Beatrix von Storch

The German MP and deputy group chairman of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, Beatrix von Storch, is a descendant of the European noble house of Oldenburg. Born in 1971 as a duchess of Oldenburg, she is the eldest daughter of the civil engineer Huno Duke of Oldenburg (*1940) and his wife Felicitas (*1941), born Countess Schwerin von Krosigk.

Johann Ludwig Count Schwerin von Krosigk served as Minister of Finance of Germany from 1932 to 1945 and as de facto Chancellor of Germany in May 1945.

Both of Beatrix von Storch’s grandfathers were staunch Nazis. She is a granddaughter of the last German Grand Duke, and later SA-Standartenführer, Nikolaus of Oldenburg, and Johann Ludwig Count Schwerin von Krosigk, who from 1932 to 1945 was Reich Minister of Finance. As a latter-born of the princely family her father had no inheritance rights to the family estate, and earned his living as a civil engineer. She grew up with her sister Sophie (*1972) in the village of Kisdorf in Schleswig-Holstein.

After having finished her high school degree Beatrix von Storch went on to study law in Heidelberg and Lausanne. In 1993, she met her future husband, Sven von Storch, who seems to have kindled her enthusiasm for politics. Already during their student years the two embarked on founding a series of “protest groups,” the first of them being the association “Göttingen Students for the Rule of Law” (Göttinger Studenten für den Rechtsstaat). The group protested against the refusal of the Kohl government to compensate landowners, who had been dispossessed between 1945 and 1949 in the course of the Soviet occupation of Eastern Germany—a blow that had affected Sven von Storch’s family. The same objective became the focus of the association “Alliance for the rule of law” (Allianz für den Rechtsstaat), which the couple founded later on.1

In the early 2000s the von Storchs started to built up an extensive network of reactionary associations, initiatives and web platforms, centered around the “supergroup” Zivile Koalition e.V. (“Civil Coalition”), founded in 2004 (see below). In 2011, Beatrix von Storch gave up her job as a lawyer to dedicate herself full-time to her various protest initiatives.2

By the early 2010s von Storch had become an influential figure in Germany’s ultra-Catholic right-wing scene. The political magazine Cicero stated that already before her AfD mandate “no one could pass by her troops who wanted to make a difference in the conservative camp outside the Union.”3 The “Berlin Circle” of the CDU consulted her network, the right-wing voter group “Free Voters” (Freie Wähler) took her on board for organizing demonstrations, and she provided support in the preliminary stages of the AfD’s foundation. At the 2013 inaugural meeting of the party in Oberursel, Beatrix von Storch sat on the podium even though at the time she had stated a party office would be “out of the question” for her.3

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Christians in the AfD

She seems to have quickly changed her mind, since within the first year of the party's existence von Storch has risen in the ranks to the top echelon of the party. In January 2014, von Storch ran as a candidate for the upcoming European elections, and with a tiny majority (142 out of 282 votes) was elected to the forth list position by the AfD’s federal assembly. According to a report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, von Storch is said to have been supported in this election by the party-internal interest group “Christians in the AfD” (Christen in der Alternative für Deutschland)4, which in its mission statement opposes abortions, active euthanasia, or the equal status of same-sex civil partnerships and marriages.5 Presumably to secure the support of the AfD’s radical Christians, in the run-up of the nomination as MEP von Storch has decried the alleged power of a so-called “gay lobby.”6

But Beatrix von Storch's public endorsement of various homophobic and anti-choice initiatives is more than mere political opportunism. According to the German sociologist Andreas Kemper, support of anti-choice movements by descendants of high nobility is widespread, which he sees as a vehicle for them to legitimize their claim to superiority:7

The link between this "pro-life" movement and its aristocratic supporters is the inheritance. The family should be "holy" because family promises family inheritance. Not only in the sense of private property, but also in the sense of a "higher" pedigree. Since this holiness of difference is transmitted embryonically, a contempt of this embryonic process would also be a contempt of the holy class difference. The "protection of life" in this sense is the "protection of nobility."

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March for Life

Among the various anti-choice initiatives Beatrix von Storch supports is the radical Christian “March for Life” (Marsch für das Leben), which once a year brings together various like-minded organizations for a joint rally in Berlin. The march has its origins in the US, where since 1974 it is annually held in Washington, D.C.

The organizer of the German version of the march is the Bundesverband Lebensrecht (“Federal Association for the Right to Life”)8, an initiative directed against a broad range of reproductive rights and healthcare laws, opposing abortions, practices of euthanasia, stem cell research and preimplantation genetic diagnosis. The first March for Life in Germany was organized in 2002, and since 2008 the rally takes place annually. The number of participants in the march increased considerably over the years, so did the size of the counter-protests. According to police reports around 6,000 people participated in the 2016 rally.

