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Evonik CEO Kullmann: "We don't have any AfD functionaries on the farm"

Photo: Martin Meissner / AP

Following the election success of right-wing populist Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, the head of the German chemical company Evonik, Christian Kullmann, has urgently warned against the rise of the AfD in this country. He told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that it was a brown-laced party: "It endangers democracy, the rule of law, freedom of opinion, human rights. The AfD is harming our economy, our society, our future."

Kullmann appealed to other managers and entrepreneurs to do more to oppose the AfD. Business leaders need to be "much more energetic and committed," he said. In a democracy, everyone is called upon to engage politically. And this applies even more to those who bear social responsibility, for example as a manager in a large corporation."

Managers should act "authentically and directly" against right-wing activities

In fact, entrepreneurs in this country have long remained silent about the rise of the AfD. Only slowly did an awareness develop that the party is also harmful to the business location. In Germany, the party recently came to more than 20 percent in nationwide polls, and in addition to the Thuringia state association led by Björn Höcke, the Saxony-Anhalt state association is now also classified as right-wing extremist by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

According to Kullmann, his Essen-based company is trying to set an example against the AfD wherever possible. "For Evonik, for example, this means that no AfD functionaries come to our farm, and they are not received for factory visits," he told the Süddeutsche Zeitung, bringing joint campaigns with other business leaders into play.

Managers must take "authentic and direct action" against right-wing activities in companies, Kullmann demanded. He would not recommend voting for a particular party. "But I would say clearly: Björn Höcke is a Nazi! And if you vote for the AfD, you're putting jobs at risk – your own and other people's."

In the interview, Kullmann warned of risks for foreign investment in Germany. He also referred to the Weimar Republic, in which elites from the business world had also helped Adolf Hitler to power through their silence.