BERLIN—Protests against public artworks in Dresden and Kassel. A ban on political discussions at the city theater in Freiberg. And a criminal investigation against a performance art collective.
Germany’s far right is fighting a culture war—and at the forefront is the country’s largest opposition party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD). Founded only six years ago, the group has transitioned from a platform of opposing the euro to far-right nationalism. Fierce anti-immigrant rhetoric has helped the group gain sizable sway in regional parliaments, with significant victories in three regional elections this fall.
Yet beyond its focus on immigration, the issue for which it is best known, the AfD has another important target—culture. At both the federal and the regional level, the party devotes significant attention to cultural matters: Its main manifesto includes more pages on culture, language, and identity than on employment, national security and justice, and foreign policy. In Dresden, the AfD municipal program extends to suggested background music for a specific tram line.
“Culture is integral to the AfD’s strategy and ideology,” Julian Göpffarth, a researcher on the far right at the London School of Economics, told me. “The party is using its powers to curb cultural productions and spaces that ‘undermine national pride,’ and to impose instead a dominant German culture that celebrates, rather than critically engages with, German identity.”