In 2014, Beatrix von Storch, at the time Member of the European Parliament, could be seen in the front row of the march, and in 2015, led the march together with the arch-Catholic influencer Martin Lohmann. Lohmann, formerly chairman of the Bundesverband Lebensrecht, is a prominent author and publicist, who serves as the spokesperson of the initiative “Christian Action” (Christliche Aktion).9 Although having no web presence anymore,10 Christian Action had two explicit goals: to fight against sexual education in schools, and for "freedom of expression," which in their case meant legal campaigns against being called far-right. For example, Christian Action has filed two petitions with the ultra-Catholic petition platform CitizenGo in the past, one against sexual education in schools, which reached over 27,000 signatures, another one an appeal to the Federal President to prohibit "branding people who are committed to the protection of life as 'right-wing extremists,'" with almost 10000 signatures.11

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Sven von Storch

Beatrix von Storch’s political successes are to a considerable part also the fruits of her husband Sven, who, although shying away from the limelight, tirelessly supports his wife’s career, and dedicates his time and resources to their various reactionary projects.

Sven von Storch was born in 1970 in Osorno, Chile, where his father, Bernd-Detlev von Storch, had moved after the von Storch family estate in Mecklenburg had been confiscated in the course of the Soviet occupation of East Germany.12 His father established a new livelihood as a farmer, and eventually met his future wife and fellow German, Antje Krüger. Sven von Storch, one of the couple’s four sons,13 spent his childhood and youth in Chile, but subsequently moved to Germany to complete his graduate studies in business administration, where he has been living ever since.

Today, Sven von Storch earns a living as merchant, and besides administers the web of reactionary initiatives and websites the couple had created from the early 1990s onwards. Sven von Storch seems to be inclined to learn from the best of the trade, given that he is following key right-wing figures across the globe on Twitter, including Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, Nigel Farage, or the leader of the Spanish far-right Vox party, Santiago Abascal.14

The von Storchs' reactionary network.
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Civil Coalition

At the heart of the von Storchs' reactionary empire is the association “Civil Coalition” (Zivile Koalition),15 founded in 2004 by a small circle of aristocrats, presumably with the purpose of advocating for the interests of Germany’s nobility. According to an article by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, all seven founding members hold aristocratic titles and belong to the extended family of the von Storchs, who manage the operation.16 The Civil Coalition (CC) was practically unknown in the beginning, and only with the unfolding of the financial crisis of 2008 appeared as vociferous opponent of the European rescue course.

The organization received financial help from various political backers, amongst them one of the “spiritual fathers of the AfD,”17 the former CDU politician and ex-boss of the Confederation of Employers, Hans-Olaf Henkel, who later sat in the European Parliament for the AfD.

In 2013, the CC had almost 100000 supporters, according to Beatrix von Storch, while she estimated its contact list to be ten times as big. In the meantime, the CC has grown into a small organization with a staff of 14 people, and has extended its scope to several protest initiatives and the operation of several websites. These can be roughly divided into three categories:

  • initiatives and web platforms fostering participative / direct democracy, for example to facilitate petitions, or to get in contact with MPs (buergerrecht-direkte-demokratie.de/, civilpetition.de, abgeordneten-check.de, eucheck.org, meinungsfreiheit-jetzt.de)
  • anti-choice initiatives, opposing “gender ideology”, abortion, euthanasia, homosexual marriage etc. (entscheidung-fuers-leben.de/, demofueralle.blog/, familien-schutz.de, 1-von-uns.de/)
  • initiatives that protest against Germany’s fiscal policies, including the introduction of the Euro or German support of the European Stability Mechanism; generally they are aiming at tax cuts for high-income earners, limited social benefits, or protecting/rehabilitating the property interests of Germany’s nobility (derrechtsstaat.de/, webkreis.org/).

These platforms are not only used to cover the political interests of the von Storchs and the arch-reactionary aristocratic cast they are representing, but also to reflect the political positions of the AfD without making the connection to the party immediately apparent.

A key infrastructure to develop strategic arguments that correspond to those of the AfD is the CC’s in-house think tank “Institute for Strategic Studies” (Institut für strategische Studien Berlin, ISSB),18 which was registered as an association in 2005. The discourse catalogue developed by the ISSB is deployed in articles published on the CC’s own online newspaper “Free World” (Freie Welt)19, of which Sven von Storch is the editor-in-chief. Freie Welt also runs a YouTube channel, which, for the most part, publishes interviews with prominent right-wing influencers, such as Nigel Farage or Steve Bannon, often conducted by Beatrix von Storch.20

