By FOIA Research
on September 1, 2020 // Last updated: September 14, 2020

Querdenken

This is a work in progress, trying to identify the various groups participating in the Querdenken ("Lateral Thinking") Corona denier mass demonstrations, the latest of which took place on August 29, 2020, in Berlin. Among them hardcore neo-Nazis, Reich Citizens (Reichsbürger), Identitarians, anti-vaxxers, adherents to the QAnon conspiracy theory, and other proponents lured into the "crossfront" under an anti-scientific and conspiracist umbrella. In the course of the August 29 demonstration 33 policemen were injured, over 130 criminal complaints were filed and 316 people were detained.1

The organizer of the Querdenken ("Lateral Thinking") demonstrations is an eponymous organization that brings together Corona deniers from different political and pre-political platforms to protest against the current Corona restrictions imposed by the German government. Querdenken had already organized a mass demonstration in Berlin on August 1, 2020, which made international headlines. Around 30000 people from seemingly various walks of life had gathered alongside obviously far-right proponents to protest against the anti-Corona measures of the German government, refusing to wear masks or follow the current requirements for social distancing (1.5 meters distance). The success of the demonstration led the organizers to plan a follow-up event on August 29, 2020, which was attended by around 38000 people,2 that culminated with a mob of neo-Nazis and other far-right proponents "storming" the Reichstag building.

The far-right scene had already for weeks spurred on its adherents to attend the Querdenken protests, and had clearly coordinated its actions during the demonstration well in advance.

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Timeline

A day ahead of the main demonstration, on August 28, 2020, far-right figureheads had already gathered in the German capital. Among them Austrian Identitarian big wig Martin Sellner, who appeared together with Jürgen Elsässer of the far-right Compact magazine.3

On that day, the spokesman of Querdenken, the reportedly racist4 Stephan Bergmann, gave an interview to Simon Kaupert of the AfD-affiliated Ein Prozent.

On the day of the main demonstration, August 29, 2020, around midday already a small crowd of far-right extremists had gathered in front of the Reichstag building.1

A few hundred meters farther away the Identitarian movement had put up a big banner with the PEGIDA slogan "We are the people" (Wir sind das Volk), coordinated by the Austrian Identitarian figurehead Martin Sellner.5

At around 1PM, it was announced that the demonstration was officially dissolved by the police, because people were not keeping the necessary distance from each other and were not wearing protective masks, whereupon the organizer animated people to dismiss the ban, for example the Querdenken Ulm organizer Markus Haintz.1

The ban heated the moods and the first neo-Nazi mobsters started to ferociously agitate in front of the police barriers at Friedrichstrasse. Below two neo-Nazis in camouflage introducing themselves as "military reserve," both having a breast badge saying Widerstand ("Resistance").1

Around 3:30PM, the QAnon-affine Querdenken organizer Michael Ballweg spoke to tens of thousands demonstrators. In his speech, he called on people to all come to Berlin and work on a new constitution.1

About two kilometers away, in front of the Russian Embassy, a neo-Nazi and Reichsbürger mob could not hold onto itself no longer and started to attack the police.1

According to a report by the local public broadcaster RBB2410:

Senator of the Interior Andreas Geisel (SPD) declared in a press conference in the evening that there had been "fierce, violent clashes in the area of the Russian embassy". He said that 2,000 to 3,000 right-wing extremists and Reich citizens had gathered there and that this group had thrown stones and bottles at the police. Seven policemen and -women were injured. About 200 people were arrested..

According to an attentive Twitter user (Rechercheplattform zur Identitären Bewegung),6 neo-Nazis had started to regroup in the course of the  afternoon:

In the afternoon, the organized Nazi scene from Cottbus & Dortmund, among others, met at the Bismarck Monument, in front of which they hung their banner "Freiheit für alle Querdenke [Nationalisten]" (Freedom for all lateral thinkers [Nationalists]), which they had made especially for Berlin. In the Nazi mob photo, the Dortmund Nazis were prominent: Deptolla, Koal, Pauße. Further present at #b2908 were at least H. Schwindt and Blood&Honour member R. Schmiemann. Interesting: Querdenken security personnel applauded, made announcements and took pictures. Also in the mob photo and afterwards in the circle of his Nazi comrades in front of the Bismarck monument was the Nazi Sven Krüger from the notorious Nazi village Jamel. In addition, Nazi rappers Patrick Killat and Kevin "OKF" Gabbe were also present. The völkisch scene was also strongly represented, wearing Lederhosen and Dirndls. The folk music group with the harmless name "Dresdner Liedertafel" played there together with the "folk teacher" N. Nerling. Nazi lawyer Björn Clemens also was around.

