Björn Höcke has a toxic image of masculinity. But he doesn’t do it justice himself, says Susan Arndt. Although our columnist doesn’t want to be friends with fascists, she would give Höcke some advice if they met.

I remember two things in particular from the television duel in April between the CDU’s top candidate for the upcoming state elections in Thuringia, Mario Voigt, and Björn Höcke. On the one hand, the chairman of the Thuringian AfD parliamentary group likes to take refuge in gaps in his memory. For example, he couldn’t even remember that in his book “Never twice in the same river” he denied the Bundestag Vice President Aydan Özoğuz (SPD) that he was German – even though the “Welt” journalist had just given him the quote had read out.

On the other hand, I remembered that Höcke was extremely insecure. His body language and voice showed how uncomfortable he was – they expressed fear, almost vulnerability. If Björn Höcke were a friend of mine, I would have liked to encourage him at this moment.

But since I can’t be friends with Nazis, I’ll never be able to give him that. This won’t bother Höcke because he won’t want to be friends with people who reject fascists like him.

But without courage, every fear grows – including Höcke’s fear of not being able to live up to his own dogma of masculinity. In his book he writes that the fate of the German nation depends on German men. However, these would first have to be returned to their “natural masculinity”. Because at the moment masculinity is being “gayed”.  Eighty percent of men are “wimps” and ten percent are “uptight machos.” It’s good that he mentions these terms.

Because “uptight macho” was exactly the word I was looking for to characterize Höcke in his TV appearance. He can neither admit nor forgive himself that he is one of those people. Because he lacks the courage to do so, his fear of his own failure grows into anger, which he knows how to take out on others.

Susan Arndt is Professor of Anglophone Literatures at the University of Bayreuth. After studying German, English and African literature in Berlin and London, she received her doctorate on feminism in Nigerian literature and oracle.

In her new book “I am East German and against the AfD – An Intervention” she gives a voice to the often overlooked majority of East Germans who do not vote for the AfD.

For example, women. He blames them for the effeminacy of men. That is why he wants to change the way women do the majority of early education work in daycare centers and schools and promote “anti-violence and anti-antibody education.”

It is obvious that this homophobic and sexist gender madness arises from the logic of ethnic racism, which relies on eugenics to prevent the supposed degeneration of the ‘German race’, the ‘German people’. That’s why he also wants white women to concentrate on their core competence – that is, on being national birthing machines – and to leave the actual actions in the family and society to the men.

I am East German and against the AfD: An intervention

The studied history teacher focuses on the long century of ethnic racism and especially National Socialism. That’s exactly why legal proceedings were and are ongoing against him. In these, as in the TV duel, he relies on deleting his memory – in order to protect himself through the memory gap.

In 2021, Höcke used a banned SA slogan in a speech in Merseburg. Now he was standing before the Halle regional court because of it. There he acted clueless. He didn’t even know that this was an SA slogan. Maybe he’s just a lousy historian. That could be true. But why did he repeat this slogan in Gera in December 2023? Had he forgotten that he had been asked to remember that this was an SA slogan? Not credible.

Otherwise why would he have chosen the following cowardly method: As a disguised rock star, he said the first words of the slogan himself and then motivated those listening to shout the missing word, i.e. “Germany”.

Not only did this pack know exactly what was expected of them. Höcke also acted consciously. In the protective cloak of his pack, he let the wolf in wolf’s clothing run wild. But in the end he just doesn’t want to accept that, nor does he want to admit that his personal masculinity doesn’t match his toxic expectations of men.

Ultimately, however, not even actual ignorance protects against punishment. And so the Halle regional court also found him guilty. The public prosecutor’s office had requested a six-month suspended prison sentence and also referred to the defendant’s “night-time behavior” – that is, to the fact that Höcke once again peppered his speech with the forbidden SA formula. However, the constitutional sentence, which must take every doubt about a defendant’s guilt seriously, sentenced him more leniently – namely 100 daily rates of 130 euros each.

His party will probably pay him the 13,000 euros. But he could also afford it himself. At least his book “Never in the same river twice”, published in 2018, has been in its sixth edition since 2023. The subtitle “Björn Höcke in conversation with Sebastian Hennig” promises a format that falls well short of its potential.

For the most part, the New Right journalist remains more of a mere keyword for Höcke, who doesn’t question or even criticize anything. But that is exactly what makes it possible for Höcke to lie outright without having to back up his claims with facts or at least arguments – and to preach hatred and right-wing extremism without having to give up his obfuscating fib.

