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Secret plan against Germany

It was the meeting that nobody was ever meant to find out about. Back in November, high-ranking politicians from Germany’s far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party, neo-Nazis, and sympathetic businesspeople gathered in a hotel near Potsdam. Their agenda? Nothing less than the fine tuning of a plan for the forced deportations of millions of people currently living in Germany.

 

This article is also available in Turkish, Arabic and German. Versions in French and Russian can be found at partner media sites The Insider and Mediapart.

Bit by bit, the brightly lit dining hall of a countryside hotel near Potsdam fills with people. There are about two dozen of them, a mix of AfD members, followers of the Identitarian movement and members of nationalist student fraternities (Burschenschaft). People from the middle classes – doctors, lawyers, politicians and entrepreneurs – are also among the participants. Even two members of Germany’s centre-right Christian Democratic Party (CDU) have come along, both part of their party’s grassroots conservative ‘Values Union’ association (WerteUnion).

A detailed profile of one of the hotel’s owners has only recently been published in Die Zeit, detailing her close ties to right-wing circles.

There are two men behind the invitations to this event. The first is in his late 60s and has been involved in the far-right scene in Germany for most of his life. His name is Gernot Mörig, a former dentist from Düsseldorf. The other is Hans Christian Limmer, a well-known investor in the catering sector. Limmer was behind the success of the German discounter bakery chain BackWerk, and today is a shareholder in the trendy German burger chain Hans im Glück. Unlike Mörig, Limmer is not at the event himself, but nevertheless plays a role as wealthy facilitator.

Prologue: Behind the scenes

The 25th of November. It is a gloomy Saturday morning, shortly before nine o’clock. Snow is settling on the cars parked in the courtyard. The events that will occur today at the hotel Landhaus Adlon will seem like a dystopian drama. Only they’re real. And they will show what can happen when the frontmen of right-wing extremist ideas, representatives of the AfD and wealthy sympathisers come together. Their shared goal is the forced deportations of people from Germany based on a set of racist criteria, regardless of whether or not they have German citizenship.

The meeting was meant to remain secret at all costs. Communications between the organisers and guests took place strictly via letters. However, copies of these letters were leaked to CORRECTIV, and we took pictures. Our undercover reporter checked into the hotel under a false name and was on site with a camera. He was able to film in front, behind and even inside the hotel. Exactly what went on in the meetings, and who was there, comes from our first-hand report. Greenpeace had also been researching the meeting and provided us with important photos and copies of documents. Our reporter spoke to several AfD members at the hotel, and further sources have confirmed their statements to us.

And so we could reconstruct the events at the hotel.

It was much more than a coming together of right-wing ideologues. Some are incredibly rich. Others have a lot of influence within the AfD. One of them turns out to play a key role in this story. At the hotel, he boasted that he spoke for the AfD party board. He’s Alice Weidel’s personal aide.

With only ten months to go until the regional elections in the German states of Thuringia, Saxony and Brandenburg, this meeting has shown that racist attitudes extend into the highest echelons of the AfD party. And it doesn’t stop with attitudes; certain politicians want to put their racist ideas into action, despite the fact the AfD firmly denies that it is a right-wing extremist party.

These revelations could be highly incriminating for the AfD, given the context of recent debates about whether the party should be banned as a threat to the country’s democracy. At the same time, it gives a sinister glimpse into what could happen should the AfD ever come to power.

The plans that were drafted on this weekend in Potsdam are nothing less than a fierce attack on the German constitution itself.

The People

AFD

Roland Hartwig, personal aide to party leader Alice Weidel
Gerrit Huy, MP
Ulrich Siegmund, parliamentary group leader for Saxony-Anhalt
Tim Krause, chair of the district party in Potsdam

THE MÖRIG CLAN

Gernot Mörig, a retired dentist from Düsseldorf
Arne Friedrich Mörig, Gernot Mörig’s son
Astrid Mörig, Gernot Mörig’s wife

NEO-NAZIS

Martin Sellner, Austrian far-right activist
Mario Müller, a convicted violent offender
An unnamed young “Identitarian”

HOSTS

Wilhelm Wilderink
Martina Mathilda Huss

FURTHER ORGANISATIONS

Simone Baum, chair of the ‘Values Union Association’ (Werteunion) in North Rhine-Westphalia
Michaela Schneider, vice-chair of the ‘Values Union Association’ (Werteunion) in North Rhine-Westphalia
Silke Schröder, chair of the ‘German Language Association’ (Verein Deutsche Sprache)
Ulrich Vosgerau, former member of the board of trustees for the Desiderius Erasmus Foundation

THE REST

Alexander von Bismarck
Henning Pless, far-right, esoteric practitioner of alternative medicine
An IT businessman and die-hard Nazi
An Austrian neurosurgeon
Two Hotel employees

Act 1, Scene 1: A lakeside hotel

The large 1920s hotel lies on the outskirts of Potsdam. It has a tiled roof and view onto the nearby lake Lehnitz. The first guests arrive on Friday evening. A white 4×4 from Lower Saxony rolls up, a song by the band Frei.Wild blaring out of the window: Wir, wir, wir, wir schaffen Deutschland (We, we, we, we’re creating Germany).