At around 5PM the police started to systematically detain the most aggressive people. The mood calmed down, and it looked like as if the event would fizzle out soon.

But around 7PM several hundred neo-Nazis managed to jump the barricades in front of the Reichstag, and managed for around 10 minutes to occupy  the stairs in front of the building, before they were forcibly removed by the police.

Also the following day, on August 30, 2020, small far-right gatherings continued, while some groups played a cat and mouse game with the police, with several attempts by neo-Nazis to reach the Reichstag building. When the demonstration drew to a close on Sunday evening, a die-hard remnant of demonstrators gathered in front of the Brandenburg Tor, who all stood up when the speaker proclaimed that  "Europe is rising" (Europa erhebt sich), accompanied by triumphant orchestral music.7

As of September 3, 2020, there was still a group of demonstrators, including AfD media activist Stephan Bauer, Matthäus Westfal aka "Aktivist Mann," and Querdenken spokesman and Reichsbürger Stephan Bergmann.8 According to a Twitter user, who documented the protest, Bergmann reported that he "was talking yesterday 'with some members of the Bundestag' about Bill Gates and a soon to be imposed cryptocurrency,"9 picking up on some tropes that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. had mentioned in his speech.

On September 5, 2020, a Querdenken rally took place in Vienna, Austria. A short video shows how a rainbow flag was torn apart on stage, met with thunderous applause by the audience, as it was identified as a symbol for "child molesters" by the speaker, a pun at the QAnon conspiracy rampant among the Querdenken crowd.10

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Glossary

Below participants identified at the August 28-30, 2020, Querdenken protests:

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A

AfD

About a dozen politicians of the far-right AfD party could be identified among the demonstrators, including Ulrich Oehme (AfD Bundestag MP); Rüdiger Imgart (AfD Weilheim-Schongau); Hansjörg Müller (AfD-Fraktion); André Poggenburg (AfD MdL); Hugh Bronson (AfD Berlin); Robby Schlund (AfD MP); Thomas Rudy (AfD MdL); Gunnar Lindemann (AfD Berlin); Markus Frohnmaier (AfD MP); Björn Höcke (AfD MdL) and Steffen Kotré (AfD MP).

Hansjörg Müller, an AfD member of the Bundestag (left), attacked the police cordon on Friedrichstraße, together with the right-wing rappers Chris Ares/Christoph Zloch (right) & Primus/Andre Laaf (center).

Attorney and judge at the Bavarian Constitutional Court, Rüdiger Imgart (AfD Weilheim-Schongau) was spotted amidst the neo-Nazi rally in front of the Reichstag, which later "stormed" the building.11 Hansjörg Müller, an AfD Member of the Bundestag, "attacked the police cordon on Friedrichstraße, together with the right-wing rappers Chris Ares/Christoph Zloch & Primus/Andre Laaf," according to a Twitter user.12

Aktivist Mann (Matthäus Westfal)

Far-right and anti-semitic YouTuber with over 10000 subscribers, who was among those who stormed the Reichstag building.1 He is allegedly a member of the sect "Organic Christ Generation" (Organische Christus Generation).13

Anastasia Movement

At first glance, the "settlers" of the Anastasia movement appear to be harmless ecologically minded dropouts. They present themselves as non-political movement that wants to live as ecologically and sustainably as possible in harmony with nature. Their ideology, however, is based on anti-Semitism, conspiracy theories and a reactionary as well as racist world view.14 Members of the Anastasia Movement had already partaken in the first Querdenken demonstration on August 1, 2020.

Anti-Antifa

"Anti-Antifa" is the self-designation of several right-wing extremist groups that have emerged ever since the mid-1990s in Germany, with the declared aim to fight against anti-fascists and left-wingers, particularly those attending counter-demonstrations at far-right rallies, but also other opponents such as left politicians, journalists or scientists.

