Jörg Prophet wants to become mayor of Nordhausen, but the AfD politician does not want to give interviews. The 61-year-old with white hair, styled to the top, stands with his campaign stand in front of a shopping center in the city of 42,000 residents in northern Thuringia on a working day and talks to citizens. Blue balloons, a German flag on a tree, ballpoint pens to take with you. A man praises Prophet for a speech at a community festival, another says after speaking to him that Prophet is "the right man in the wrong party."
After successes in the district election in Sonneberg in southern Thuringia and in the mayoral election in Raguhn-Jeßnitz in Saxony-Anhalt, the AfD is now aiming for a district town. If your candidate wins, he would be the first AfD mayor in Germany. It is part of the AfD's strategy to gain prospects for government participation through successes in the municipalities. The Thuringian AfD parliamentary group leader Björn Höcke set this as his goal this year.
Thuringia's AfD is considered to be particularly far right
The Thuringian AfD is considered a particularly far-right regional association; it is classified and monitored by the state Office for the Protection of the Constitution as definitely right-wing extremist. At the same time, the AfD probably doesn't have as much power in any other federal state. Just about a week ago, a vote in the Thuringian state parliament sparked a controversy. A CDU draft for a tax cut was passed with the help of AfD votes. Is this already collaboration or not? A citizen of Nordhausen at the AfD stand said: “The state parliament is the state parliament, Nordhausen is Nordhausen.” He was determined to choose Prophet.
The entrepreneur is considered the favorite in the runoff election on Sunday (September 24th) against the incumbent city boss Kai Buchmann (independent). In the first round of voting, Prophet received 42.1 percent of the vote, incumbent Buchmann 23.7 percent. Buchmann says he doesn't know whether the vote in the state parliament will go into his opponent's account. But the AfD's soaring in surveys may well be. In surveys in the three eastern German states of Thuringia, Saxony and Brandenburg, the AfD is now receiving ratings of more than 30 percent. New state parliaments will be elected in these federal states next year.
Disciplinary proceedings against Buchmann
Disciplinary proceedings are underway against Buchmann due to allegations of bullying; the politician, who previously had a Green Party membership, was suspended for a few months. An administrative court reversed the suspension, Buchmann has been back in office since the beginning of August, but the relationship with the SPD district administrator is considered to be broken.
He wants a cosmopolitan city in Nordhausen, says Buchmann in a café near the town hall. That's what he stands for in this election campaign. Efforts are being made to integrate refugees - in schools and kindergartens. It's good that they're scattered throughout the city and not in shared accommodation, says Buchmann. Prophet, on the other hand, wants to lobby the district for a residency requirement for refugees - the idea is that they should stay in the communities assigned to them and not come to the city of Nordhausen.
University location with international students
Nordhausen is a university location with many international students, trams run in the city, and there are numerous rail connections to, for example, the state capital Erfurt. However, the city is also considered to be chronically cash-strapped.
The Nazi era left its mark on the city. The Street of the Victims of Fascism leads to the Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp Memorial. Around 60,000 people were deported to the concentration camp between 1943 and 1945; the SS officially recorded 12,000 deaths. The memorial assumes that at least 20,000 prisoners did not survive the deportation to the concentration camp.
Concentration camp memorial does not want to invite Jörg Prophet
Out of consideration for the survivors and their relatives, Jörg Prophet will not be invited to memorial events, said the acting head of the Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp Memorial, Anett Dremel. The AfD politician attracted attention with historical revisionist statements. “We have been receiving letters from survivor associations expressing concern for weeks,” said Dremel.
Prophet's views not only caught the attention of the memorial, but also the Office for the Protection of the Constitution - especially with an article from 2021 on the website of the Nordhausen AfD district association. It's about the bombing of Dresden and the memory of it. Prophet writes in it: "But things become schizophrenic when it is openly propagated today that terror against the civilian population is always permissible when it affects a perpetrator." The Office for the Protection of the Constitution later cites excerpts from the text as evidence that the AfD's "historical revisionist agenda" has an impact "on the breadth of the regional association." Prophet did not distance himself from his text.
Will Prophet be checked for his loyalty to the constitution?
This doesn't bother a citizen who speaks to Prophet at the AfD stand and says he read the controversial text. Rather, he called for “more cooperation” regardless of the party membership in order to solve the problems in the city. Another says there are "cliques" in the city and someone needs to put an end to them.
If Jörg Prophet is elected, will he be checked for his loyalty to the constitution, like Sonneberg's AfD district administrator Robert Sesselmann? The Thuringian Interior Ministry did not want to comment on this when asked.