In June 2019, a regional politician who had defended Ms Merkel’s refugee policy was shot under her porch by a well-known neo-Nazi. The killer later told the court that he had witnessed a highly publicized AfD rally a year earlier.
Since then, a far-right extremist has attacked a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle during a Yom Kippur service, killing two and narrowly failing to commit a massacre. Another extremist shot dead 9 people, mostly young people of immigrant origin, in the western town of Hanau.
The AfD’s earlier rise in the polls came to a halt almost instantly after the Hanau attack.
“After these three attacks, the German general public and the media realized for the first time that the AfD’s rhetoric led to real violence,” said Hajo Funke of the Free University of Berlin, who has written extensively on the party and follows its development. .
“It was a turning point,” he said. “They came to personify the idea that words lead to action.
Shortly after the Hanau attack, Thomas Haldenwang, head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, placed elements of the AfD under surveillance for far-right extremism – even then. that party lawmakers continued to work in Parliament.
“We know from German history that far-right extremism not only destroyed human lives, it destroyed democracy,” Haldenwang warned after announcing his decision in March last year. . “Right-wing extremism and right-wing terrorism are the greatest danger to democracy in Germany today. “