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Germany: Report shows deeper AfD ties to Potsdam meeting

AfD leaders have claimed they had nothing to do with a secret meeting in Potsdam, a new report says otherwise

AfD leaders have claimed they had nothing to do with a secret meeting in Potsdam, a new report says otherwise

A new investigative report by three German media outlets claims the right-wing populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) was more deeply involved in a secret meeting between far-right extremists, politicians and backers in Potsdam, Germany, last year than the party has admitted.

When news of a November meeting in Potsdam was published on January 10, AfD leadership said that no one with ties to the party was there in an official capacity.

The topics of the meeting — among other things, a "master plan" for the mass deportation of foreigners and "non-assimilated" Germans should the AfD come to power — and the guest list — Austrian neo-Nazi Martin Sellner, who leads the extremist Identitarian Movement, was in attendance — sparked nationwide protests in Germany and calls for the AfD to be banned for anti-democratic activities.

New report suggests AfD is trying to obfuscate far-right ties

Now, a report by German public media broadcasters WDR, NDR and the Sueddeutscher Zeitung (SZ) newspaper claims that the party's role in Potsdam was much more involved than the AfD is letting on.

In mid-January, AfD co-leader Alice Weidel quietly announced that she and one of her closest advisors, Roland Hartwig, had parted ways.

Hartwig, a former AfD parliamentarian, attended the meeting. He was one of three individuals with AfD ties known to have been there. The others were parliamentarian Gerrit Huy and state leader Ulrich Siegmund of Saxony-Anhalt.

Now it has become clear that Arne Friedrich Mörig, the son of the host of the Potsdam event (Gernot Mörig) and an associate of Weidel's, also played a key role at the meeting.

Mörig, according to the new report, was on the AfD payroll — receiving funds directly from an account that belongs to Weidel in her capacity as party boss — and gave a presentation on the creation of a new right-wing social media agency in Potsdam.

The report claims Mörig had been under contract to run AfD social media accounts since late 2022, including accounts for the party's parliamentary leaders.

Despite being on the party payroll, Mörig was said to have worked behind the scenes.

Plans for a far-right YouTube

In the time between the Potsdam meeting and the publication of Correctiv's report, Mörig reportedly pitched a scheme to found an influencer agency to boost the party's social media presence. The plan was to create an "alternative YouTube," and a right-wing counterweight to Germany's public broadcasters.

Weidel advisor Hartwig is reported to have suggested funding the agency directly through the AfD as a way to win over young voters from, "the generation that has to turn the page."

According to Mörig's plan, right-wing influencers would be enticed to join the new platform since most are barred from monetizing their YouTube channels due to the content that they produce.

Mörig suggested that private backers would be encouraged to bankroll specific campaigns in an effort to create a "very loyal" new market segment. Influencers and "alternative content creators" would be used to aid AfD campaign efforts in the scheme, as well as to push certain subjects in hopes of influencing public discourse.

Like Hartwig, Mörig's contract was reportedly cancelled when the Correctiv report was published in early January.

Radical members

The report also makes note of the fact that Gernot Mörig, active in right-wing radical circles for decades and the organizer of the Potsdam meeting of the so-called Düsseldorf Forum, has often publicly alerted supporters that they could make donations to the group by transferring money to a private bank account belonging to his brother-in-law, Thomas Grebien, a local AfD politician in the eastern German city of Plön.

In the 1990s, Grebien co-founded (under another name) the right-wing extremist youth group Heimattreue Deutsche Jugend (HDJ), which was banned in 2009. Homeopathic practitioner Henning Pless, with whom Grebien founded the group, was also at the Potsdam meeting.

The HDJ was banned after the Federal Interior Ministry labeled the outfit unconstitutional, saying it was targeting children and youths with neo-Nazi propaganda.

The HDJ is on the AfD's so-called "incompatibility list," which bars it from giving membership to anyone with ties to it. Local AfD leaders in Plön told researchers that they had been unaware of Grebien's past activities.

German media outlets WDR, NDR and SZ say that neither Weidel, Mörig, Hartwig nor the AfD responded to requests for clarification on people affiliated with the party attending the Potsdam meeting and what they discussed.