Chris Ares

The right-wing extremist rapper Chris Ares with connection to the AfD had called on his right-wing fan community to show up, but the response was rather poor. The group around Ares engaged in verbal fights with the police and kept on shaking a barrier until two groupies were arrested.15

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B

Michael Ballweg

The founder of Querdenken, the IT entrepreneur Michael Ballweg, flirts with the QAnon conspiracy theory and has been promoted on far-right platforms, such as Tichys Einblick16 and Compact magazine.17 According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung18:

During the demonstrations he organized, the Stuttgart-based Ballweg initially presented himself as an advocate of basic rights, but also polemicized against the wearing of masks and an allegedly coercive vaccination plan. In the meantime he has also expressed sympathy for the conspiracy group QAnon, which is particularly well-known in the USA.

Image

Michael Ballweg with Nikolai Nerling in the course of the August 2020 Corona demonstration.

Ballweg has appeared on pictures together with the repeatedly convicted holocaust denier and völkisch video blogger Nikolai Nerling, aka the "people's teacher."19

Stephan Bergmann

Stephan Bergmann, press spokesman of Querdenken 711, the organizer of the demonstration, is a hardcore racist, according to the Tagesspiegel4, although in the meantime he has gotten rid of the most revealing of his social media posts:

Stephan Bergmann repeatedly posted content in which he warns of a "mixing of the races." In one instance he warns against the breeding of a "light brown race in Europe." By genetic intermixing the intelligence quotient of the white population would go down. In order to understand the "great connections of world events," Bergmann also recommended a video describing how the German people are supposed to be systematically wiped out by the import of "tribal warriors from Africa" and "masses of Muslims."

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C

Compact Magazine

The August 29 demonstration was publicized by various far-right media, for example by the magazine Compact, which offered the whole front page of its September 2020 issue to tie together Querdenken with the "Q" of Qanon. The headline reads17: "Q - Querdenker - Will the freedom movement topple the Corona dictatorship?"

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D

Daniel Fiß

The co-head of the German Identitarian Movement, Daniel Fiß, was spotted alongside fellow Identitarian, Mario Müller.20

Der III. Weg

Also members of the right-wing extremist minority party Der III. Weg were present at the Querdenken demonstration.21

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E

Ein Prozent

The campaign Ein Prozent für unser Land ("One percent for our country") is a German campaign affiliated with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. The name is an allusion to the idea that it would only take one percent of the population to change Germany. Ein Prozent tries to tie together various far-right initiatives by organizing events and initiating petitions that are mostly directed against Germany’s immigration policy. One Percent also supports projects such as the building of a “patriotic trade union." The organization was founded in 2015 as a hinge between the AfD and the Identitarian movement by publicist Götz Kubitschek (Antaios publishing, Sezession, Institut für Staatspolitik etc.), Jürgen Elsässer (Compact magazine), and AfD politician Hans-Thomas Tillschneider.

Ein Prozent's Simon Kaupert led an interview with Stephan Bergmann, the racist4 press spokesman of Querdenken, the organization behind the demonstration.

Jürgen Elsässer

Compact magazine's editor, Jürgen Elsässer appeared together with a prominent figurehead of the Austrian Identitarian Movement, Martin Sellner.

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F

Heinrich Fiechtner

Extreme right-wing ex-AfD politician, who appeared as a speaker at the demonstration, where he gave orders like a military commander: "Everyone stays put, where they are - as in any good army. Everyone stays at his battle position, and from there we will continue to fight."22

Markus Frohnmaier

Markus Frohnmaier is an AfD MP with unsavory contacts to Russian and German fascists and neo-Nazis. His former advisor in the Bundestag, Manuel Ochsenreiter, is currently on trial for having financed a false-flag arson attack on a cultural center in Ukraine.

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H

Ursula Haverbeck

Fans of the holocaust denier Ursula Haverbeck, aka "Nazi granny," were also present at the Querdenken demonstration.23 Ursula Haverbeck (*1928), who has been repeatedly convicted for Nazi revisionism after publicly denying the reality of gas chambers in Nazi extermination camps,24 was a good friend of Heinrich Himmler's daughter Gudrun Burwitz.25

Attila Hildmann

Attila Hildmann, a vegan cook and (former) TV celebrity, who has earned the nickname of "Avocadolf," is of the main Qanon promoters in Germany.  According to Deutsche Welle, "The vegan chef claims Adolf Hitler was a "blessing" compared to Angela Merkel, accusing her of preparing a global genocide."26 He had been detained by the police in front of the Russian embassy during the August 29 demonstration.27

