Posts Tagged ‘Björn Höcke’

Is Germany’s Extreme-Right AfD Falling Apart? Or Beaten Into Submission?

January 11, 2019

The far-right Alternative for Germany may be unravelling at the edges after a disgruntled member struck off on his own. That’s bad news for the populists ahead of key elections, says DW political analyst Jefferson Chase.

Shattered glass in front of AfD office

There is now even more right-wing alternative to the Alternative for Germany (AfD).

On Thursday, the former party leader in the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt, Andre Poggenburg, resigned his party membership. Only hours later, the far-right hardliner announced that he is forming a party of his own, the “Aufbruch deutscher Patrioten” (Uprising of German Patriots), to compete with the AfD.

Poggenburg was one of the more extreme nationalist and xenophobic leaders within the AfD, which twice censured him for using language reminiscent of right-wing extremism. He has close ties to the radical Identitarian and Pegida movements. And for much of his career he was also an ally of Thuringian AfD leader Björn Höcke, who is regarded as one of the main motors behind the AfD’s ethnic-nationalist hardline wing and who has often been accused of anti-Semitism.

In 2016, Poggenburg became the leader of the opposition in the Saxony-Anhalt regional parliament, but stepped down last year from that position and as regional party leader following controversial anti-Turkish remarks. The emblem of Poggenburg’s new party, a blue cornflower, has been criticized for having right-wing extremist and Nazi connotations.

Reaction to Poggenburg’s defection among AfD members has been mixed. Some hardliners have rued his departure, while members of the relatively moderate Alternative Mitte group have welcomed it. Regional parliamentarian Uwe Junge, for instance, tweeted: “Andre Poggenburg is leaving the AfD! Finally. I hope he takes all the extremist fools and self-proclaimed patriots with him.”

Uwe Junge, MdL


André Poggenburg verläßt die AfD!
Endlich – ich hoffe, er nimmt den ganzen Narrensaum und die selbst ernannten Patrioten mit! , !  via @junge_freiheit

André Poggenburg verläßt die AfD

Der frühere AfD-Landes- und Fraktionschef von Sachsen-Anhalt, André Poggenburg, ist aus der Partei ausgetreten. Am Donnerstag abend erklärte er in einer E-Mail an die AfD-Bundesgeschäftsstelle den…

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A limit to the AFD’s move right?

The 43-year-old may not have been universally liked within the AfD, but party leaders have to be concerned that Poggenburg’s supporters could follow him and defect — a scenario that has some precedent.

The Alternative for Germany was founded in 2013 primarily in opposition to European monetary union. But a lack of electoral success shifted the focus to hostility toward mass migration. Co-founder Bernd Lucke was replaced by the far more conservative Frauke Petry as party head in 2015.

That shift roughly coincided with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision not to close Germany’s borders as large numbers of refugees and migrants began arriving from Syria, Northern Africa, Afghanistan and other places. That brought a surge of support for the AfD from Germans who feared that large-scale migration would threaten their way of life and the country’s traditions.

A protest organized by the AfD, and the Pegida and “Pro Chemnitz” movements | John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images

Since 2015, the AfD has moved further and further to the nationalist, some might say racist right, guided by such figures as current party co-leader Alexander Gauland, Höcke and Poggenburg. That evolution has come to the dismay of more moderate AfD members, including Petry, who became increasingly marginalized in the run-up to the 2017 German federal election.

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Frauke Petry

The party recorded an impressive 12.6 percent of the national vote and eventually became the main opposition party in the Bundestag. The triumph prompted Gauland to promise to “hound” Merkel and Germany’s traditional political parties.

But the day after the vote, Petry and her supporters quit the AfD. That meant the parliamentary group immediately lost three seats. Petry subsequently formed the Blue Party, but it has yet to contest any elections and has attracted very few members.

Potential damage in eastern elections

The schism with Poggenburg and his supporters could be far more damaging than the split with the Petry. For starters, this is the first time that a rival group has formed to the right of the AfD. And it comes as the party had hoped to kick start its stalled momentum with three regional elections in its stronghold of eastern Germany: Saxony and Brandenburg on September 1 and Thuringia on October 27.

After becoming Germany’s third-largest party at national level in 2017, the AfD failed to dramatically increase its support in regional elections in 2018. The populists came in a distant third with just over 10 percent of the vote in Bavaria and fourth in Hesse with slightly more than 13 percent.