Most of the CC’s websites and platforms are built with the same Content Management System (Typo3), which allows for the quick deployment of structurally similar websites as well as their interconnection. The different platforms serve as data leeches to gather personal information of their predominantly right-wing users, and, taken together, dispose of probably the largest and most concise collection of contacts from the German right-wing scene. When users are interacting with one of these platforms, the gathered contact details are used to target those users in other contexts. In 2016, a journalist uncovered a possible misuse of data in the network of the association’s websites and filed a complaint.21 The association was also accused of having purchased e-mail addresses from dark web data vendors.22

The extensive use of online technologies serves also another “pet project” of the von Storchs, their ostensible support of participative / direct democracy, but with a rather Machiavellian twist. The website “MP Check” (abgeordnetenen-check.de)23 serves a double purpose: on the one hand as denunciation/defamation platform for MPs to the left of the AfD, on the other hand as “activist platform” which facilitates petitions, and putting pressure on parliamentarians by way of sending them emails, or directly calling them. Since 2011, over 1.7 million e-mails were sent by way of the platform to the Bundestag.3

Campaigns and petitions may be directed against particular policies/parties/politicians, or serve as pure spin, i.e. picking up on topics the far right is instrumentalizing in order to antagonize the political discussion. For example, an openly Islamophobic petition on “MP Watch” is directed against sharia law in Germany, although the application of sharia law is explicitly forbidden in the country.24 Its only purpose seems to be to spin the idea that the German government is a handyman of a creeping Islamization of the country a bizarre argument, but catchy enough to heat up the resentments of those looking for a culprit for their shortcomings. By now the petition has apparently been signed by 820,000 people. The website eucheck.org (currently under maintenance)25 serves the exact same purpose as “MP Watch,” but on a European level, with a focus on putting pressure on Members of the European Parliament.

The platform civilpetition.de is a further multi-purpose petition platform, with a wide array of reactionary causes in line with the AfD's political direction. Petitions are usually

  • pro-industry/business/property ("Save the German industry," "No expropriation of residential property," "Stop the banning of Diesel")
  • anti-leftist ("Declare the Antifa as terrorist organization")
  • anti-choice ("Stop government funding of abortions")
  • anti-Islam ("The German Islam Conference must be abolished!," "Islamic associations should distance themselves from violent Koran verses")
  • anti-immigration ("Review all asylum applications since 2015," "Immediately deport all criminal foreigners")

The website “Freedom of expression now” (Meinungsfreiheit jetzt)26 is also supporting online petitions, but with a particular focus on opposing Germany’s obligatory broadcasting fees, which are used to finance the public broadcasting system. Public broadcasters are a major thorn in the flesh of the AfD, since they, for a large part, treat the party as non grata, and openly call it right-wing extremist.

The CC also operates and supports several anti-choice platforms, campaigning for a variety of reactionary causes with regard to Germany’s family policy, such as rallying against abortions and homosexual marriages, or demanding an increase of the care allowance. These include “One of Us” (Einer von uns), “Decision for Life” (Entscheidung fürs Leben)27, “March for all” (Demo Für Alle), and the “Initiative Family Protection” (Initiative Familienschutz).

Hedwig von Beverfoerde

Most of these initiatives are publicly represented by Hedwig von Beverfoerde, a key figure in Germany’s anti-choice scene, who is behind the CC-supported initiative March for all28, which organizes rallies against sexual education and the equality of homosexual partnerships.29

Von Beverfoerde has contacts to the powerful Spanish anti-choice organization CitizenGo. In the run-up of the 2017 Bundestag election, CitizenGo’s “hate bus” toured in Germany and featured von Beverfoerde as well as the German CitizenGo spokesman Eduard Pröls as speakers.30 Beverfoerde was also the spokeswoman of the German version of the “One of Us” network, the immediate predecessor of Agenda Europe, which was also supported by the CC until it became defunct.31

Not much is known about the CC’s finances, but the few existing indications give room for speculations that the organization is operating on the fringes of legality. Newspapers such as Die Welt and Der Spiegel have reported that Sven von Storch was accused of having withdrawn almost 100000 euros for private purposes from the CC account.32 According to a CC staff member, Sven von Storch had announced in 2012 that he would be traveling abroad, without specifying where to exactly. That he most likely had visited Chile is supported by the fact that several thousand euros have been withdrawn from various Chilean ATMs. If true, Sven von Storch had not presented any, or insufficient, evidence to the CC staff for this more than two-month journey.

To the inquiring press the von Storchs explained that the money was not missing, but instead placed in a bank locker of the Civil Coalition in Berlin, in order to secure the liquidity of the association even in case of a “run on the banks.”32 A blunt lie, according to the Welt am Sonntag, which had received documents, statements and affidavits in September 2013, which suggest that the von Storchs had paid for private leases and travel expenses totaling to 98,000 euros.