More guests arrive the next morning. Inside the hotel, they head across the parquet floor towards a white table set with around thirty plates, each with a folded napkin. Many of them have received personal invitations containing all the relevant information about the event. The invitations, from the “Düsseldorf Forum”, as the group is calling itself, talk of an “exclusive network” and a “minimum donation” of €5,000. Raising funds is a “core task of our group”, they state. And they are actively pursuing this goal, it seems, by soliciting money from wealthy businesspeople who want to support far-right alliances in secret.  “We need patriots who are ready to act and individuals who will support their activities financially”, it says in the invitation. Once at the meeting, the event organisers would announce a “neutral bank account”, or the donation could also be paid in cash, readers were assured.

But what are the donations for?

The purpose of the donations is hinted at in the invitations, which are signed by the organisers Mörig, the dentist, and Limmer, the former Backwerk shareholder. In another copy of the invitation seen by CORRECTIV, Mörig talks of “an overall concept in the sense of a masterplan”. The masterplan will be presented, he proudly announces, by “none other” than Martin Sellner, the long-standing leader of the far-right Identitarian movement. Anyone who attended this weekend in the hotel knew what it would be about.

Act 1, Scene 2: A masterplan to rid the country of immigrants

Sellner, author and a leading figure in the European New Right, is the first speaker of the day. In Mörig’s introduction, the audience are told that Sellner has “the masterplan”, which centres around one key idea: “re-migration”.

It’s Sellner’s idea of re-migration that should be the focus point of this gathering, Mörig says. Everything else – covid restrictions and vaccinations, the issues of Ukraine and Israel – are all bones of contention on the right. Their stance on re-migration, however, is what unites them. Mörig thinks it will be decisive in the question of “whether or not we in the West will survive.”

The majority of presentations and discussions held today will focus on this concept.

Now Sellner takes the floor. In his speech he details what re-migration would mean in Germany. There are three target groups of migrants, he explains, who should be extradited from the country  – or, as he puts it, “foreigners” who should undergo  “reversed settlement”. They are: asylum seekers, non-Germans with residency rights, and “non-assimilated” German citizens. It is the latter that, in his view, would pose the biggest “challenge”. In other words, Sellner’s plan would divide German residents into those who would be able to live peacefully in Germany and those for whom this basic human right would no longer apply.

The scenarios sketched out in this hotel room in Potsdam all essentially boil down to one thing: people in Germany should be forcibly extradited if they have the wrong skin colour, the wrong parents, or aren’t sufficiently “assimilated” into German culture according to the standards of people like Sellner. Even if they have German citizenship.

It’s a scenario that would contravene the citizenship rights and principle of equality between citizens which are a bedrock of the German constitution.

The far-right concept of ‘re-migration’

Sellner’s ideas are nothing new. In his book “Regime Change from the Right”, released in 2023 by the German far-right activist Götz Kubitschek’s publishing house, he outlines how:

“The main goal of the Right” is the preservation of “ethnocultural identity and integrity”, which requires “a radical turnaround” in order to stop the current “population exchange”. To achieve this, “a policy of re-migration” is necessary. Sellner calls for a “revision” of existing citizenships and refers to “relevant concepts of right-wing parties and movements” in this area. The book isn’t hard to understand. It’s about preparing for mass deportations.

The close ties between Sellner and certain AfD politicians that are evident in this meeting are nothing new. Kubitschek’s publishing house offers Sellner’s book as a set along with Maximillian Krah’s manifesto – Krah is the AfD’s frontrunner for the European elections. His book, “Politics from the Right – a Manifesto”, calls for the abandonment of universal human rights, and also advocates the “re-migration” of “citizens”. Krah argues that “even if a restrictive immigration policy could be politically enforced in 10 years’ time, the question remains as to what would happen to all the immigrants already in the country.” He estimates that by then these immigrants would number around “25 million […] 15 million of which will be German citizens”. He fears that “even in ten years’ time, there will be no political majority willing to expel these people from the country against their will, let alone a way to do so legally under constitutional and international law”.

