Pirna – Germany’s First Neo-Nazi City?

At the end of 2023 – for the first time in Germany’s post-Nazi (after 1945) history – a right-wing extremistTim Lochner – was elected mayor of Pirna. This East German city of 37,000 became the place where the AfD won the mayoral election, despite being widely regarded as a Neo-Nazi party.

Just to make a few examples:

This is the political party of Tim Lochner who formally ran as an independent candidate to camouflage his true allegiance to right-wing extremist ideologies. His term of office will begin with what he calls a “loyalty check” – a kind of “ideological cleansing” of the city of Pirna’s administration.

Shortly after his election win, the 53-year-old far right carpenter celebrated his election victory together with far right AfD supporters. AfD’s mini-Führerin Alice Weidel spoke of a “historic success” in what some see as Dunkeldeutschland, the remote and dark [dunkel] corner of Germany.

The city of Pirna is located between Dresden and the Czech border. It likes to call itself Gateway to Saxony’s Switzerland.” Yet, behind the fancy tourist façade lurk several decades of rather active Neo-Nazis.

Most prominent are the hard-core Neo-Nazis of the National Resistance Pirna [Nationaler Widerstand Pirna]. They are part of a thuggish thrashing-squad called Skinheads Sächsische Schweiz. Apparently also feel connected to the mountainous area of Saxony’s Switzerland.

Hiding his Neo-Nazi-AfD connection behind the camouflaging shield of being “independent”, Lochner will will take office at the end of February 2024. He will be responsible for the administration of around 250 employees. And he will also chair the city’s council meetings.

Lochner is elected for seven long years of Neo-Nazi reign. Yet, a few weeks ago, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution classified the Völkisch (read: Neo-Nazi) and chauvinistic- ultra-national AfD as right-wing extremist. However, 6,500 people in Pirna were not worried about this. They voted for the AfD. Lochner received a whopping 38.9% voter support. Like Adolf Hitler who, in Germany’s last free elections held in 1932 received 37.3% and failed to secure a majority of votes, Lochner failed as well. Both Hitler’s and Lochner’s below 40% voter support is well below an absolute majority of 50%.

Yet, Saxony’s local election law makes it possible that a simple majority was sufficient. The second ballot needs just a majority. Lochner had already won just 10% in the first round. While in the second round, more voters made their mark on the AfD stooge. Lochner won an additional 1,300 votes and that was enough to get the semi-Neo-Nazi in.

In truth, Pirna’s conservative forces were split. The CDU and a crypto-reactionary outfit called “Free Voters” each came in with just over 30%. Lochner had 38.9%. If only one of the conservatives had stood against Lochner, the election of the first AfD mayor would have been prevented. It was not to be.

Ideologically, Pirna’s “Free Voters” aren’t even far off the AfD. Before the election, one of its board members had invited the far-right Neo-Nazi, AfD supporter, and neo-fascist publisher Götz Kubitschek to present his neo-fascistic hallucinations. Even more problematic is the fact that the “Free Voters” in Pirna’s city council – in cahoots with the AfD – had (albeit unsuccessfully) tried to cancel funds for a civil society project that promoted democracy. Both had planned to cut funds for “Aktion Zivilcourage”.

Acting not just against democratic institutions but also against the formal, rule-based, and independency of Germany’s civil service, the far right mayor plans the ideological cleansing of his administration. This is what he rather cockily announced as a “Loyalitätsprüfung”, the proof of loyalty. A 2024 version of Meine Ehre heißt Treue. Besides such possible historical connotations, Lochner’s plan might well include the purging of the administration of public servants holding democratic ideas.

Lochner’s purges might be based on his beliefs in organized conspiracy fantasies as he also supported right-wing anti-vaxxer rallies. Shortly after his election, crypto-Neo-Nazi Lochner immediately announced that he would no longer hoist a rainbow flag ending the city’s support for Germany’s LGBTQ+ community. Tellingly, Lochner also spoke of the neo-fascist Great Replacement – an irrational fear that Germans are being replaced by non-Germans. It is a common, not only in Germany, and deeply racist Neo-Nazi fairy-tale.

In addition, Lochner is also in cahoots with the Neo-Nazi Max Schreiber who runs a violent Neo-Nazi platoon called Free Saxons. Yet, all of this is not new. Ever since the end of the state-socialist East-Germany in 1989, Pirna has remained an important rallying point for East-German Neo-Nazis.

Yet, Pirna’s dark Nazi roots date back even further.

It goes back to Hitler’s Nazis of the 1930s and early 1940s. Pirna is also the location of a Nazi Memorial dedicated to a former euthanasia facility where the Nazis murdered 14,700 mostly mentally ill and mentally disabled people. Pirna’s Holocaust Memorials Foundation has announced that it would not hold any events together with Lochner. During the AfD election campaign, statement bordering on Holocaust denial were made. For example, during the campaign, the AfD’s Maximilian Krah spoke – at Pirna’s central market square – of Umvolkung. This is the German word for the conspiratorial Great Replacement fantasy – the racist ideology to secure white superiority. It is the trumped-up hallucination of an impending replacement of, for example, Germans by non-Germans, white Americans by non-white Americans.

More than just bordering on Holocaust denial, Lochner also claimed that Germany’s democratic parties want to “persuade” Germans in believing that the Nazis were criminals. He likes to insinuate two things:

  1. The Nazis were not criminals; and,
  2. Germany’s democratic political parties – today – only want to make it look like as if they were criminals.

