So something didn't exist in Meiningen yet. People have long since gotten used to the lateral thinkers, as well as to the shouting group with the Reich flags. On this rainy Sunday, however, the large market square belongs to the others for once. The mayor, Fabian Giesder from the SPD, is “moved and grateful” about the many people who, despite bad weather, “give love and decency a voice, when anger has dominated the streets here recently”.

Livia Gerster

Editor in politics for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

There are many families there, senior citizens and students, young theater people with glitter on their cheeks and church people with serious faces. They hold up balloons and homemade cardboard signs. “It’s better to skate than vote for the AfD!” says a sign of young people wearing baggy trousers. An older lady's red box simply says: “Nice to see you!”

This also pleases Ingrid Heinrich, who at 68 is so spry that she walked three hours from the village of Schwarza. “Finally the others are showing their faces!” Another woman says: “Such demos are happenings in Berlin and Hamburg. Here it is a duty.” Everyone knows people who vote for AfD. And everyone knows that not far from here, neo-Nazis celebrated Hitler's birthday every year.

This text comes from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

At the front of the stage is Ulrich Töpfer, whom everyone here calls just Uli. He has been organizing demonstrations on the large market square in front of St. Mary's Church since the 1980s: he was persecuted as an opposition figure in the GDR for his peace prayers and discussion groups, and later tens of thousands followed his call for a peaceful revolution. But that is a long time ago. Former companions with whom Töpfer fought side by side back then turned away during the Corona period. They ran past his house and shouted: “Töpfer against the wall!” and: “Uli, come out!” Töpfer becomes quiet when he talks about it. “No one said anything against it.” He remains silent. “Then tears came to my eyes.”

And so for him and many others it is an act of self-assertion to come together here at the market. They all have their personal reasons and completely different political views. What unites them is a feeling of unease about the aggressive tone that has spread in Meiningen.

When the trombone choir sings the national anthem, a few boys with Antifa flags laugh in surprise, but then let the song go on in a friendly manner. Where imperial flags are waved on Mondays and people can no longer even agree on the national flag, black-red-gold stands above all for democracy.

“Whether you're playing sports or with your family: Don't be silent!” says the next speaker on the stage, and a few rows away Agnes Kell-Ludwig nods. The grandmother is here with her children and grandchildren and reports how she is hearing AfD slogans more and more often in the neighborhood. It's completely natural for people to talk like this. “That offends me!” says the lady indignantly. “I then say: I don’t agree with you.” But others hardly have the energy to do that anymore. She points to a sign in the front row: “If you vote for AfD today, you will have no choice tomorrow,” it says. “I like that,” she says, smiling. “I’ll put this in the garden.”