Image: Sidorela Shehaj


The German far-right conference in Potsdam and racism in the European Union

The city of Potsdam, next to Berlin, is famous for several reasons. It houses the Palace of Sans Souci, where King Frederick II the Great of Prussia spent his summers, a pearl in architectural and historical terms.

Today it also houses the Barberini Museum, opened in 2017 in the restored palace that also served as a temporary residence for Frederick II, with its wonderful exhibitions – currently featuring works by the Norwegian expressionist painter Edvard Munch.

On the bridge between Potsdam and Berlin, during the Cold War, prisoner exchanges took place between the Western powers, West Germany, and the Soviet Union and East Germany. See the film by the way Bridge of Spies, with Tom Hanks and a great cast.

Potsdam also became known worldwide for hosting the conference that, bringing together Joseph Stalin (USSR), Harry Truman (USA), the conservative Winston Churchill later replaced by the laborist Clement Atlee (England), defined between July 17 and August 2, 1945 the division of Germany, Austria, Vienna and Berlin among the triumphant powers of the Second World War: in addition to those three, the broken but reborn France of Charles De Gaulle.

Well, this January 2024, Potsdam once again gained notoriety on a global scale thanks to a new conference, although not as resounding as the one in 1945.

It was revealed in the middle of the second week of the month that, in November of last year, a secret conference was held in one of his palaces. This time, party representatives gathered there alternative for Germany (AfD), far-right, some businesspeople also supporters of the same political tendency, and the special guest, the Austrian Martin Sellner, leader of the Austrian Identitarian Movement.

He exposed his project for the “repatriation” of several million refugees and immigrants, coming to Germany and Europe from the “south of the world”, outside the European continent. Destination: somewhere in North Africa. "Repatriation"? Expulsion, deportation, rejection or another less decorative word. In short, to call things by their proper names, another project of ethnic and social “cleansing” of “pure” Europe “threatened” by “impurities” from beyond the sea.

The news caused a furor in Germany and elsewhere, even in Brazil. The AfD is under investigation by German security agencies, suspected of harboring neo-Nazis. If turned into formal accusations, and confirmed, the party could be banned and therefore closed. At the same time, he is now in second place in terms of voting intentions in the country, behind only the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and far surpassing the three parties that make up the current government, the chancellor's Social Democratic Party (SPD). Olaf Scholz, the Greens and the liberal FDP (a kind of old Brazilian PFL without the archaic coronelism of today's progressive Northeast).

The commotion that gripped the German media left out a fundamental aspect of the event. Although original in its composition, the conference in Potsdam follows a trend now widespread on the continent and Germany is no exception. Or on the contrary: the extreme right dictates it, because it has been guiding, with its xenophobic proposals, European politics as a whole.

For more than a year now, the British government of conservative Rishi Sunak has been trying to set up a program to send refugees and unwanted immigrants to Rwanda, for remuneration. The program only did not go ahead because the British courts have resisted accepting its legality.

In the middle of last year, the European Union, represented by its president Ursula von der Leyen, accompanied by the Italian Prime Minister (far right) Georgia Meloni, by the then Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, signed a generic agreement in Tunis with the President of Tunisia, Kavi Saled, involving an amount of aid and investment in the African country of one billion, one hundred and fifty-five million euros, which provides, among other provisions, a containment of African migrants trying there and through the Mediterranean to reach to the European continent.

The agreement generated a lot of controversy, but continues to hover over the waves of Africans who try to escape the harsh living conditions in their countries to seek utopian relief in a Europe that is increasingly hostile to them while at the same time welcoming refugees with open arms. Ukrainians because, after all, these are “equal Europeans”.

To make this complicated situation worse, Germany and the European Union have maintained a complacent position in the face of the continued and cruel aggression of Benjamin Netanyahu's government against the Palestinian population in Gaza and the West Bank. There is also talk of the possibility of deporting millions of Palestinians from Gaza to Egypt, in yet another ethnic, social and political “cleansing” operation.

To complete this already reprehensible debugging, such attitudes are reminiscent of the first proposal that circulated among the rulers of the Third Reich to solve the “Jewish problem”. Known as the “Madagascar Plan”, officially formulated in July 1940 by Franz Rademacher, the head of the Jewish Department of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it envisaged the deportation of one million Jews to that island in the Indian Ocean.

The British naval blockade prevented it from taking place. She ended up being buried once and for all at the Wannsee conference, in January 1942, in which the Nazi option for the “Final Solution” was confirmed to “solve” the “Jewish problem” and others (gypsies, “disabled people”, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses , communists, prisoners of war, dissidents, etc.), that is, the Holocaust.

By the way: the Wannsee neighborhood is in Berlin, but on the other side of the lake that connects it to Potsdam.

* Flavio Aguiar, journalist and writer, is a retired professor of Brazilian literature at USP. Author, among other books, of Chronicles of the World Upside Down (boitempo). [https://amzn.to/48UDikx]

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