For his documentary "Rechts. Deutsch. Radikal"

Thilo Mischke researched right-wing extremist milieus in Germany for more than a year and a half.

At right-wing rock festivals, AfD events and in back rooms, as well as in conversations with extremism experts and constitutional officials, his film, which was shown on ProSieben at prime time on Monday evening, shows a growing violent scene.

The former spokesman for the AfD parliamentary group, Christian Lüth, is quoted as saying that migrants who come to Germany can "still be shot afterwards. That is not an issue at all. Or gas, or whatever you want. I don't care."

We spoke to Thilo Mischke on the phone the day after the broadcast.

ZEIT ONLINE:

HerrMischke, your TV film has met with a great response, almost 15 percent market share and a political consequence.

Christian Lüth was fired from the AfD, even the

Washington Post

reported on the case. Would you have thought that possible at the beginning of your research?

Thilo Mischke:

No, not at all.

Even when we filmed the scene, we still thought: Nobody would be interested in that anyway, because people are used to the AfD that they talk like that.

Which is actually a terrible sign of the serenity that one now has on the subject.

But the closer the broadcast date came, the stronger the strange fear became that it might get really big.

ZEIT ONLINE:

You were threatened several times during your 18-month research, at a right-wing rock festival you can see how the organizer Thorsten Heise from the NPD announced to you and other representatives of the press that you would be filmed and that your faces would be known to all those present.

Mischke:

Filming journalists is obviously the new method of choice.

I suspect that during our research we recorded at least three times as much material as we filmed ourselves.

At each demo, our team was filmed by at least ten cell phones simultaneously.

ZEIT ONLINE:

One of the beginnings of the social escalation you talk about in the film is the founding of Pegida.

Five years after it was founded, in autumn 2019, you stand in the midst of demonstrators in Dresden and clearly show how borders are now being exceeded.

Mischke:

A participant I wanted to talk to tried to reach into my face.

An absolute limit crossing.

This uncomfortable physical closeness that is forced upon you is now one of the usual threats.

Reaching in the face or, in the case of corona demos, tearing off people's protective masks.

That happened to me too.

It's a whole new form of physical aggression.

ZEIT ONLINE:

Back to your beginnings: In the film you often mention your encounters with skinheads or neo-Nazis in the 1990s.

Have your own experiences also contributed to approaching this scene?

Mischke:

Yes, maybe that is the reason why I kept looking at the topic. As a 16-year-old, right-wing extremists in Berlin's subway called me anti-Semitic and spat on me.

I remember seeing the situation as frightening at the time, but in a certain way I was also fascinated by what motivates people to act like this, for absolutely no reason.

ZEIT ONLINE:

It is all the more astonishing how openly and sometimes even in a friendly manner you speak in your film with greats in the scene such as Alexander Deptolla, the organizer of the right-wing martial arts tournament Kampf der Nibelungen and a member of the DieRechte party in Dortmund.

Mischke:

I also have to struggle with myself.

Sometimes it was really bizarre, I remember when I drove back to Berlin in the car after one of our long interviews and thought: It can't be that I suddenly find this right-wing extremist observed by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution a bit likeable, how do I deal with it?

ZEIT ONLINE:

And how do you deal with it?

Mischke:

As someone who was raised as an anti-fascist, I would have said three years ago: I don't talk to Nazis out of concern about giving them a platform.

A few years ago I would probably have been more inclined to riot and would have been more against these people.

But in the meantime I've met so many different people who are on the socio-moral fringes, who do things that a large part of society doesn't like.

That both desensitized me and made me aware of it, because these people still want to tell their story.

And the more aggressively I get into a conversation, the less they do it.