A monument against the creeping normalisation of fascism in Germany. The Center for Political Beauty secured prime real estate in the fight against modern right-wing extremism: the plot of land right next door to Björn Höcke, the leader of the AfD in Thuringia. Since February 2017 the Center for Political Beauty has owned the only piece of property directly adjacent to Höcke’s “hideaway” in Bornhagen.
November 22, 6 a.m. The AfD leader Björn Höcke is startled awake by the sound of concrete pumps. His 500-year-old rectory is shaking. He rushes to the window and can’t believe his eyes: an extension of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is being built right in front of his house. Höcke is trembling. A cold day in November, a day of remembrance.
24 stelae, planned with a computer, the grounds measured with laser precision, the component parts prefabricated and delivered in a secretive operation over a period of weeks.
A hundred-person construction co-operative built the memorial adjacent to this shameful site in a record time of five days. The biggest feat of all: Höcke remained oblivious.
Every stela was made by hand, 18 by 13 meters, durable enough to withstand harsh weather as well as attacks from Nazis. A bulwark of defensive democracy.
The property is under police surveillance, both from helicopters above and from the ground, because a holocaust memorial was expanded into Thuringia. After the first threats and damages to the new memorial, the police announced that they would not protect private property. The spokesperson for the Thuringian police was quoted as saying, »in Germany, each person is responsible for protecting his or her own property,« more or less an open invitation to the neo-Nazi scene. Nonetheless, the monument stands in defiance of wind, weather, and Nazis, making an emphatic statement for the constitutional guarantee of artistic freedom in »rationally liberated« Bornhagen.
Center for Political Beauty
The holocaust memorial set off an avalanche of lawsuits and criminal investigations. In order to not lose track of it all, we compiled an overview: who sued us and what became of it?
A 16-page plea attempt by Höcke’s lawyers complete with interim injunctions, demands for damages, personal, image, and media rights.
Verdict: Won! The constitutional guarantee of artistic freedom outweighs Höcke’s personal rights. The decision sets a precedent: Higher Regional Court of Cologne, Reference No. 28 O 362/17.
The public prosecutor's office in Mühlhausen opened an investigation into coercion because we demanded that Höcke genuflect before the memorial and beg forgiveness for the crimes the German people committed in World War II.
Verdict: Mühlhausen called off the investigation in November 2018. There were considerable doubts that the operation could have any influence on Höcke’s actions. Spokesperson Benedikt Ballhausen comments that it can be expected of a person in the public sphere »to calmly stand firm against such conduct.«
In the district court of Heilbad Heiligenstadt Nora Höcke attempted to hinder the publication of the Guided Audio Walking Tour. Her lawyers obtained a restraining order that keeps the artistic director of the Center for Political Beauty from coming within 500 meters of her or Höcke’s brown house.
Verdict: Won! The court order was lifted in February 2018 and Nora Höcke was required to bear the costs of the lawsuit. Side note: to this day Mrs. Höcke still owes us €500.96! District Court of Heilbad Heiligenstadt, Reference No. 5F665/17.
Our landlord went before the district court in an attempt to cancel our contract for the property.
Verdict: Won in trial and in appeals court! In a last ditch effort, the lawyer for the prosecution began inventing laws that do not exist. District Court of Heilbad Heiligenstadt, Reference No. 3C 684/17.
An attempt by the German Nazi party NPD to get a temporary injunction due to the use of an »NPD logo.«
Verdict: Won! We are responding with a cease and desist letter of our own. Their so-called party logo does not pass the “threshold of originality” required by § 2 of the German Copyright Act because »the design […] is limited to the reproduction of the letters NPD, without any particular graphical elements, in a bold white font on a red circle.« Reference No. 6627/17/B.
An attempted temporary injunction against us by Höcke’s buddy Thorsten Heise (NPD). His reasoning is not without humor: »You have associated my client with a politician from a party that is further to the left.«
Verdict: Won! Heise must bear the costs of the lawsuit. Regional Court Göttingen, Reference No. 9 O9/17.
Both the building authority and the town of Bornhagen have repeatedly confirmed the legality of our memorial: in the eyes of construction law it is perfectly legal and democratic. The memorial can remain on our property.
Gerald Schneider, county commissioner in Eichsfeld and responsible for building inspections, sees no violation of the law in Bornhagen.