The AfD continues to attract some 13.5 percent support in opinion polls, but the far-right populists have been outstripped by the Greens who have been polling 18 to 20 percent.

The AfD does attract 20 to 25 percent support in the east, but splits like those with Petry and Poggenburg could see erosion on both ends of the AfD’s spectrum of voters. Petry, who is from Saxony and won her constituency outright there in 2017, could siphon off moderates. Poggenburg, who was also born and bred in the formerly Communist east, could take away some hardline far-right and extremist voters.

Many mainstream political analysts have predicted, perhaps with an admixture of wishful thinking, that the tug-of-war between relative moderates and hardliners could rip the AfD apart at the seams. That remains a very hypothetical scenario — at the time of writing, Poggenburg’s new party has a grand total of ten Twitter followers.

But arguably more than any other German party, the AfD’s appeal relies on the perception that it represents a popular movement that is inexorably growing in strength. The latest discord undercuts the idea of the AfD as a truly viable alternative.


Damaged AfD office in Döbeln following explosion (picture-alliance/dpa/S. Willnow)

Police authorities said “an unknown substance was detonated” on Thursday at around 7:20 p.m. local time (620 UTC) in front of the building that houses the offices of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the Saxon city of Döbeln.

Doors and windows of the building hou


Germany: AfD and Frauke Petry

April 21, 2017

Frauke Petry, chairwoman of Germany’s right-wing populists, is a savvy politician. She demonstrated her cunning once again ahead of the AfD’s conference in Cologne this weekend, confronting the party with a crucial test.

Deutschland Pressekonferenz der AfD zu Medienordnung (picture-alliance/dpa/B. von Jutrczenka)

Politics is a game of chess. That much we know from the popular US version of the TV series “House of Cards.” When it comes to the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, life often mimics art. Germany’s right-wing populists have more than once since the party’s founding in 2013 ripped back the curtain to shed public light on many of their internal feuds. More political drama has come to the fore immediately ahead of this weekend’s party conference in Cologne.

There was internal speculation that Frauke Petry, one of AfD’s two national leaders, wanted to be alone at the top of the party’s ticket for Germany’s national elections in September. This was despite an internal survey showing party members’ preference for a team of candidates.

Deutschland Politischer Aschermittwoch der AfD in Osterhofen (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Weigel)The AfD is currently polling at between 8 and 11 percent nationally

Strategic decision out of deadlock?

Petry floated a “proposal for the future” that would move the party in a fundamentally different direction. She was criticized for creating a false choice between a party of realpolitik and one that takes a hardline position on its fundamental values at a time when the AfD needs to pull together for the campaign.

The co-chairwoman’s proposal attempts to kill two birds with one stone: Petry wants to rebrand the AfD as an electable people’s party for everyone. She also wants to take on her chief opponent: Björn Höcke, the hardline head of AfD in Thuringia. Petry already struck him hard by trying to oust him from the party for his alleged Nazi sympathies.

Deutschland Landeswahlversammlung der AfD Thüringen | Björn Höcke, Fraktionsvorsitzender (picture-alliance/Arifoto Ug/Candy Welz)Höcke is the embodiment of fundamental opposition

Michael Klonovsky, a former Petry staffer, recently spoke out publicly against her and her husband, Marcus Pretzell, head of AfD in North Rhine-Westphalia, saying they would doom the party.

Petry, sensing a lack of support ahead of the party conference, announced she would not run as lead candidate. It was a sudden and startling turn of events – for the party and the German media. In need of new leadership and direction, several state party leaders from around Germany have signaled their desire to step up.

The AfD would like to clarify the most looming questions on the first day of the party conference. What will become of Petry’s “proposal for the future” remains unclear: Some members would like to see it not even come to a vote. Her Facebook video statement on Wednesday was more open to compromise while also pushing strongly for a strategic decision, which could win her points among some of the conference’s 600 delegates.

AfD stellt ihr Wahlprogramm zur Bundestagswahl vor (picture-alliance/dpa/P. Zinken)AfD members will aim to finalize their party’s election platform in Cologne

Right-wing party platform?

One of the highest priorities for conference participants is to finalize the party platform. A draft was presented weeks ago: Swiss-like referenda, closing borders, deportation quotas, prioritizing German culture, a burqa ban and a requirement that Mosque sermons be delivered in German. The draft runs 200 pages.

