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31 May 2022, 14:03
Benjamin Wehrmann

Fridays for Future leader accuses German Chancellor of likening climate activists to Nazis

Clean Energy Wire / Die Welt

Prominent German youth climate activist Luisa Neubauer has accused Chancellor Olaf Scholz of comparing “climate activists to Nazis”, thereby trivializing the National Socialists’ crimes and playing down the climate crisis. At an event by the Catholic Church, climate activists shouted "nonsense" during Scholz's explanation of Germany’s coal policy. Scholz responded by saying: “Frankly, seeing the same black-clothed people at different events who stage their spectacle all the time remind of a time that is long gone by and thank God for that,” to applause by the audience. The head of Germany’s government added that the activists’ approach amounted to “acting” that would not equal the aim to “really take part in the debate”. Scholz did not use the word “Nazi” and did not specify which period he was talking about.

Neubauer, the leading figure of Germany’s Friday for Future (FfF) youth climate movement, called Scholz’s reaction a “scandal” that indicates “how he really sees things”. Neubauer said the chancellor would heap praise on people showing climate action initiative “if it fits into the script,” but would resort to calling the same people “a bit of a Nazi” once their activism becomes an inconvenience. “What kind of understanding of history is that? What kind of understanding of the climate? Everything in this is madness,“ Neubauer wrote on Twitter. A spokesperson for the chancellor refused to “interpret” what kind of time Scholz was referring to, newspaper Die Welt reported. She said she didn't want to comment on Scholz's statement, but added that comparing climate activists to Nazis was “obviously completely absurd," and that interrupting public events for personal aims was inacceptable.

Climate activist groups like FfF have grown rapidly in Germany in recent years and are particularly popular among younger and left-leaning parts of society. The protests led by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg surged in 2019 and put the preceding government under conservative (CDU) chancellor Angela Merkel under pressure to step up its climate policy. According to recent research, the Green Party has greatly benefitted from the rising popularity of climate activism.

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