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I

Identitarian Movement

In the early evening, well-known Identitarian cadres unrolled a multi-part banner at the Victory Column (Siegessäule) with the PEGIDA slogan "We are the people."5  According to a Twitter user20:

Martin Sellner was leading the action, but was dissatisfied with the overall patchy and droopy impression and the low attention. Also present: Mario Müller (photographer), Dawid Ratajczak (filmer), Daniel Sebbin (organization), Maximilian Thorn, Daniel Fiss, Thorsten Görke...

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J

Junge Alternative

The Young Alternative for Germany (Junge Alternative für Deutschland or JA) is the youth organization of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, but remains legally independent. Since 2019 the German national intelligence service Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) classified JA as "Prüffall," meaning the agency is monitoring the public activities of JA. JA's Gavin Singer (see below) was among those who incited the crowd that "stormed" the Reichstag building.

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K

Kandel ist  überall

Kandel ist überall ("Kandel is everywhere")28 is a German far-right initiative, trying to frame immigrants for violence against women. Its manager, Christina Baum, a politician of the far-right AfD party, was at the Querdenken demonstration,29 so were some other sympathizers of the campaign.30 Baum fell into lasting disrepute when chat protocols of her former employee at the Landtag (state parliament), Marcel Grauf, leaked. They reveal i.a. that Grauf had asked a friend whether he would prefer to rape Sophie Scholl or Anne Frank, and that he wants to "piss on corpses and dance on graves," followed by "Sieg Heil!"31

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

The most prominent speaker at the event was Robert F. Kennedy jr., son of Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of former president John F. Kennedy, a prominent anti-vaxxer. He is head of Children's Health Defense, which is currently in the process of branching out to Europe. Kennedy started his speech with the statement that, opposite to what he has been told, he is not speaking to a crowd of 5000 neo-Nazis, and then embarking on on a conspiracist "anti-establishment" rant of why governments love pandemics. Bill Gates and Anthony Fauci, who had planned the pandemic, had “done a very good job of using the quarantine to bring 5G into all of our communities," and “to begin the process to shift us all to a digital currency, which is the beginning of slavery," according to Kennedy. Not surprisingly, in his speech he made reference to the famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" slogan of his uncle.

Image

Grzegorz Braun (left) with AfD politician Andreas Galau during the August 29-30, 2020, Querdenken demonstration.

Konfederacja (Poland)

The vice-president of the state parliament of Brandenburg, Andreas Galau (AfD), appeared together with the anti-Semite Grzegorz Braun of the extreme right-wing Konfederacja (Poland). Braun had stated in the past: "The Jews have been waging war against the Polish nation for centuries."32

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L

Gunnar Lindemann

Gunnar Lindemann, Berlin AfD politician with contacts to fascists and neo-Nazis, i.a. in Russia and the Donbass, was also present at the Querdenken demonstration.

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M

Hansjörg Müller

On August 29, 2020, AfD MP Hansjörg Müller was among the mob that attacked the police cordon on Friedrichstraße, together with the far-right rappers Chris Ares/Christoph Zloch and Primus/Andre Laaf. A day later, on August 30, 2020, AfD MP Hansjörg Müller was speaking on the Querdenken stage in front of the Brandenburg Gate.33

Mario Müller

Mario Müller is a prominent face in the German Identitarian movement, and appears as a key organizer of far-right events in Saxony-Anhalt and beyond. Müller is the founder of Kontrakultur Halle, an infamous meeting place of the German Identitarian Movement in the city of Halle, deemed the most important project of the Identitarian Movement in the German-speaking world, according to Christoph D. Richter of Deutschlandfunk.34

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N

Nikolai Nerling

Nikolai Nerling is an antisemite, holocaust denier and "people's teacher." In the picture below he can be seen with Thor's hammer around the neck, giving a völkisch dance interlude during the Querdenken demonstration.22 Nerling was also among the neo-Nazi mob, which stormed the Reichstag.35

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Q

QAnon

QAnon is the absurd conspiracy theory popular in the US, claiming that (democratic) politicians are kidnapping children to extract a rejuvenating substance (adrenochrome) from them, which also has fallen on fertile ground in Germany. Querdenken founder Michael Ballweg is a known QAnon adherent, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung.18

