Berlin’s anti-fascist fighters mobilize to stop neo-Nazi AfD
An anti-fascist vigil in Berlin. | Michael Mayer / Wikimedia Commons

BERLIN—As they have every year since 1945, some 200 members of the Association of Persecutees of the Nazi Regime/Federation of Anti-fascists (VVN-BdA by its German initials) gathered here Wednesday in commemoration of the victory over fascism.

This year, it was more than just a respectful gathering to honor the fighters and the survivors, however. It was a time to commit to mobilizing during the time left between now and election day, Sept. 24, to keep modern-day Nazis, anti-Semites, and racists out of the Bundestag, the German parliament.

A person holds a copy of the ‘Stern’ news magazine in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017 showing U.S. President Donald Trump draped in the American flag while giving a stiff-armed Nazi salute. Stern magazine’s illustration is part of a cover story headlined ‘Sein Kampf’ which translates as ‘His Struggle’ and is a play on Adolf Hitler’s infamous ‘Mein Kampf’. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

The VVN brings together survivors of concentration camps in their mid-nineties, their children, and their grandchildren. But at the table near the entrance to the Wabe, the hall in Berlin’s Prenzlaur Berg where the event was held, it was clear that they are only one of a number of diverse groups that joining hands this year to fight the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, the country’s new Nazis.

A special newspaper on the elections was handed to everyone as they entered. It bore a large advertisement put out by seven major organizations that have joined in the anti-AfD cause. The groups are ver.di, the social service workers union, the Berlin Social Democratic Party (SPD), the food and commercial workers union (NGG), the teachers union (GEW), the Left Party (Die Linke), and the VVN-BdA itself.

“The AfD will bring Nazis, anti-Semites, and right-wing extremists into the Bundestag,” says one warning on the coalition’s flyer. “The AfD is against social security and workers’ rights,” declares another. A third warning points out that women’s rights and gay rights are endangered by the AfD.

Check out PW Editor-in-chief John Wojcik’s on-the-scene coverage of the German elections:

> Germany’s Die Linke aims to thwart neo-Nazi electoral strategy

> The Left Party offers the real alternative in Germany’s elections

> “Ossies,” former East Germans, compare socialist youth with life under capitalism

> Germany’s Left Party puts money where its mouth is on women’s rights

Perhaps one of the oldest resistance fighters at the VVN gathering on Saturday was Dr. Morris Mebel, who was hesitant to talking about only one thing—his age. The rest of his remarks made it easy to conclude, however, that he is at least in his mid-nineties.

As a boy, Mebel fled German anti-Semitism and went to the USSR, where he eventually became a member of the Red Army, fighting the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. After the war, he became a medical doctor in the USSR, specializing in urology, and ended up, in 1961, in the GDR, where he became head of the urology department at Berlin’s Freidrichshain Hospital.

In 1981, he became head of the urology department at Berlin’s famed Charité Hospital, where he performed the first successful kidney transplant in the GDR.

He said his support for the anti-fascist movement is “as strong as ever,” but, much more than talking about himself, he wanted detailed information about People’s World and the movement for socialism in the United States. “It’s good that your readership is growing,” he said.

At least one table at the 200-strong gathering of resistance fighters and victims was filled by residents of a Jewish home for seniors in the western part of Berlin. They came to the event for the first time since the VVN has been sponsoring the remembrance gatherings. Some were political, others not, but they all seemed to enjoy renditions of several fight songs by the famed German composer Hanns Eisler, perhaps most known for composing the GDR’s national anthem.

An activist said gatherings like this were heartwarming and energizing. “Despite its name, the AfD is no alternative for Germany. The alternative is solidarity, solidarity of all the anti-fascists. It’s what is in our DNA here.”


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.