The party conference has a rhythm all its own. Cologne expects as many as 50,000 anti-AfD protesters and 4,000 police officers are being called into service. Many businesses will also be closed.


Opinion: What is behind Frauke Petry’s decision?

April 20, 2017

Deutsche Welle

Frauke Petry’s decision not to run as the AfD’s lead candidate in Germany’s national election doesn’t signal the end of her quest for power. She considers another choice more important, says Kay-Alexander Scholz.

Brexit Reaktionen Archivbild Frauke Petry (Getty Images/J. Koch)

In an extensive “New Yorker” profile published in October last year, Frauke Petry compared herself to Angela Merkel – both women are from East Germany and both are scientists with a PhD. The co-chair and most-recognizable face of the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party is fascinated by the German chancellor’s rise to power. Now, Petry herself has created another parallel. She has retreated from the front lines in a national election, just as Merkel did in 2002 when she stepped back and let Edmund Stoiber become the conservative candidate for chancellor. Petry has decided not to put herself forward as the AfD’s lead candidate in Germany’s parliamentary elections on September 24. The 41-year-old announced her decision in a Facebook video on Wednesday.

Like Merkel before she became chancellor, this step back takes place against a backdrop of tactical considerations. Today’s loser can be tomorrow’s winner. In 2002, Stoiber lost the election, whereas Merkel won the next time around in 2005.

Tactical withdrawal

Petry is taking a step back but she may come back at a more advantageous point in time. Naturally, Pertry’s latest move is born of a realization that she lacks sufficient support within the AfD. However, it allows her to retain the reins of party power yet avoid what could be an embarrassing result.

Scholz Kay-Alexander Kommentarbild AppKay-Alexander Scholz is DW’s Berlin correspondent

The AfD has been plagued by internal strife among its leadership, driving media speculation over who would be chosed top candidate. Realistically, anyone who gets that job will only have it for a few months. Following this fall’s election, the AfD is likely to end up in the opposition in parliament. Of course, there is a chance that the lead candidate will also head the party in Bundestag and thus have the power to shape politics over the years. But as the AfD’s co-chair, Petry is already in pole position, especially since the other co-chair Jörg Meuthen does not want a parliamentary seat. In any case, in her video announcement on Wednesday, Petry did not say that she would decline the role of parliamentary party leader.

Will Petry’s strategy work?

Petry’s retreat is thus only a partial one. In her video announcement, she argued for the necessity of her “proposal for the future,” outlined earlier this month amid criticism from fellow AfD leaders, that the party should agree on a binding strategy for the election. Now she is trying to show that she is acting for the good of the party and putting aside her personal ambitions, such as the chancellor candidacy.

More than ever before, she has refused to commit to the idea of compromise in order to gain political power. On the contrary, she has asked her party to decide whether or not it should remain a “fundamentally” opposition faction. The upcoming party congress will decide – the main thing is that it makes a decision. This is probably her way of mending ties with controversial Thuringian AfD leader Björn Hocke (whom she would like to see banned from the party for alleged Nazi sympathies, but that is another story entirely).

But Petry does not shy away from addressing the potential disadvantages of the AfD being an opposition party that takes a hard-line stance on the right wing of Germany’s political spectrum, saying: Fundamental opposition in parliament means a lengthy opposition, verbal spats that will discourage party supporters and ultimately a weakened AfD because other parties could adopt some of its positions, leading supporters to wrongly believe that the other parties “understand.”

It is still not certain whether Petry’s plan to resolve the AfD’s election strategy issue will work. There are many party members who do not even want to put her “proposal for the future” on the agenda. But the party congress will ultimately decide and may even begin a new chapter in the AfD saga.

It’s also worth  mentioning that Petry is expecting a child in early summer – her fifth. Many have already asked themselves how she can balance motherhood, a newborn and an election campaign, but this was probably not a critical factor in her decision.


The German Right Believes It’s Time to Discard the Country’s Historical Guilt

March 2, 2017

As part of the nationalist tide sweeping Europe, the Alternative for Germany is pushing to change how the country views its Nazi past, upending decades of consensus

The nationalist Alternative for Germany party last month commemorated the 72nd anniversary of the Allied bombing of Dresden in World War II.
The nationalist Alternative for Germany party last month commemorated the 72nd anniversary of the Allied bombing of Dresden in World War II. PHOTO: JENS MEYER/ASSOCIATED PRESS


March 2, 2017 10:19 a.m. ET

KARLSRUHE, Germany—The draft budget for Baden-Württemberg state set aside $69,000 this year for educational trips to “memorials of National Socialist injustice.”

