For One Far-Right Politician, Forgetting Germany’s Past Just Got Harder

Mr. Höcke, a history teacher turned local chief of the Alternative for Germany, or AfD, has called the village his “refuge” and “locus of inspiration.” But behind its idyllic facade, Bornhagen reflects the new, confusing reality of a Germany where polite political consensus and demographic homogeneity are breaking down, and where the intimate and ideological live side by side.

The far-right AfD won 34 percent of the vote in Bornhagen during the most recent elections, more than twice the national average. But neighbors are neighbors. Supporters of the left-leaning Greens go hunting with AfD voters here. Recent refugees live peacefully in the village, too.

Until the memorial appeared overnight on Nov. 22, these contradictions had coexisted peacefully — at least on the surface. But the art installation has upset village life. For many, it has forced a conversation they would have preferred to avoid.

“We don’t talk about politics,” said a friend of Mr. Höcke’s wife, who like many villagers did not want her name used.

But Mr. Höcke’s remarks, which had shocked even some in his own party though it decided not to expel him, have made that mind-your-own-business custom harder to abide for some. And they have raised a challenging question that goes far beyond this village: How should Germans deal with the rise of the far right, now that an openly nationalist party has entered Parliament for the first time since World War II?




For Mr. Ruch and his fellow artists, the answer is clear: People like Mr. Höcke deserve “not one millimeter.”

“He broke the mother of all taboos, he challenged the founding narrative of modern Germany and he got away with it,” said Mr. Ruch, who was born in Dresden and now lives in Berlin.

“We learn from our past so it does not happen again,” he added. “That is who…

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