Querdenken

The demonstration was mainly organized by Querdenken ("Lateral Thinking"), an initiative that brings together Corona deniers from different political and pre-political platforms to protest against the current Corona restrictions imposed by the German government. The Querdenken organizers are apparently ruthless enough to pretend that they are an apolitical anti-establishment umbrella initiative, while it is clearly a far-right project. This enables them to instrumentalize gullible and confused forces that do not identify themselves with the right or far right, but rather consider themselves centrists or left-wingers. The founder of Querdenken, the IT entrepreneur Michael Ballweg, flirts with the QAnon conspiracy theory and has been promoted on far-right platforms, such as Tichys Einblick36 and Compact magazine.17 Stephan Bergmann, press spokesman of Querdenken 711 is a hardcore racist, according to the Tagesspiegel4, although in the meantime he has gotten rid of the most revealing of his social media posts:

Stephan Bergmann repeatedly posted content in which he warns of a "mixing of the races." In one instance he warns against the breeding of a "light brown race in Europe." By genetic intermixing the intelligence quotient of the white population would go down. In order to understand the "great connections of world events," Bergmann also recommended a video describing how the German people are supposed to be systematically wiped out by the import of "tribal warriors from Africa" and "masses of Muslims."

Image

Mike Sawallich (white shirt), a comrade of Stephan Ernst, currently in pretrial detention for the alleged murder of the CDU politician Walter Lübcke.

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S

Mike Sawallich

Mike Sawallich, known neo-Nazi and companion of the alleged murderer of the CDU politician Walter Lübcke, Stephan Ernst, was also at the Querdenken demonstration.

Dirk Scheller

Querdenken's Dirk Scheller is the one, who had registered the demonstration with the authorities in Berlin. He could also be seen among the diehard rest of about 20 demonstrators who were still protesting on September 3, 2020, besides Stephan Bergmann and the "Aktivist Mann."37

Martin Sellner

The spokesman of the Austrian Identitarian Movement (IM), Martin Sellner, as well as his American wife, Alt-right poster girl Brittany Sellner (formerly Pettibone), are veritable celebrities in the far-right scene. Sellner, deemed the protégé of the right-wing extremist Gottfried Küssel, is the leader and best-known face of the German-speaking IM and a full-time far-right activist. Besides running the Austrian IM branch, he writes books, runs an extremist web shop (Phalanx Europa) and a YouTube channel, and travels the world to speak at far-right events, sometimes along like-minded white supremacists, such as Jared Taylor, Kevin MacDonald, and Greg Johnson. Brittany Sellner, while living with her husband in Vienna, maintains excellent connections to the American Alt-right, and runs her own YouTube channel, on which she mainly represents anti-feminist positions.

Gavin Singer

Gavin Singer, a visceral rabble rouser of the AfD's youth organization "Young Alternative" (Junge Alternative), was among those who incited the crowd that "stormed" the Reichstag building. He allegedly quit his membership in the Young Alternative immediately, when footage and pictures of him surfaced among the neo-Nazi mob at the Reichstag.38

Superman

"Superman" was one of the most pertinent Querdenken attendees. He was around the whole weekend, and the following days among the group of diehard "lateral thinkers" that have gathered in front of the Brandenburg Gate and in the center of Berlin. He was a sought-after interview partner during the protests. Footage of him emerged in which he was interviewed by the far-right media activist Stefan Bauer. They discussed "where the real enemies of the movement are. Besides Antifa and the police, they named mainly the press," according to an alert Twitter user.39

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T

Donald Trump fans

There were numerous Trump-fans among the Querdenken demonstrators, and one could see bizarre flags, for example one that sported Donald Trump on the Reich flag, used by the far right as a Nazi flag replacement, with the Q for QAnon.40

A large banner read: "Mr. Trump, don't forget the German patriots."40

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V

Udo Voigt

Former leader of the neo-Nazi NPD party posted a picture in front of the giant Gandhi slogan at Brandenburg Gate, put up by the Querdenken organizers.

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W

Rick Wegner

The neo-Nazi Rick Wegner, who according to his own statements had been in prison for robbery and murder and is well networked in the German neo-Nazi scene, was among those who "stormed" the Reichstag building.1

 

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