Protests against covid-19-related restrictions continue to gain popularity throughout Germany.
On August 1, Berlin was flooded by thousands of people coming from all over Germany to protest against the government for its handling of the pandemic. The crowd of protesters included far-right extremists, conspiracy theorists and anti-vaccination supporters. According to police authorities, more than 20,000 people joined Saturday’s protest, which has been organized by an organization based in Stuttgart.
The protesters gathered in front of the Brandenburg Gate and shouted sentences such as “we’re the second wave” and “resistance.”
Saturday’s theme was “Tag der Freiheit,” (literally “Day of Freedom”), and recalled the title of a 1935 Nazi propaganda movie.
Some far-right extremist protesters waved Germany’s Imperial War Flag. But among the crowd, there were also people waving rainbow and peace flags, as well as someone with placards reading “Jesus Lives!” Even families participated to the anti-coronavirus demonstration, although distancing themselves from the conspiracy theories espoused by other protesters.
The protest included people with different opinions and worldviews, but one thing assimilated them all: they were all against the government’s COVID-19 safety measures. Reading the protesters’ placards, it was immediately clear that they do not believe in the existence of COVID-19. Many of them think that the virus idea has been created by the government to turn Germany into a dictatorship.
Some protesters wore Stars of David on their chests reading “not vaccinated.” By wearing the star, they were trying to compare themselves to Jews during Nazism: as Jews were persecuted by the Nazis, so are they now persecuted by a dictatorship that imposes “vaccination fascism.” Other people are convinced that Microsoft founder Bill Gates is out to vaccinate people against their will and plant microchips in their bodies. Most of these conspiracy theories originated on the web with the support of right-wing extremists and conspiracy theorists.
The promoters of conspiracy theories
The first German march against COVID-19 restrictions was organized by Anselm Lenz, a German former journalist. According to Lenz, who is associated with the left-wing political ideology, the German government had allied itself with pharmaceutical and tech companies with the aim of abolishing democracy. This first protest, which was held in Berlin’s Rosa Luxemburg square, gathered only 40 people. A few weeks later, a similar protest attracted more than 1,000 people protesting against the “vaccination dictatorship.”
Ken Jebsen is another promoter of these theories. He is a former radio journalist who was fired due to anti-Semitic remarks. After that, he has created a YouTube channel and a personal website, where he publishes controversial content. For example, Jebsen has claimed on one of his videos that Bill Gates wants to manipulate the World Health Organization in order to gain profits from the selling of a vaccine.
The German list of conspiracy theorists includes also Attila Hildmann, cookbook author and vegan chef. After being banned from Instagram due to community rules violation, he began posting on Telegram, where he urges his followers to use violence to resist the lockdown.
As coronavirus cases in Germany started to decrease, the movement lost some of its appeal. However, now that the German infection rate is increasing again and rumors about a second lockdown began to spread, the theories are finding supporters again.