As the world braces for more threats from the reinvigorated far-right, one German town has come up with an imaginative — and sobering — plan to hit back at the neo-Nazis descending on their community: take away their beer.
Around 600 Nazis descended upon the town of Ostritz, in the region of Saxony, eastern Germany, this weekend for the far-right Schild und Schwert (Sword and Shield) Festival — which conveniently doubles as the “SS Festival.”
Prior to the event, a judge in Dresden noted that the presence of alcohol at the event would likely increase the possibility for violence and banned it. Police were on hand to enforce the decision and confiscated an estimated 4,200 liters of beer on Friday, the first day of the festival, before confiscating another 200 liters on Saturday.
— Polizei Sachsen (@PolizeiSachsen) June 22, 2019
But the booze ban didn’t end there. As the BBC first reported, locals in Ostritz, deducing that the Nazis would likely try to get around the ban by flocking to local supermarkets to pre-drink before heading into the festival grounds, also decided to take things into their own hands.
Members of the community bought up as much beer as possible from area supermarkets. One local, Georg Salditt, banded together with his colleagues to buy more than 200 boxes of beer from one supermarket.
“The plan was already [devised] a week earlier,” he told Bild. “We wanted to drain the Nazis. We thought, if an alcohol ban is coming, we’ll empty the shelves at the Penny [supermarket].”
The plan was commended by Michael Kretschmer, the prime minister of Saxony.
“I am very impressed with how in such a small place on the river Neisse … the citizenship rises to make it clear that right-wing extremists are not wanted,” he said, adding that Saxony would use all legal avenues to combat far-right extremism.
Police said that there were 32 crimes over the weekend, the majority of which were either violations of assembly law or displaying anti-constitutional organizations — legal-speak for outwardly displaying Nazi allegiance or sympathies, which is outlawed in Germany.
While the town’s beer-buying ruse may seem humorous, it represents part of a larger backlash to the rising specter of far-right extremism within Germany. Last week, police arrested a man with known neo-Nazi ties on suspicion of assassinating Walter Lübcke, a popular pro-migration politician from the small city of Kassel in central Germany. In response to the attack, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that far-right extremism must be fought “without any taboo.”
On Monday, Paul Ziemak, the general secretary of the Christian Democrats, Merkel’s party, announced that they would never entertain any sort of cooperation with the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which has given a political voice to the German far right.
“Anyone in the CDU who is pleading for rapprochement or cooperation with the AfD should know that they are talking about a party that tolerates right-wing extremist thought, anti-Semitism and racism within its own ranks,” Ziemak said. “The CDU refuses and coalition of similar form of cooperation with the AfD. Period.”
Ostritz is also just a two-hour drive from the city of Chemnitz, which last year saw violent far-right protests, where individuals reportedly roamed the streets attacking anyone who didn’t look German.