The Alternative for Germany party submitted a motion to strike the reference to the Nazi Party and instead use the money for visits to “significant German historic sites.”

“We strive for a balanced view of history,” the motion said. “A one-sided concentration on 12 years of National Socialist injustice is to be rejected.”

The upstart Alternative for Germany, known as the AfD, began as a party opposed to the euro and moved on to fighting Germany’s refugee influx. Now it is increasingly emphasizing a broader, substantially more provocative goal: changing how Germans see their past.

AfD politicians say an unhealthy obsession with the Nazi crimes of World War II skews Germans’ understanding of their country’s history, leaves no place for national pride and interferes with government policy. Nazi-era guilt, they say, was behind Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to let in hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers from the Middle East and Africa.

“The negation of our own national interests is something that has become a political maxim in Germany since World War II,” said AfD leader Frauke Petry.

Alternative for Germany leader Frauke Petry in Osterhofen on Ash Wednesday, a customary time for rallies by German political parties
Alternative for Germany leader Frauke Petry in Osterhofen on Ash Wednesday, a customary time for rallies by German political parties PHOTO: ARMIN WEIGEL/DPA/ZUMA PRESS

Ms. Merkel said Germany was bound by its constitution and international law to take in refugees, and not doing so could have caused a humanitarian crisis that destabilized the Balkans.

In campaigns across Europe, nationalists and populists are on the march, pushing the credo that the policies of mainstream, pro-European Union politicians stifle the people’s interests and their identity.

French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, regarded as a contender in elections this year, says her countrymen have been “dispossessed of their patriotism.” The successful backers of Brexit in the U.K. campaigned to “take back control.” Dutch anti-Islam prime minister hopeful Geert Wilders promises “the preservation of the Netherlands.” Elections are set there later this month.

Nowhere do national identity politics carry more taboo-breaking potential than in Germany, which has spent seven decades reckoning with the aftermath of its genocidal nationalist dictatorship.

A commitment to remembering and accepting responsibility for Nazi crimes is core to Germany’s modern identity. While fringe nationalists have always contested that approach, it has been accepted for decades by all of the parties represented in the national parliament.

Now, as German elections in September loom, basic questions of national identity and historical responsibility are suddenly center-stage. The AfD, with its attack on official memory, is polling at about 11% public support, an impressive showing for a party only four years old.

AfD politicians accept that the Holocaust happened and describe the Nazis as a criminal regime. Most party leaders avoid rhetoric about racial superiority or ethnic purity. They also say the postwar establishment’s focus on atonement has robbed Germans of a positive identity and pushed the country to act against its own interests.

The party wants to reduce the time schools spend teaching children about the Nazis to focus more on German achievements in science and the arts. Some prominent members go further, arguing that the European consensus on World War II history is too anti-German.

“History is a whore of politics,” Björn Höcke, one of the party’s most radical politicians, said in an interview. “A great people like the German people, which lost two world wars in one century, no longer has a historical narrative of its own.”

In an ornate Dresden ballroom in January, local AfD candidate Jens Maier told the crowd that what he called Western Allies’ re-education efforts after World War II led to Germans being convinced “we are bastards, criminals, that we are worth nothing.”

As his voice rose, Mr. Maier hollered into his microphone, to applause: “I hereby declare this cult of guilt to be over! To be over, once and for all!”

Berlin's Holocaust Memorial. Björn Höcke of the nationalist AfD party said in January that Germans were “the only people in the world who have planted a monument of shame in the heart of the capital."
Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial. Björn Höcke of the nationalist AfD party said in January that Germans were “the only people in the world who have planted a monument of shame in the heart of the capital.” PHOTO: JENS KALAENE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

To a political establishment for which Holocaust remembrance is an integral part of public life, the AfD’s break with the consensus is a shocking turn.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble works in an imposing office building that is memorialized, in plaques, as the former home of Nazi leader Hermann Göring’s Aviation Ministry. Mr. Schäuble recently presented a postage stamp marking the anniversary of a remembrance center next door, built on the site of the onetime Gestapo headquarters.

“That we were brought to deal with our past is among the great advantages that we have in Germany,” Mr. Schäuble said. “He who resists dealing with the past is ill-prepared for the future.”

