They were responding to the call of politicians, religious leaders and coaches from the Bundesliga, the German football championship. More than 100,000 people demonstrated across Germany on Saturday (January 20) against the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, whose members recently discussed the mass expulsion of foreigners during of a gathering of extremists.

Some 35,000 people gathered in Frankfurt, the stronghold of German finance, behind a banner reading “Defend Democracy – Frankfurt against the AfD.” A similar number of demonstrators converged in Hanover (North), some holding “Nazis out” signs.

Demonstrations were reported in Braunschweig, Erfurt, Kassel and many other smaller towns, mirroring the daily mobilizations this week. In total, from Friday to Sunday evening, calls for demonstrations were launched in around a hundred places, including Berlin on Sunday.

Attack on democracy

The movement was sparked by the revelation on January 10 by the German investigative media Correctiv of a meeting of extremists in Potsdam, near Berlin, where, in November, a planned mass expulsion of people of foreign origin was been discussed. Among the participants were a figure of the radical identity movement, the Austrian Martin Sellner, and members of the AfD.

This revelation shook Germany as the AfD soars in the polls, a few months before three important regional elections in the east of the country, where the party has the most supporters. The anti-immigration movement confirmed the presence of its members at the meeting, but denied adhering to the “remigration” project led by Martin Sellner.

Many political leaders, including Social Democratic Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who took part in a demonstration last weekend, recalled that any plan to expel people of foreign origin was an attack on democracy. Mr. Scholz called on “everyone to take a stand – for cohesion, for tolerance, for our democratic Germany.”

Friedrich Merz, the leader of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said on X “very encouraging that thousands of people are demonstrating peacefully against extremism”.

But, in addition to members of the AfD, two members of the CDU, belonging to Werteunion, the right wing of the party, also participated in the meeting disclosed by Correctiv.

Werteunion leader Hans-Georg Maassen announced his split from the CDU on Saturday. The group claims 4,000 members.