 

Act 1, Scene 3: No objections from the AfD, despite recent public discussion to ban the party on grounds of extremism

Many supportive questions follow this speech. There are no objections to the “masterplan” in principle, only concerns about its feasibility.

Silke Schröder, a property developer and board member of the right-leaning Verein Deutsche Sprache (German Language Association), wonders how re-migration would work in practice. Surely if a person has the “appropriate” passport it would be ” impossible”, wouldn’t it?

For Sellner, this is just a detail. A “high level of pressure” will be exerted on people to adapt, he says, via “customised laws”. Re-migration won’t happen overnight; it is “a project that will take decades”.

There is certainly no opposition to the idea from the AfD members in the room. On the contrary, MP Gerrit Huy emphasised that she had been pursuing this goal for years.

Huy claimed that she had presented the party with a “re-migration concept” when she first joined seven years ago. Plans for re-migration were the reason the party no longer opposed the government’s plan to lift the ban on dual citizenship, she said, “because then you can take away the German one, and they still have one left”. Huy’s statements suggest that immigrants with a German passport have the potential to be lured into a trap.

The AfD parliamentary group leader for Saxony-Anhalt, Ulrich Siegmund, is also in the room. It is he who will, later on in the day’s proceedings, appeal for donations. He has considerable influence within the AfD; the party is currently polling in first place in Saxony-Anhalt. His sales pitch, very much in keeping with the “masterplan” of Sellner, details his ideas to change the image of German streets. Foreign restaurants would be put under pressure. Living in Saxony-Anhalt should be made “as unattractive as possible for this clientele.” And that could be accomplished very, very easily, he claims. His comments could have consequences for the region’s upcoming elections.

Buoyed by their recent surge in popularity, the AfD is feeling optimistic. The general shift to the right in the country has given the party a boost. It is currently ahead in the polls on over 30% in several states including Saxony and Thuringia – well ahead of the CDU, SPD and the Greens. However, the party is also under pressure. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesverfassungsschutz), Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, has classified the AfD’s branches in Thuringia, Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony as right-wing extremist groups. More recently, it classified the North Rhine-Westphalian AfD youth wing Junge Alternative as a suspected extremist group. The reasons given were its proximity to the Identitarian movement, its “ethno-nationalist” views, and its “contempt for people with an immigrant background”.

The debate about whether the AfD should be banned is gaining increasing momentum. A petition calling for a party ban has gained over 400,000 signatures, and CDU MP Marco Wanderwitz is currently gathering support in the Bundestag (German parliament) to call for a motion to ban the party.

The AfD itself, however, still insists that it is a democratic force. “The AfD is a political party under the rule of law, and thus pledges its unequivocal allegiance to the German nation which includes all those with German citizenship,” it claims on its website. Immigrants with German citizenship are “just as German as the descendants of a family that has lived in Germany for centuries”.  “For us, there are no first and second-class citizens,” they go on.

The statements by AfD politicians at the Potsdam meeting suggest very different beliefs. Here, protected from the public eye, they have no problem proclaiming their racist ideals. In fact, there were no significant differences between their views and those of the far-right ideologues.

Act 1, Scene 4: A Nazi Utopia

Outside, the snow is turning to slush. But inside the hotel spirits are high. Gernot Mörig is telling guests how he is normally a rather pessimistic type, but today he is feeling hopeful. And that’s thanks in part to Sellner’s “masterplan”.

The masterplan even includes a destination to “move people to”, a so-called “model state” in North Africa, that would apparently provide space for up to two million people. There would even be educational and sport offers there. And anyone who lobbies on behalf of refugees could join them there, Sellner added.

Sellner’s concept is eerily reminiscent of the Nazi’s 1940 plan to deport four million Jews to the island of Madagascar. It is unclear whether Sellner had this historical parallel in mind when devising his plan. It may also be mere coincidence that the organisers of the event chose a location less than 8 kilometres away from the villa where the Wannsee Conference took place – the meeting where the Nazis coordinated the systematic extermination of the Jews.

Back in the hotel, Sellner turns to another inflammatory topic for the far-right, the problem of the so-called “ethnic vote”. He’s even registered the term as a domain name. According to Sellner, the problem is “not just that foreigners live here. They also vote here.” “Ethnic voting” means that immigrants are likely to vote for “immigration-friendly” parties.

Sellner’s arguments are not only attempts to delegitimise elections, they also treat German nationals as foreigners in their own country. According to the German office for national statistics (Statistisches Bundesamt), 20.2 million Germans have a ” history of immigration “, meaning that they or their parents immigrated to Germany since 1950.

