Rise of nationalism in Germany

What’s the story? 

In the German parliamentary election, Chancellor Angela Merkel won a fourth term in office, but suffered severe losses. Meanwhile the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) made an historic surge, as nationalist parties continue to become increasingly supported across Europe.

What’s happening?

Angela Merkel has now been German chancellor for 12 years, and after winning 33% of the vote in the recent federal elections, she’s likely to extend that to 16. Yet her victory – which allows her to form a Government through coalition with one or more other parties – was somewhat bittersweet.

Not only did Merkel’s party (the conservative Christian Democrat and Christian Social Union – or CDU/CSU) see its majority reduced from 41.5% to 33%, but it also suffered huge losses to a party on the far right of the political spectrum. The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which in 2013 won just 4.7% of the vote and claimed no seats, now has 13% of the vote and a huge 94 seats – making it the country’s new third party.

Merkel now faces weeks of negotiations as she tries to form a coalition, having failed to win an outright majority. But in Germany, and across the continent, the real story of the election is the rise of the AfD, and its implications for a country with a dark history of nationalist politics.

The AfD campaigned mainly on a platform of fighting rising immigration (an estimated 900,000 undocumented refugees have now settled in the country in the course of Merkel’s third term). They are also fiercely anti-Islam, and campaign against freedoms for that religion specifically. Although the party is quick dismiss any links with Nazism, some of their political rhetoric has been compared to that last heard in the country in the 1930s. Still further to the right is the less-popular NPD party, which has been described as a ‘neo-nazi group.’

After the election result, which will radically shift the nature of debate within Germany’s parliament, demonstrations were held outside the AfD headquarters, in Berlin, as well as in Frankfurt, Cologne and a number of other German cities. Many protestors held up placards which said “Refugees welcome”... but the voting statistics do not lie, and clearly there are now a significant number of others who do not share their sentiment.

What have others been saying?

The BBC’s Berlin correspondent Jenny Hill called Merkel’s win “a hollow victory”, where elsewhere the corporation’s news website asks “how far-right is AfD?”

Writing for the Guardian, Natalie Nougayrède said that the entire future of Europe now depends upon the deal Angela Merkel strikes in the wake of the election.



James 2: 8-9 says: “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself,’[a] you are doing right. But if you show favouritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.” It seems clear that James – and more importantly Jesus before him – did not make exceptions to the idea of loving our neighbour, whoever they happen to be. The Bible is also clear about the equality of races: Acts 17 v 26 says “from one man he made all the nations” (in the King James Version the phrase is “made of one blood”), while in Galatians 3: 26-28 we famously read that “all are one in Christ Jesus.” Simply put, racism and Christianity are incompatible.


Angela Merkel is a committed Christian, leading a party which itself purports to hold Christian values. Romans 13 v 1 talks about submitting to the authority of our leaders, yet at some times that feels more difficult than at others. In the case of Merkel, Christians may find it easier to believe that she has been given authority from above, but the Bible seems to suggest that this is actually true of all earthly rulers – because through the gift of Free Will, God has enabled the democratic process. Paul says that “those that exist [in authority] have been instituted by God” – and that’s not just true for the ones we like, or who claim Christian faith. We should pray for and submit ourselves to our leaders, full stop.

Points for prayer

  • Pray for Germany – that its people would be united, not divided, and that the return of far-right politics to their parliament would be a wake-up call, not the beginning of a more sinister turn.
  • Pray against racism, in Germany and closer to home, and that the church would never be complicit in, but stand up to it.
  • Pray for Angela Merkel as she seeks to form a new government, that she would lead well and continue to look to God for guidance and strength.


Author Bio

martin saunders circle.png

Martin Saunders

Martin Saunders is Youthscape’s Deputy Chief Executive. A former editor of Youthwork magazine and the founding Editor of sister-title Childrenswork, Martin is a popular speaker and the author of various books including ‘Youth Work From Scratch’. He lives in Reigate, Surrey with his wife Jo and their four children.