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Flooding aftermath in the district of Ahrweiler: Querdenker and right-wing extremists exploit flood disaster

Flooding aftermath in the district of Ahrweiler : Querdenker and right-wing extremists exploit flood disaster

The need for help around the Ahr river is great after the flood disaster and the victims are grateful for the great willingness to help. Increasingly, however, questionable helpers mingle with the volunteers and use the need for their own purposes.

Querdenker, conspiracy ideologues and neo-Nazis are apparently trying to instrumentalize the flood disaster on the Ahr for their own political purposes. This is an additional concern for the emergency services on site. They warn against false reports and right-wing extremists posing as "caretakers" in the situation. In several localities, supporters of the right-wing scene have already become active. For example, the association "Eltern stehen auf" (Parents stand up) had announced that it would set up a family center in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler to provide relief for victims of the flood disaster. About 50 therapists and pastors were to take care of children. The association is said to have connections to the scene of Querdenker. He had mobilized lately against masks and Corona tests at schools and had spoken out also against inoculations.

The district of Ahrweiler has now stopped the project, distanced itself from it and issued public warnings. "The district administration clarifies that neither this association nor others have received an official mandate to care for children," the district announced. It had previously been spread on social media channels that the association "Parents stand up" had officially taken over the care of children in the region. There was also a denial from the Family Ministry of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. The offer was not coordinated with the operational management of the country.

Residents in the district of Ahrweiler also report that questionable helpers are appearing on the scene. In the local district of Lantershofen in the county, according to GA information, 15 people from the Querdenker scene showed up at a helpers' evening on Tuesday and also identified themselves as such. The participants had sent the group away and informed the police, as an eyewitness reported. In addition, it was observed that obvious supporters on the scene in the social networks tried to turn the mood against the authorities. On the Facebook page of the Ahrweiler district administration, for example, the use of vaccination buses was criticized. These are intended to help contain the spread of the coronavirus in the disaster area. Many doctors' offices and vaccination centers can no longer provide vaccinations due to the massive destruction in the region.

On Tuesday, Koblenz police felt compelled to warn of vehicles with loudspeakers that look confusingly like police emergency vehicles. In Ahrweiler, which was particularly hard hit by the floods, a police-like vehicle with the inscription "peace vehicle" was said to be on the road. "Such a livery is not prohibited as long as it does not say police on it, it does not have blue lights on it or it does not have a sovereign police emblem," a police spokesman said. A false message was broadcast over loudspeakers that police and rescue workers were reducing the number of emergency personnel. "We are here without interruption!" the police announced on Twitter.

Political scientist Josef Holnburger said that one of the aims of this vehicle was to sow mistrust against the state. That right-wingers are on the road in Ahrweiler does not surprise him. "They like to portray themselves as people who are not shying away from working hard." Rather new to this terrain, he said, are people from the "Querdenker" scene. "It's become an outright shoulder-to-shoulder thing now," Holnburger said.

The fact that the scene of Querdenker and conspiracy ideologues has discovered the catastrophe thematically for itself is also shown by the fact that prominent heads of the scene are launching their own initiatives. For example, the doctor and conspiracy ideologue Bodo Schiffmann has already collected several hundred thousand euros for victims of the flood. To what extent the money will actually go to the flood victims is unclear. The money from the collection will go "100 percent to the flood victims," it said. Most recently, however, Schiffmann said the money would be used for cleanup efforts, such as financing the use of excavators and other heavy equipment by a private company. Although the authorities urged to refrain from own initiatives, Schiffmann announced he is to organize bus trips of his supporters to the crisis area.

In the field of vision of authorities in the disaster area is also a retired colonel, who showed himself in uniform. However, the Bundeswehr itself has no means of action against civilians wearing uniforms.

Neo-Nazis are also apparently trying to make their presence felt in the emergency situation. "We are aware that right-wing extremists are currently posing as "caretakers on the ground," the Koblenz police said. This was confirmed by the district of Ahrweiler on Wednesday. The right-wing extremist video blogger and Holocaust denier Nikolai Nerling, who appears in his videos as a "people's teacher," announced himself via video and called on helpers to come to Ahrweiler, preferably at night or in the evening, so as not to be turned back by security forces. The presence of right-wing extremists is known to the police. There is no confirmed information on this yet, he said. The police announced that they would monitor the situation. It would intervene decisively against people "who, under the appearance of providing assistance, abuse the disaster situation for political purposes."

Original text: (ga/dpa)

Translation: Mareike Graepel