The events in the Potsdam hotel make clear how the strategies of various far-right actors and organisations intertwine. Sellner provides the ideas, the AfD politicians take them on and bring them to the party. Others in the background take care of the networking and bringing in wealthy sympathisers and supporters from the conservative middle-classes. And the debates always revolve around one question: How can a homogonous ethnic community be achieved in Germany?

Act 2, Scene 1: Influencers to help roll out the masterplan

Discussion now turns to the practical details, the steps that need to be taken. Mörig wants to select a committee of experts to fine tune the details of this plan for mass deportations. These experts will ensure the masterplan is executed “ethically, legally, and efficiently”, so that the racially motivated forced displacement of people has the guise of a legal migration policy. Mörig already has a candidate for the committee in mind: Hans-Georg Maaßen, the former head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesverfassungsschutz), Germany’s domestic intelligence agency.

Maaßen’s name comes up a number of times over the over course of the weekend. According to several reports, he’s due to announce the launch of his own political association in January. The attendees of the Potsdam meeting already know all about it. Although they mention the new group on several occasions, they don’t seem to take it too seriously. They are more concerned with their own plans, and how they will be realised when, in Mörig’s words, “a patriotic force has come to power in this country.”

The group’s focus now turns to how the idea of re-migration can be turned into a political strategy. Sellner says that “metapolitical and pre-political power” must be built up in order to “change public opinion”. An active political frontline must be ready to support the incoming right-wing government in Germany after the election.

And part of this support, as is made clear during the presentations and speeches, has to be financial. There is talk of influencers, propaganda, campaigns, and university projects. The tools to establish a right-wing anti-establishment climate. And ultimately the tools to weaken Germany’s democracy by questioning elections, discrediting the constitutional court, suppressing opposing views and censoring public service broadcasting.

Act 2, Scene 2: As if the balance of power had already tipped

One speaker follows the next, the talks last around an hour each. Halfway through lunch is served, the waitress seems irritated by the large number of guests she has to accommodate.

In the afternoon, it’s Ulrich Vosgerau’s turn to speak. He is a lawyer and was a member of the board of trustees of the AfD-affiliated Desiderius Erasmus Foundation, and is currently representing the AfD in the German Constitutional Court in a dispute over the foundation’s funding.

He talks about postal votes, legal processes, the secrecy of the ballot, and his concerns about voters of Turkish origin who, he claims, are unable to form an independent opinion. Vosgerau suggests drafting a letter which would cast doubt on the legitimacy of the upcoming elections. The more people took part, the higher the probability of the letter’s success. His speech is met with applause.

Vosgerau and others speak as if the balance of power has already tipped in their favour. They clearly believe they are on the verge of a breakthrough. Mario Müller, a member of the Identitarian movement and violent offender with a number of convictions to his name, is currently serving as a research assistant to the AfD MP Jan Wenzel Schmidt. In his speech, Müller also talks as if victory were already in sight.

Act 3, Scene 1: The Mörig Clan

The hotel’s lattice windows offer glimpses of the attendees of this secret meeting. The large dining hall exudes a atmosphere of old-fashioned splendour, a harpsicord in one corner, a grandfather clock in another. Many of the guests are in suit and tie.

Things seem to be going well and plans have been worked out, or at least outlined. But everything hangs on funding, a fact Gernot Mörig is well aware of. In the 1970s, Mörig was head of the ‘League of Patriotic Youth’ (Bund Heimattreuer Jugend), a far-right youth organisation promoting Nazi ‘blood-and-soil’ ideology. A splinter group, the ‘Young German Patriots’ (Heimattreue deutsche Jugend) was banned in 2009 because of its neo-Nazi agenda. The group was so right-wing, in fact, that Andreas Kalbitz, former leader of the AfD in Brandenburg, was expelled from the party when it was discovered that he had been a guest at one of their camps.

It was Mörig who selected the guests and set the agenda for this secret meeting. It was he who wrote about the “masterplan” in his invitations and asked for donations from those invited. During the event he asks guests to “discreetly” hand over their cash donations to his wife. Later, he explains that the money he collects will be used to support smaller organisations, like Martin Sellner’s.

This means that every guest who donated money did so in the full knowledge that they were funding the Identitarian movement and Sellner himself. But Mörig is about to ask for even more.