The AFD-Thüringen disclosed that Höcke has submitted criminal charges with the public prosecutor’s office for: coercion, trespassing, formation of a criminal organisation, invasion of personal privacy, invasion of the privacy of correspondence, and stalking. At the extreme right-wing conference »Compact« on November 25, 2017, Höcke himself said: »The Center for Political Beauty is not an art collective, it is a criminal organisation! Indeed, a terrorist organisation.«
The president of Thuringia’s state parliament Christian Carius (CDU) erupted at the very beginning of the operation saying: »[…] in a phone call I urgently requested the Minister of the Interior to immediately end this so-called surveillance and to open the necessary investigations. In the interest of an unrestricted exercise of my free mandate, I hereby declare a public interest in an investigation.«
The view from Höckes (hand chopped) wood on the holocaust memorial.
The »intimate gift« (Berliner Zeitung) to Germany’s top fear-monger. Here: From the perspective of Höckes garage.
In the »Dresden speech«, Höcke ridicules the memorial for six million Jews killed in Europe as a »memorial of shame«. He demands a »U-turn of our remembrance politics«. In tone and content, it is a speech that could have been held by a drunk Gauleiter in a marquee. Höcke wants to abolish democracy by its own means. His actions remind us of Goebbels saying »we will become members of the Reichstag to paralyze the Weimar spirit with its own assistance. If democracy is stupid enough to give us a free ride and per diems for this disservice, it is its own fault. […] We don’t come as friends, nor as neutrals. We come as enemies!«
Fascist movements don’t disappear on their own. In 1928, the NSDAP gained 2,6 percent in democratic elections. Four years later it was more than 37 percent. The holocaust memorial is a social contract. To abide by it, we must fight right-wing extremism.
Ideological instigators need places of calm to prosper. In picturesque Bornhagen, Höckes so-called »Büllerbü« (Höcke in an NZZ interview on November 3rd, 2017), the most elaborate civil long-term observation of right-wing radicalism in Germany got underway after his Dresden speech. There are few places where the failure of state authority to fight right-wing extremism is as apparent as in Thuringia – the breeding ground of the NSU and the center of life for right-wing radicals such as Björn Höcke, Thorsten Heise, and Götz Kubitschek.
After the discovery of the NSU‘s killing spree, the federal state simply capitulated. According to political scientist Thomas Grumke, the Thuringia Office for the Protection of the Constitution mostly goes without »the use of human sources«. Thuringia has therefore »become a safe haven for right-wing extremists«.
In February 2017, we therefore founded the Civil Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Thuringia. The »early warning system of the state« has since been complemented by an early warning system of civil society. We will keep an eye on those undermining open society. One of the fundamental lessons of the Weimar Republic is the necessity of a well-fortified democracy. We need to fight the enemies of an open society. In this video, we grant an exclusive insight into our »ten months long observation« of Björn Höcke.
»The Center’s whole project has nothing to do with art. This is […] morally concealed psychological terror, a scandalous attack on the independent mandate, the integrity of a person, his family and privacy under the cover of artistic freedom. The wiretapping of and spying on members of parliament and their families equals the methods of oppression of the Stasi. Nothing can justify that. The campaign is an attack on the independent mandate, the integrity of a family, and an outrageous interference in the life of an individual.«
Christian Carius (CDU), president of the state parliament of Thuringia
»The CPB claims that it has surveilled Höcke and will publish information about him, if he is not willing to kneel in front of the memorial. Even the left-liberal bourgeoisie found that difficult to swallow. The whole project could have been so funny if they had stopped right there. This poor man! Surveillance! How dreadful! – No. This is dreadful: it only takes Facebook 70 likes to know who you are. After 300 likes, Facebook knows you better than your partner does. If spouses know each other that well, they usually file for divorce. We accept data retention regimes. We don’t interfere with facial recognition at railway stations. But when the CPB claims to have surveilled Björn Höcke, the whole country stands upside down. Even the unbelievably stupid question ‘if art is allowed to do that?‘ plays into the hands of the AfD. Art is freedom and only where there’s freedom, there is art. But freedom’s best days are over. Only a country that is ready to completely give up on its own liberties in the name of the empty promise of absolute security can sincerely think of sympathizing with the most pathetic Nazi of our time.«
Florian Schröder, Comedian
We allowed ourselves to test the leader of modern racism in Germany for his Aryan roots. Is he really a native German? Of course not. A genetic test in an Austrian DNA-lab showed four matches: Two in Portugal and Brazil, one in France, and one in northern Poland. The match in Portugal is to be interpreted »as an emigrated Portuguese«, said the director of the DNA-lab. Höcke, therefore, is no longer allowed to speak »for ethnic racism in Germany«.
