Politicians have harsely condemned a new online portal launched by Germany’s far-right populist party, Alternative for Deutschland, or AfD, encouraging students to report on teachers who share political views.
The site, launched for the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg on Thursday, encourages students to speak up against teachers who criticiae AfD, according to a justification from the AfD parliamentarian who launched it, Stefan Raepple.
It follows a website created to encourage reporting on educators in Hamburg that was launched in September and called “Neutral Schools Online.” The project has drawn outrage from educators and politicians, and led to comparisons of Germany under the Nazis when citizens were encouraged to report on one another.
German Justice minister Katarina Barley called the portal a “method of dictators” and cited it as an attempt to limit democracy.
“Anyone who incites students to spy on teachers brings Stasi methods back to Germany,” she said in a statement on Twitter, referring to the East German secret police during a time where citizens were encouraged to report on one another. Similar tactics to promote suspicion among fellow citizens were used during the Nazi era.
Citing the “darkest chapter of German history” — the period between 1933 and 1945 — “what the AfD is supporting here, that children become informers and blacken their teachers, is absolutely a no-go,” Helmut Holter, the president of the Culture Ministry, told German newspaper FAZ.
The portal in Baden-Wuerttemberg encourages going a step further than its Hamburg counterpart by encouraging users to publish teacher’s names.
“For years, there have been left-wing ideological programs at Hamburg schools,” Hamburg AfD politician Alexander Wolf said in a statement on the party’s website.
His party aims to target teachers who allegedly violate the laws of educational neutrality, which were created after the Nazi era to avoid indoctrination.
The Hamburg school board harshly condemned the initiative.
“Students would be made into informers and unilaterally be instrumentalized for AfD’s concerns,” the board’s spokesperson, Peter Albrecht, told German news wire DPA. He added that it has long been possible to report neutrality breaches directly to the school system.
Yet, while the AfD lauded the platform as a success, it was also flooded with satirical contributions, including pizza orders and complaints about teachers using squeaky chalk, as reported the Hamburg Morning Post.
The AfD has plans to launch similar portals in eight other German states, including Berlin and Bavaria, according to German media reports.
Amid the unrest over the AfD’s websites, new Nazi-era parallels are being drawn.
The party’s co-founder, Alexander Gauland, who has previously come under fire for minimizing the Holocaust, may have paraphrased Adolf Hitler in a newspaper article in the Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung, or FAZ, published last Saturday.
Writing an ode to populism, Gauland decried a “globalized class” that moves from one city to the next, holding positions in mainstream organizations, including academia and the media. Such statements drew parallels to a speech Hitler gave in Berlin in 1933, where he spoke of a “small, rootless, international clique” that moved from one city to the next.
Antisemitism researcher and historian Wolfgang Benz wrote about the similarities between the two speeches in the German paper Tagesspiegel. According to Benz, it seemed “as if the AfD head had the 1933 speech of the leader on his desk when he wrote his contribution for the ‘FAZ.'”