The AfD is the most successful party to have arisen to the right of Germany’s mainstream conservative bloc, which Ms. Merkel now leads, since World War II. For decades, far-right parties failed to gain a foothold in Germany. Leading conservative politicians made it their stated mission to prevent the rise of nationalist movements.

Interviews with supporters show the party has tapped into something deeper than anti-immigrant sentiment. Many see the embrace of migrants as a symptom of a broader problem: a dearth of German patriotism, a misplaced guilt complex and a misreading of German history.

“I want people to stand up and put their hand on their heart when the German national anthem plays, like they do in the U.S.,” said Bernd Tomsen at a monthly gathering of party supporters in a Croatian restaurant in Berlin. “German history is reduced to 12 years of Nazi rule. People use this to convince others, especially young people, that they are Nazis and must do good in the world.”

At the party event in Dresden, the AfD’s Mr. Höcke gave a speech that was provocative even by the party’s standards. German history “is made ugly and ridiculous,” he said, before concluding: “We need nothing other than a 180-degree change in memory policy!”

The next day, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, chairman of the Social Democratic junior partners in the governing coalition, published a rebuttal. His father had been an unrepentant Nazi to his death and said Auschwitz was fabricated American propaganda, Mr. Gabriel wrote.

“The fact that we faced our history and that we learned from the past was the prerequisite for Germany being respected around the world,” Mr. Gabriel wrote on Facebook. “Björn Höcke scorns the Germany of which I am proud.”

The uproar presented a quandary for the AfD. Expelling the young, popular Mr. Höcke could turn off nationalist voters, but refusing to do so could undermine efforts to gain acceptability among more-centrist voters. After weeks of debate, the executive board last month took a procedural step toward expelling Mr. Höcke, who is fighting to keep his post.

Mr. Höcke said that though the “content and form” of his speech were politically unwise, his points were in keeping with the party platform. “The current restriction of German memory culture to the National Socialist era,” the party program says, should be “broken up to make way for a broader view of history.”

Björn Höcke, center, of the AfD. Mr. Höcke was refused entry to an event at the Buchenwald concentration camp memorial in January after giving a speech in which he said Germany should focus less on its Nazi past.
Björn Höcke, center, of the AfD. Mr. Höcke was refused entry to an event at the Buchenwald concentration camp memorial in January after giving a speech in which he said Germany should focus less on its Nazi past.PHOTO: JENS-ULRICH KOCH/GETTY IMAGES

Speaking at a castle near the Rhine in October, party leader Ms. Petry alluded to recent historical studies that shift the blame for World War I beyond Berlin, and suggested more to come.

“Just as today the First World War is written about in a nuanced way and not just from the perspective of the victor,” Ms. Petry said, “the Second World War will probably in some decades also need to be discussed in a somewhat more nuanced way than what we experience today.” Listeners erupted in applause.

Among them was Stefan Scheil, a historian on the fringes of German academia for his argument that the U.S., U.K. and Soviet Union were largely to blame for the outbreak of World War II. Not since the 1970s, Mr. Scheil said, has Germany had a significant political party willing to entertain his view.

“It is part of the foundation of the AfD to speak about many things that simply were never questioned for many years,” he said.

Mr. Höcke said World War II began as a local conflict in which Hitler understandably sought to reclaim territory lost after World War I. “The big problem is that one presents Hitler as absolutely evil,” Mr. Höcke said. “But of course we know that there is no black and no white in history.”

Ms. Petry, asked about World War II’s causes, wouldn’t delve into specifics but said wars typically take place only when multiple parties want them to.

She said the history of the Holocaust is covered comprehensively in German schools, but German suffering, including the bombing of Dresden and Russian and American mistreatment of German prisoners of war, is given short shrift.

Asked whether field trips to concentration camps were appropriate, she said it was “important for students to understand what mankind can do to men.” She also added: “One should inform them to the same degree that after World War II the Americans allowed German war prisoners to die of hunger in the camps on the Rhine meadows.”

It is far from clear that policies like these will spell national electoral success. The AfD’s Baden-Württemberg resolution to cut funds for field trips to Nazi sites was rejected by the other parties. Many Germans are proud of facing the darkest era in their past more directly than other countries have, and remain skeptical of the concept of patriotism. In a 2015 poll, only 38% said they were proud to be German.

AfD supporters, by contrast, often say they are tired of atoning for crimes they didn’t commit.