Höcke knows that in Germany he can only advocate for the trivialization of fascism without consequences in his brown rooms. That’s why he and Hennig do it from behind through the cold kitchen.

For example, Henning asks about Höcke’s position on anti-fascism and Höcke answers simply and nastyly: “Today’s anti-fascism makes you ugly, evil and stupid.” In this cryptic way, Höcke not only speaks of the end of the critical memory of the Nazis, but also the rehabilitation of fascism.

Starting from “Prussia” as a “positive model,” he draws a line to Italian fascism, which he praises as “interesting.” In this way he then joins in with the glossing over of fascism, which is very loud in Italy. Drawing on good old Prussia is also an apology for the ethnic racism of that time, which served as a sword and shield for the German colonial empire. 

As part of European enslavement in Africa, Europe kidnapped and deported more than 20 million people. So over 20 million times a person was beaten and branded, stripped and then stacked in warehouses and ship’s bellies. Those who survived were forced to work – and those who had children lost them to evil human traffickers.

German trading houses and princes were involved from the beginning. And the German Enlightenment provided the intellectual ammunition for this through “racial” theories. In particular, the philosopher Immanuel Kant, who was once again much praised on the occasion of his 300th birthday, did this recently.

Between 1884 and 1913, Germany became the fifth largest colonial empire in Europe in terms of population. In terms of territory, it was even the third largest. At one point, the German colonial empire covered approximately one million square kilometers, in which an estimated 12 million colonized people were subjugated in their own country and millions were tortured, raped and killed. The violence needed to suppress local resistance to forced labor found a brutal climax in the 1904 genocide against the Herero and Nama.

Colonialism is the key factor in today’s wealth gap. The West thrived on robbing other countries of their land and resources. The colonized societies not only paid the bills for this, they were also robbed of their young generations and bled dry economically.

But Höcke doesn’t just deny this. In his diatribe he even claims the opposite. In keeping with the tenor of German colonialism, calling itself a “protecting power” like in a Star Wars empire that has not yet been invented, Höcke sees colonialism as a benefit for colonized people. A “prosperity build-up” was carried out “based on the spirit and practical ability of the Germans”. In order to be able to do this, Germany would have accepted “famine” and “poverty”.

“Today’s economic refugees are not willing or able to take on this hard, deprivation-filled journey, but want to reap the rewards without any effort.” That is why development aid payments, which Höcke fantasizes at a gigantic 60 billion euros, would also have to be stopped. This is also important, says Höcke, because it creates an “increase in wealth”, which in turn is an important cause of the migration movement. Europe must close its borders so that Africa will soon get better.

Apart from the fact that “development aid” sounds more like Western arrogance of superiority than an assumption of responsibility (the latter would be reparations payments, for example). It is extremely illogical to see prosperity as a cause of migration.

Above all, it is extremely inhumane to sell colonialism and Moria as a blessing for Africans. But that’s always the case with Höcke. In the end, it all boils down to incitement against black people, Muslim people and Jews, as well as the AfD’s deportation plans.

Höcke’s strategy of hiding his glorification of National Socialism and openly trivializing colonialism rises in a frighteningly plausible way from the rubble of the still inadequate overcoming of structural racism in Germany. Germany is characterized by its clarity that any denial of the Holocaust and any homage to National Socialism must be stopped unconditionally. This includes the state and civil society resolutely opposing anti-Semitism.

But even these efforts have not been able to overcome anti-Semitism in Germany. Anti-black racism, anti-Muslim racism and antigypsyism have also never disappeared and are now striking again in a more drastic way.

This cannot be viewed in isolation from the fact that, unfortunately, it is still not part of German raison d’état to put a stop to the trivialization of colonialism or the defense of colonialist concepts. Even an official apology from the federal government for the genocide of the Herero and Nama people committed in 1904 or for the Porajmos, the National Socialist genocide of Roma and Sinti, is still pending.

These steps are needed right now. Every firewall building block is needed to keep the incendiary devices of a Höcke at bay. How dangerous these are is shown not least by how Höcke’s affinity for ethnic anger and toxic masculinity even damages him – for example, by causing him to suffer from chronic lying memory loss or hatred of his own insecure masculinity.

Because it is part of my vision of a free Germany to help someone who doesn’t like themselves and who can’t remember, I would probably be willing to encourage Björn Höcke to embrace the idea of ​​plural masculinity to remember National Socialism and colonialism with due respect.

At least for me that is “Germany, but normal”, as the AfD advertised it. In any case, that’s exactly what I would say to Björn Höcke if I ever had a cup of coffee with him.