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Friedrich von Hayek Foundation

Beatrix von Storch was for many years a member of the conservative, market-liberal Friedrich von Hayek Foundation (FHF). Together with the Civil Coalition, the FHF organized the “Forum Freedom” (Forum Freiheit), a networking event of “a loose alliance of various organizations and associations … to promote the idea of freedom or the realization of freedom in specific areas (e.g. education, health care).”33 In February 2016, the foundation revoked Beatrix von Storch’s membership though, with the official statement:

“This request, which is backed by a large majority of the Executive Board, finds its justification in the public behavior of Ms. von Storch, which in the view of the Executive Board and many members does not correspond to the liberal ideas of Friedrich August von Hayek and thus to the purpose of the Hayek Society regarding key points.”34

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Beatrix von Storch’s family ties

Beatrix von Storch is not the only radical Catholic in her extended family. Several von Oldburgs are known ultra-Catholics, most notably her cousin Paul von Oldenburg and her second cousin Philip von Preußen.

Pedigree of Beatrix von Storch with regard to her family relations with Philip von Preußen and Paul von Oldenburg by the sociologist Andreas Kemper. Philip von Preußen, as great-grandson of Emperor Wilhelm II, would today be emperor of Germany if monarchy would still exist. Also Paul von Oldenburg is a great-grandson of Emperor Wilhelm II.

Paul von Oldenburg is member of a German branch of the ultra-Catholic “counterrevolutionary”35 organization Tradition, Family and Property (TFP), called TFP Deutschland - Deutsche Gesellschaft zum Schutz von Familie, Tradition und Eigentum.36 Like its parent organization, TFP Germany is aiming to return to a (medieval) feudal order, including the re-enthronement of the German aristocracy.  

TFP was founded in 1960 by the Brazilian Plínio Corrêa de Oliveira, “to oppose communism and the Catholic left worldwide,”37 to fight liberation theology within the Catholic Church38 and, in the words of the founder, to advocate a “sacral, anti-egalitarian and anti-liberal Christian culture.”39 The right-wing extremism researcher and political sociologist Karin Priester classified TFP as a “far-right sect.”40

By now subsidiaries of TFP span the whole globe, although it is assumed that the organization remains most active in Latin America. The German TFP section is led by the Chilean-born Mathias von Gersdorff, who oversees also a TFP sub-project, the “Heart of Jesus Apostolate - for the future of the family” (Herz Jesu Apostolat - für die Zukunft der Familie)41, with a particular focus on “the defense of the Catholic Church in Germany.”42

Beatrix von Storch’s cousin, Paul von Oldenburg, is also member of the Herz Jesu Apostolate, as well as of the Fédération Pro Europa Christiana (“Federation for a Christian Europe”)43, an umbrella organization for European Christian fundamentalist initiatives, including TFP France, created in 2011. The federation has a very active chapter in Brussels,44 and disposes of a fancy villa in the French Creutzwald for its meetings and events.45

Paul von Oldenburg’s wife, the Spanish-born noblewoman Pilar von Oldenburg (born Pilar Mendez de Vigo), is equally dedicated to radical Christian causes. She is the spokeswoman of a leading German anti-choice initiative called SOS Leben (“SOS Life”)46, organized by the “German Federation for a Christian Culture” (Deutsche Vereinigung für eine christliche Kultur e.V.), which in turn is a member of the TFP-affiliated Fédération Pro Europa Christiana.

Beatrix von Storch's second cousin, Philip von Preußen, with whom she closely collaborates, is the great-great-grandson of the last German emperor. A professional priest, Philip von Preußen is a fierce monarchist (“Germany needs a king”), and, together with Beatrix von Storch, is one of the most prominent faces among the annual March for Life rallies. Philip von Preußen, as grand-grandson of Emperor Wilhelm II, would today be emperor of Germany if monarchy would still exist. Also Paul von Oldenburg is a great-grandson of Emperor Wilhelm II.

The sociologist Andreas Kemper did another chart with more remote relatives of the von Storch's, who are key players in the anti-feminist/anti-choice movement, and their affiliation with various radical Catholic organizations.

Screenshot of a presentation by the sociologist Andreas Kemper which shows key players of Germany's high nobility active in the anti-feminist/anti-choice movement, and their affiliation with various radical Catholic organizations.

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Timeline

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2016

AfD’s Beatrix von Storch became a member of the EFDD in April 2016, forestalling her imminent expulsion from the European Conservatives and Reformists group, and remained active in the EFDD until her entry into the Bundestag in September 2017.

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2017

In 2017, Beatrix von Storch had invited Nigel Farage to an AfD press conference. Farage's appearance served the double purpose of endorsing the AfD and decrying the EU, whereby bashing then SPD leader Martin Schulz as "EU fanatic."

(8 Sep 2017) Former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage speaking at a rally of the nationalist Alternative for Germany party on of the 24 September election.

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2019

In June 2019, Beatrix von Storch was leading a lengthy interviewing Steve Bannon.

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