The basis for a well-fortified democracy is vigilance and civil society’s willingness to defend it. On its homepage »No web for Nazis«, the Amadeu Antonio Foundation lists four things to do if your neighbor is a neonazi:
1. Create a climate of watchfulness and intervention. Inform all residents about the extreme right-wing attitude of the neighbor.
2. For the investigation of criminal offenses, exact observations are necessary, which should be written down along with date and place of occurrence. This will help the police and the criminal proceedings in court. Does the right-wing neighbor threaten other residents? Does he swear at them? Or intimidate them with his gestures?
3. All residents should state clearly to the right-wing extremist that they find their presence frightening.
4. Right-wing extremist tenants should be persuaded to move out of their apartments. Others should give them the signal of not being welcome. Every criminal offence must be reported immediately. They will eventually leave, if they feel uncomfortable in their surroundings.
A feature by Deutschlandfunk (German public radio) covers the origin of the holocaust memorial over one year – from the initial brain-storming to large-scale production logistics. »Are the members and accomplices of the CPB the heroes of our time, because they manage to enforce through art what politics has failed to do?«
»There are also people in Thuringia saying that they are thankful for the project. This kind of protest could only have come from the outside. If any Bornhagener would have dared to do it, he would have been socially ostracized.«
»At any rate, Operation Bornhagen brings to light an emotionally charged antagonism on social media and elsewhere that would have remained hidden without it. Performance art as a salvage operation, even if it hurts.«
»After all, the mirror is the main instrument of art. Let's be glad that the Berlin artists put it up. They did it for Björn Höcke.«
»The operations of the Center are always a coup. Clandestinely prepared, virtuosly executed, accompanied by effective publicity [...].«
»Yes, it’s uncomfortable, [...] But then, Germany’s history is uncomfortable.«
»The district court forbade the landlord from any dismantling attempts, saying that otherwise there was a risk of ›irreparable damage‹.«
»Ironically, the outcry comes over the surveillance of Germany’s most popular right-wing radical. An outcry from the far right all the way to the Feuilleton. The CDU President of the Thuringia State Parliament fraternizes with the ›poster boy of the right‹, while Höckes supporters bombard the artists with death threats while screaming ›artists are Nazis‹.«
»Suddenly, Höcke is a victim. He is being turned into one, some say, as is apparently and peculiarly the case with everything that is done against the AfD. Because they frame themselves to be the victims – which implies that they do so with justification. This discourse is so pervasive that at one has to fear turning into dust when objecting to it.«
»While shock videos for children are waved through on YouTube, algorithms or overseers react super fast and mercilessly to an art performance that is directed against a political provocation and is itself provocative. That sounds anything but reassuring.«
»The CPB has managed that a Minister-President participates in an art performance and starts berating the CPB for provocative statements. That in itself is already epic. Chapeau.«
»The nice thing is: state parliament presidents can determine the agenda, but not what art, crimes, or Stasi methods are.«
»To put it more briefly: you have set up a dialectical trap that works in every direction - and made those who get caught in it, nolens volens, into artists of your social sculpture. You expose, you make aporias visible - and that is always the beginning, not the end of the discourse.«
Björn Höcke has praised the Center for Political Beauty as a »terrorist group«. Get close to the action and become an accomplice to a terrorist organization so far sadly recognized only by Höcke, Erdogan, and the Free State of Thuringia! As an accomplice you will make an invaluable contribution to inciting public unrest in the service of aggressive humanism. Nowhere else will you receive more unrest and dissent for every donated Euro.
Since the foundation of the AfD in 2013, Landolf Lading has continued to work under the pseudonym of »Björn Höcke«. We have informed 12.400 households in Eichsfeld via direct mail that Höcke is a shadow man for the NPD. We have also looked for witnesses and proof that Höcke is in fact Landolf Ladig, who – before the AfD was founded – had fought in numerous NPD-magazines for “the German people” and Hitler.
On the property of the holocaust memorial in Bornhagen is an advertising panel measuring 4x3 meters. Do-gooders and hyper-moralists can advertise their concerns, for example the European principle of non-discrimination, right before the eyes of Germany’s youngest Fuehrer. We guarantee an unrestricted view and that the racist will have to look at the ad while mowing his lawn.
He even started the idea himself. Höcke said: »I will seek legal action against anyone, who claims that I am Landolf Ladig!«
We will rent the space on a monthly basis for a net cost price. Of course, this is not an advertising space subject to approval, but it is art. It is legal just like art by organizations such as Sea-Watch is.