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Workers of Germany, Unite: The New Siren Call of the Far Right

The 92 AfD lawmakers, who have been busy moving into their new parliamentary offices in central Berlin, have not been shy about using the spotlight.

One, Jürgen Pohl, recently addressed Parliament and criticized the labor market changes that former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of the Social Democratic Party passed from 2003 to 2005, saying they created a host of poorly regulated, precarious jobs.

The AfD, Mr. Pohl said, “is a new people’s party that cares about the little people.”

When some center-left lawmakers guffawed, Mr. Pohl pointed at the television cameras. “Go ahead and laugh,” he said, “your voters are watching.”

Indeed, they are. The AfD has already overtaken the Social Democrats as the second-biggest party in state elections across much of what was formerly East Germany. In Bavaria, it is not far behind.

But Mr. Reil believes his party has the greatest potential in places like Bottrop, in the Ruhr area, once the industrial heartland of West Germany and long a bastion of Social Democratic and union power.

The Ruhr has produced coal since the 16th century, and it shaped modern Germany in the process. It powered the Industrial Revolution, two world wars, the postwar economic miracle and even European integration: The coal and steel community was the seedling of the European Union.

But today, Bottrop and surrounding cities are in decline.

Mr. Reil has worked in six mines, five of which have closed. Along with some 2,500 others, he will take early retirement, at 48, after the last mine ceases production in December.

With the mines, most bars have closed, too, as has a whole social and cultural scene that once kept the area alive.

Source: NYT > World

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