He presents the attendees with a list of supporters who allegedly want to donate money or have already done so, including individuals not present at the event. Christian Goldschagg, founder of the gym chain Fit-Plus and former shareholder in the Süddeutscher publishing house; Klaus Nordmann, a middle-class businessman from North Rhine-Westphalia and major AfD donor; Alexander von Bismarck, for example, who attracted attention with his understanding of Russia and a bizarre campaign last year, is also sitting in the room. Mörig is forthcoming with names. He brags about those who have already donated “high four-figure sums” and those who have promised to do so. Previously, the donations were channelled through his banker brother-in-law’s private account, but he now has plans for a more professional solution. Those who feel more comfortable doing so can leave a cash donation with his wife, but “by the next meeting we will probably also have an unregistered association” through which bank transfers can be made, he tells the guests.

Act 3, Scene 2: AfD politician solicits millions in direct donations

Ulrich Siegmund, the AfD parliamentary group leader for Saxony-Anhalt, is also in need of money. He is already thinking about the upcoming elections and the campaign adverts he wants to send out, preferably directly into peoples’ letterboxes. He wants every voter to be written to at least once. Traditional radio and television advertising will also be necessary. And he needs money “additional to what is provided by the party” – an additional €1.37m to be precise. This could be an attempt to bypass the official party funds by channelling money directly to him. The AfD already has several donation scandals to its name.

Official party donations are “of course by far the safest way” to donate, says Siegmund. “Nevertheless,” there are other “absolutely legal ways to make donations.” He suggests going through “agencies” and “third parties”. Guests are invited to come and discuss the options with him separately in order to find “the best option for each individual.”

Act 3, Scene 3: Alice Weidel’s right-hand man

The fact that parts of the AfD have close ties with neo-Nazis and the New Right is nothing new. Until now, however, the party has blamed the problem on regional and local branches.

But a senior AfD politician was in attendance at this meeting with right-wing extremists in Potsdam. His name is Roland Hartwig, a former AfD MP now serving as personal aide to the party’s leader, Alice Weidel. According to several AfD government insiders, Hartwig is the “unofficial general secretary of the party,” someone who holds significant sway on the party’s highest levels of decision-making.

Hartwig professes to being a big fan of Sellner’s new book, which he is “greatly enjoying”. He also talks of the “masterplan” and then goes on to say that the AfD is currently drafting a prototype of a lawsuit against German public broadcasters. This is in addition to a campaign he says they are planning which will show how overfunded the broadcasters are.

Mörig’s son also has a plan to present at the conference. It fits in nicely with Sellner’s ideas. Arne Friedrich Mörig wants to set up an agency for right-wing influencers. Hartwig mentions the possibility that the AfD could co-finance the agency. This would enable them to influence elections, Hartwig points out, especially via young people. “The generation that has to change the political game is already there”, the says, and the AfD plans to target young people on platforms such as TikTok and YouTube with content that will normalise the party’s ideas.

According to Hartwig, the next step in this project will now be to present the plan to the AfD’s national party board, and to convince the party that it will benefit from an investment in Mörig’s influencer agency.

Towards the end, Hartwig makes a pivotal statement: “The new Party Board, which has now been in office for a year and a half, is open to this issue. We are therefore prepared to take money in hand and pursue issues that do not directly benefit the party alone.”

Hartwig gives the distinct impression that he is acting as an intermediary for the AfD’s party board, tasked with communicating the content of this meeting to them. He had not responded to our questions about the meeting at the time of going to press.

Epilogue

The following evening everything is quiet. The hotel seems almost completely deserted. Only the flickering of a TV screen can be seen through the window of one of the suites.

What have we learnt from this meeting?

That there is a retired dentist who has a conspiratorial network of fellow far-right extremists. That representatives of the AfD were willing to meet with radical right-wing activists and neo-Nazis. That they have a ‘masterplan’ to deport German citizens because of their ‘ethnicity’ – a plan which would undermine Articles 3, 6 and 21 of the German constitution. And that there are a number of wealthy potential donors for this project. We’ve learnt that there is an expert in German constitutional law who has sketched out legal methods to systematically cast doubt on democratic elections. That there’s an AfD politician who wants to organise election donations that would bypass the party. And that there is a hotel owner in Potsdam who earned some money to cover his costs.

Update 21.01.: An earlier version stated that Alexander von Bismarck was a descendant of Otto von Bismarck. We have corrected this.

Credits

Text and investigation: Marcus Bensmann, Justus von Daniels, Anette Dowideit, Jean Peters, Gabriela Keller
Design: Charlotte Eckstein, Maximilian Bornmann, Mohamed Anwar
Communication: Luise Lange-Letellier, Valentin Zick, Esther Ecke, Elena Schipfer
Fact-Checks: Elena Kolb
Collaboration: Jonathan Sachse, Gesa Steeger, Pia Siber, Finn Schöneck, Tobias Hauswurz
Translation: Ella Norman