All this not just contradicts everything we know about the Holocaust, it also testifies to Lochner’s belief that the Nazis were not criminals. Lochner’s far right fabrications line up rather neatly with what the AfD’s very own boss – Gauland – once said, when he belittled Nazi crimes as “a little bird shit”.

On the day after Pirna’s first ballot, the right-wing Free Saxons, a Neo-Nazi outfit called “Homeland” (ex-NPD), and AfD supporters, had marched in front of a Nazi memorial site. This might herald what is about to come under Neo-Nazi mayor Lochner.

In fact, Lochner’s success was not even particularly significant, given the currently very high approval ratings of the AfD. In East-German public polling, the AfD is hovering around 32% to 35%. In past years, there were already shockingly high election results for Germany’s traditional Neo-Nazi party, the NPD, until the AfD took over. Worse, this was accompanied by a lot of violence committed by Neo-Nazi thugs in Saxony – the home state of Pirna. Saxony is also a region with a rather unsavoury link to Germany’s worst post-Nazi killer squad called NSU.

On the upswing, crypto-Neo-Nazi Lochner will be bound by the decisions of Pirna’s city council where the AfD holds only 5 out of 25 seats. Yet, he might still be able to carry his ideologically driven eliminations of people in Pirna’s administration. Meanwhile, Pirna’s city employees are also bound by law and not by ideology. In particular, they are not assigned to support Lochner’s anti-democratic ideology.

While Lochner might like to pretend to be a democrat to smokescreen his authoritarian ideology, 60% of Pirna’s voters had not voted for Lochner. Yet, with the rise of the AfD and Lochner, many have the feeling that the tone is getting rougher.

Hate speech will be on the rise in Pirna. This is spiced up by a normalization of right-wing extremist ideas. This is the mainstreaming of fascism.

Meanwhile, the Association of the Persecutees of the Nazi regime in Saxony commented on Locher’s election with:

This is a black day for Pirna, for all democrats in Saxony and in Germany the fact that Pirna, which houses a memorial for the victims of the Nazi Euthanasia murders, is the first German city to have an AfD lord mayor, leaves many shocked, sad and angry.

Worse, Saxony’s conservatives, the CDU, the far right “Free Voters”, and the Neo-Nazi AfD are striving towards stopping migration. Some of the things the AfD wants are very close to those Friedrich Merz (CDU) is advocating as well. And by the same token, key elements of his political programme are highly similar to the AfD’s.

Yet, in Pirna it became clear that democratic forces should have joined instead of running separate candidates. Pirna also shows that when democratic forces are divided, Neo-Nazism will march.

Given this, many will ask: is Pirna a replay of 1933 when the democratic forces of the social-democratic SPD and the communist KPD failed to unite against Hitler?

Today, Germany’s traditional conservatives, the CDU with its Uber-conservative boss Friedrich Merz support many idée fixe of the AfD:

  • The CDU still equates homosexuals with paedophiles. The AfD would agree;
  • the CDU also praised Claudia Pechstein’s recent racist speech at its very own party congress. The AfD would agree with that as well;
  • Merz also defamed Muslim teenagers as little pashas. Again, the AfD would agree to that too; and finally,
  • Merz wants to reduce the welfare state and weaken Germany’s labour law. Again, the AfD would support both policies.

In other words, once again, Germany’s traditional conservatives might be the future enabler of the AfD.

Meanwhile, the normalisation of the AfD and neo-fascism marches on. In the East-Germany state of Thuringia, for example, it is already visible how Merz’s much trumped-up firewall (no engagement with the AfD) is cracking.

In September 2023 for example, an East-Germany state parliament (Erfurt) reduced a real estate tax (for the wealthy) with the support of the CDU, FDP, and – tellingly – the AfD.

Back at Pirna’s Holocaust memorial site, the head of the Holocaust site does not want any commemorative wreaths sent by the AfD. The Holocaust site considers Lochner’s election as alarming. Its head warned that if the AfD mayor in Pirna influences the work of the Holocaust site, the administration will run the Pirna-Sonnenstein memorial under a new sponsorship system. It emphasised that, with an AfD mayor sitting in Pirna’s town hall, there can be no cooperation.

Worse. The AfD’s true Führer – Björn Höcke – once demanded a “180-degree turn” in how to commemorate the Holocaust. It would mean that the SS is now the victim. Yet, the AfD’s revisionist ideology and action might haunt Pirna’s Holocaust Memorial site for years to come. On the one hand, Pirna’s memorial site was set up by parliament. The ideology of the AfD is in stark contrast to the memorial site’s legal mandate. The very existence of the Holocaust contradicts the AfD’s ideology.

The site’s mission is to remember the history and the crimes of the Nazi, the Shoah, its inhuman and racist politics, and the murder of political opponents. The AfD rejects that.

Given all this, one might be surprised to see that over 1.4 million Germans rallied against right-wing extremists and the AfD in early 2024.

Yet, after the AfD’s Wannsee 2.0 scandal that came to light in early 2024, many Germans, often for the first time, saw the ugly face of neo-fascism: the AfD’s plan for a forced deportation of virtually anyone they do not like in Germany. Eventually, Germans began to realise how dangerous the AfD actually is.

On the downside, all of this is too late for the city of Pirna. All thanks to the crypto-Neo-Nazi Lochner who has been elected for seven long years.

Cover photo: The Sonnenstein Castle, now a memorial to Nazi crimes and their victims. The historical memory apparently could not stop more than 30% of local citizens from voting a far right politician. Photo source.

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Thomas Klikauer is the author of Alternative Für Deutschland – The AfD: Germany’s New Nazis Or Another Populist Party?

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