German teachers reported themselves to the far-right political party Alternative for Germany (AfD) this week after the party launched a scheme to use children as informants to spy on their teacher’s political leanings.
The scheme, which was launched by AfD in Hamburg earlier this month, encourages children and their families to use a website to report any teachers who offer negative criticism about AfD directly to the party. The website also makes reference to Germany’s neutrality code, which requires teachers to refrain from attempting to influence their students via political opinion.
“The background of these actions…range from clumsy AfD bashing, to flawed and inappropriate teaching materials…or school notices calling for demonstrations against the AfD,” the Neutral Schools Hamburg website explains. “Behind it is usually the deliberate attempt to collect students — or at the level of the school authorities and teachers — for party political or ideological goals.”
Reactions to the AfD’s child-spy program have been furious. “Anyone who incites students to spy on their teachers brings Stasi methods back to Germany,” Justice Minister Katarina Barley wrote on Twitter. “Organized denunciation sets us up against each other and drives a wedge into society.” A petition against the denunciation program has also gathered more than 50,000 signatures.
On Monday, teachers at the Lina Morgenstern School near Berlin requested that all their names be added to the AfD’s blacklist so they could make their disapproval of the measures public.
“We will inform our students when members and officials of your party engage in racist, inhumane, sexist, historical revisionist, antisemitic, or anti-democratic activities that jeopardize our peaceful coexistence in society,” the letter read. “From history, we know that what begins with denunciation and intimidation ends with the detention of dissenters in camps.” The German Education Union also denounced the AfD plans.
The AfD is currently riding a wave of political momentum in Germany. In last year’s election it became the first far-right party in 65 years to enter the German Bundestag (national parliament), picking up thirteen percent of the vote. It has also capitalized on Angela Merkel’s political weaknesses in regional elections, winning its first seat on the Bavarian state parliament in October, all while maintaining a rabidly anti-immigrant platform.
Coinciding with AfD’s rise has been a worrying increase in far-right violence in Germany. This was most clearly seen in August when the east German city of Chemnitz was rocked by violent anti-immigrant protests. A suspected neo-Nazi terror cell was also later discovered in the city.
Meanwhile, the same week that the AfD’s web portal was first reported, AfD leader Alexander Gauland wrote an opinion piece for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung which was quickly likened to a speech given by Adolf Hitler. In it he accused the “globalized class” of those in academia, the media, and politics of having no attachment to their homeland. The piece was compared to a speech Hitler gave in 1933 where he accused a “small, rootless, international clique” of undermining Germany.