“It’s incredibly difficult, in Germany, to say, ‘I am truly German,’ ” said Michael Seher, a salesman for a home builder. “I personally had nothing to do with World War II, and I don’t want to keep paying for it.”

Write to Anton Troianovski at


Germany’s Extreme Right Challenges Guilt Over Nazi Past

DRESDEN, Germany — At a chandelier-lit beer hall on Tuesday evening, the lean blond man’s voice boomed out over a crowd of hundreds — some middle-aged and working-class, but with a contingent of polished young professionals.

“The AfD is the last revolutionary, the last peaceful chance for our fatherland,” declared the man, Björn Höcke, referring to the political party Alternative for Germany, and employing a reverential term for Germany, one of several nationalist buzzwords usually shunned in the country’s politics.

“Jawohl!” a few shouted. “Yes!”

When Mr. Höcke (pronounced HOOK-ay) lamented that “German history is handled as rotten and made to look ridiculous” — a subtle but clear reference to guilt for the Holocaust and other Nazi war crimes — the crowd responded by chanting, “Deutschland, Deutschland.”

His speech at the rally in Dresden on Tuesday touched off a wave of national alarm by challenging Germany’s national atonement for the Holocaust and for its Nazi crimes. His comments drew broad criticism for their venom and because Mr. Höcke, a rising star in the AfD, has found growing success with his messages of extreme nationalism.

Shouting to be heard over cheering supporters, many of whom stood, Mr. Höcke challenged the collective national guilt over the war that has restrained German politics for three generations. At times he used language that seemed to hint at lamenting Nazi Germany’s defeat.

Germans were “the only people in the world to plant a monument of shame in the heart of its capital,” he said, referring to a memorial to murdered Jews in Berlin. He added that Germans had the “mentality of a totally vanquished people.”

Mr. Höcke, who began his speech by triumphantly raising his arms over his head, represents the rightward flank of Alternative for Germany, an already far-right party.

But his speech and the crowd’s energetic reception of his words offer a glimpse of the relatively new party’s threat to German politics. He is on the fringe, but that fringe is growing in numbers and in willingness to defy the usual restraints, to the rising alarm of Germany’s establishment leaders, who on Wednesday denounced his comments.

Sigmar Gabriel, leader of the Social Democrats and the country’s vice chancellor, shot back in a Facebook post showing a banner splashed across an image of Mr. Höcke standing at a lectern, reading: “To remember the millions of victims of the Nazis is no weakness. Baiting the helpless to promote yourself is weakness.”

The chairman of the Green Party for the state of Saxony, Jürgen Kasek, on Twitter called for the speech to be checked for possible violations of anti-incitement laws. He accused Mr. Höcke of saying things that violated the spirit of the Constitution “in the style of national socialism.”

The Central Council of Jews in Germany, in a statement, called the comments “deeply deplorable and fully unacceptable.” Charlotte Knobloch, a former president of the council, told the newspaper Stimme Heilbronner that Mr. Höcke’s speech was “unbearable agitation,” and she warned that “the AfD is poisoning the political culture and social debate in Germany.”

Mr. Höcke’s comments even drew a rebuke from the chairwoman of Alternative for Germany, Frauke Petry, who said they were out of line and “straining” the party. Ms. Petry and Mr. Höcke have been locked in a power struggle for months over how far to the right to position the party, which was originally founded on an anti-euro platform.

The party is polling at nearly 15 percent, ahead of some mainstream parties, for this fall’s national election. Its rapid rise demonstrates that German nationalist politics can find a foothold in unexpected places, for example among educated young people like those at Tuesday’s rally.

Those 20-somethings, many in coat and tie, looked clean-cut and primly trendy. Most of the men wore their hair buzzed close on the sides and long and floppy on top, separated by a severe side parting that seemed unmistakably evocative of Hitler’s.

Mainstream parties in Germany have long eschewed charisma-driven politics — in the style of personality-centered movements — and have avoided shows of overt nationalism. But that leaves an opening: A populist party like Alternative for Germany can indulge those ideas just enough to excite its supporters without scaring off larger groups of voters.

The Alternative for Germany supporters who were gathered in Dresden, the capital of Saxony, seemed animated in a way that is unusual when it comes to modern politics in Germany. Most Germans rarely feel allowed to get excited about their political beliefs or, just as sensitive an issue, about their national identity.