seen. Beyond the hardened core of right-wing extremists, there were thousands of “concerned citizens” and disillusioned Germans, fueled by frustration with the government’s immigration and economic policies.
For Götz Kubitschek, a leading figure in Germany’s right-wing scene, the extraordinary turnout at Pegida rallies represented a personal triumph. “It’s what we had waited for,” he told me at his home in Schnellroda, a sparse two-street village in the eastern state of Saxony Anhalt. He had joined the movement in its beginnings as both a protester and a speaker, and likened its early days to a volcanic eruption of wrath. “They had the dynamism and masses and we knew the path to take, we knew the adversary—we could give it shape.” Pegida’s rise mirrored his own life pursuit: to shift Germany’s left-leaning social and political culture to deeply conservative, nationalist values.