October 16, 2017
Far-right violence has been reported at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair
by Ian Dreiblatt
Several incidences of far-right violence have been reported at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, which concluded at the end of last week, leading at least two people to seek medical treatment. The incidents were reported by Deutsche Welle, Germany’s public international news agency.
The first took place on Friday, when Achim Bergmann, the seventy-four-year-old director of Germany’s venerable leftist publishing house and record label Trikont (as in “tri-continental,” for their emphasis on struggles in Africa, Asia, and South America), was punched in the face after remarks he made while walking past an event organized by the right-wing newspaper Junge Freiheit. The news was initially reported on social media by a colleague of Bergmann’s, who saw in the attack evidence of “this new self-assurance of the right, this arrogance, this certainty that such things are, once again, possible.”
More violence erupted at the fair the next day, when Nico Wehnemann showed up to protest at a far-right stand, where he claims he was tackled by a neo-Nazi, beaten by private security forces as police watched without intervening, and then carried off while a crowd chanted, “Sieg Heil!” (It is illegal to be a Nazi in Germany.) Wehnemann is an activist with Die PARTEI, a satirical German organization whose name is an acronym for “Party for Labor, Rule of Law, Animal Protection, Promotion of Elites and Grassroot-Democratic Initiative” (“Partei für Arbeit, Rechtsstaat, Tierschutz, Elitenförderung und basisdemokratische Initiative). He intends to press charges.
The weekend also saw several events by far-right publishers cancelled in the face of vocal protests. One of these, a panel organized by the reactionary publishing house Antaios that was overwhelned by a crowd chanting “Nazis out!”, included Björn Höcke, a nationalist politician whose agenda includes loosening prohibitions on the dissemination of propaganda by constitutionally prohibited hate groups, and who stirred up a tempest earlier this year by calling for a “180 degree turnaround” in how Germany commemorates the Holocaust. (Like all countries, Germany currently regards the Holocaust as very, very bad.)
Höcke is a member of Alternative for Germany, the ultra-nationalist fashoid party that terrified everyone by coming in third in Germany’s recent federal elections. We wrote recently about Antaios, when Der Spiegel decided to exclude from its bestseller rankings a title described by editor Susanne Beyer as advocating “far-right views, anti-Semitism and historical revisionism.”
In the aftermath of the violence, Deutsche Welle noted, “Organizers were widely criticized for inviting right-wing publishers to participate in the fair, the world’s largest, but said they had done so in the interest of freedom of speech, encouraging visitors to engage in ‘active debate.’”
Ian Dreiblatt is the director of digital media at Melville House.