Thousands of people marched in cities across Germany on Sunday to voice opposition to nationalist and far-right parties trying to secure seats in this week’s European elections.
Far-right parties such as Italy’s League, Germany’s Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and France’s National Rally (RN) are expected to do well in the vote for seats in European Parliament, according to recent polls.
Sunday’s rallies brought together more than 250 organizations under the banner “Against nationalism” in several cities including Frankfurt and Berlin, where thousands marched through the capital from the symbolic Alexanderplatz to the city’s Victory Column.
“I am here because I don’t want to relive what a national-socialist party already did during my lifetime. That should never happen again,” said Renate Foigt, 74, referring to the ideology of Nazi Germany.
“I hope more and more people take to the streets to say ‘Stop’.”
In Berlin, protest organizers said 20,000 people took part, but police said it was closer to several thousand. Another 14,000 marched in Frankfurt, according to police, and rallies also took place in Hamburg, Cologne and Munich.
Several thousand also protested in the Austrian capital Vienna, where on Saturday protesters demanded new elections after far-right leader and Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache resigned over a hidden-camera scandal suggesting he was open to corruption.
Italian populist leader Matteo Salvini on Saturday had gathered Europe’s disparate nationalists for a unifying rally that was overshadowed by the scandal rattling Austria’s rightist coalition.
Salvini of the anti-immigrant League and Marine Le Pen of France’s RN want their Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) alliance group to become the third largest in Brussels.
Nationalist governments in Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic also often push anti-immigrant agendas and clash with Brussels over their hardline policies and anti-EU stances.
“I am here to warn against what the governments of Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic have done and what might happen in Germany later. It is very dangerous,” said Marius Schlageter, 27. “We live in a global world and global problems and global responsibilities.”
– with reporting by AFP