Philipp Ritz has only been chairman of the AfD youth for a short time. He made headlines with anti-feminism. "Attention is attention," he says coolly.
Philipp Ritz at the AfD’s election campaign party on May 25. Image: William Minke
Philipp Ritz’s world consists of fear. Fear of muggings, fear of theft, fear of social fraud. Fear of someone beating him up in a disco. Of Germany getting into debt and a woman taking away his job because of feminism, quotas, egalitarianism. And if things go on like this, Philipp Ritz is sure, even money will soon be worth nothing.
"That can’t be," he says when he talks about these issues. Philipp Ritz has been chairman of the Junge Alternative (JA), the youth organization of the Alternative for Germany, for three months. Almost no one knows him, and neither does the Junge Alternative. The parent party AfD has just entered the European Parliament with seven percent.
Philipp Ritz remains cool. "I was hoping for two to three percent more," he says. Every few minutes, cheers erupt at the AfD’s election party; once again, the result has risen by a tenth of a percent. "We were able to add a significant percentage during the election campaign as Junge Alternative," says Ritz. Party friends describe Philipp Ritz as a doer, a party manager. "Ritz is not an ideologue," says one.
A month earlier, Philipp Ritz, 32, black suit, pink shirt, hair neatly gelled, stands on the forecourt of Cologne Cathedral, his hands in his pockets. The AfD is campaigning, a jazz band plays before the top candidates speak. Philipp Ritz watches the performance. "The spotlight is for the others," he says.
As a fire truck with the words "Eurowehr" honks its horn as it drives onto the Domplatte, he says, "It’s our responsibility what kind of world we leave our children." Just as he’s about to explain why he thinks Germany would be better off without the euro, a fellow party member approaches him. "Did you make the awesome flyers?" Philipp Ritz nods. "They’re really awesome." Ritz smiles proudly.
Every few days, he sits down at his computer and uses Photoshop to craft new theme posters. There, for example, is the back view of five women in skimpy bikinis. "Equality instead of egalitarianism" is written underneath. "P(r)o diversity in Europe." With this, the Junge Alternative even made it into the Bild newspaper as "loser of the day." "Attention is attention," says Philipp Ritz, unmoved. "This wasn’t just a joke." The women in the picture have different skin colors, butt shapes, haircuts, he says. It symbolizes diversity in Europe, he says. Sexism? "Well," Ritz cradles his head, "The women let themselves be photographed voluntarily."
When Philipp Ritz was just a few days chairman, he came up with his first Facebook campaign. Members of the Junge Alternative hold up signs with phrases like "I’m not a feminist because housewife is a profession" or "I’m not a feminist because I have something in my own head." The Emma accused the JA of being backward-looking, anti-emancipatory. Even in Saudi Arabia, Philipp Ritz’s campaign was reported: Young Germans fight against the superiority of women, it was said. The pictures were shared several hundred times, and Junge Alternative gained almost 3,000 followers on Facebook. "It really couldn’t have gone any better," Ritz says, starting to chuckle.
Intersections with the new right
On stage in Cologne, AfD Chairman Bernd Lucke talks about the euro and the AfD’s virtually certain seat in the European Parliament. Philipp Ritz is not listening to him. "Don’t be, I already know the speech." He looks to the side, to the edge of the Domplatte. Antifa has lined up for the demo. He walks a few steps in the direction of the demonstrators, the police have shielded them. "It’s not us who are dangerous, it’s them," he says. He can’t hear what the protesters are shouting. "It’s always the same anyway."
The Alternative for Germany is polarizing. "We live in a consensus democracy," Ritz says, "there are too many prohibitions on thinking, we have to break them down." The AfD is often about prohibitions on thought; it claims to have the "courage to tell the truth."
Sociologist Alexander Hausler says: "AfD and Junge Alternative distinguish themselves by being politically incorrect." The party researcher has studied the two organizations. His verdict is clear: "There are clear overlaps in the content of the Junge Alternative with the New Right." The state chairman of Baden-Wurttemberg, for example, regularly expresses his views in right-wing conservative journals such as Blaue Narzisse, Aula and Junge Freiheit. "The right-wing clientele is deliberately addressed," Hausler says. According to Hausler, the JA stands for the right wing of the AfD. "Like all youth organizations, it is once again significantly more radical than the overall party."
The "gender madness"
Not Euroscepticism and economic policy are the focus, but security in subways and the "gender madness." The language of the posters and flyers is reminiscent of the language of the right. "Vigilante justice is the new police," reads one of Philipp Ritz’s flyers. "Tackle crime harder. Hard work awaits," reads another. These are the issues with which the JA wants to score points with young voters. In the last federal election, the AfD already disproved the cliche of the senior party. If it had been up to voters under 30, it would be in the Bundestag today.
One afternoon in April, Philipp Ritz is sitting in a brewery in Siegburg near Bonn. Dark tiles, wood paneling, dimmed light. A pennant in the corner, Helene Fischer playing on the radio. "Breathless through the night, feel what love does to us." The world Philipp Ritz is afraid of is far away from here. In Brazil, for example, where people live with the danger of being shot at any time.
But also in Cologne, where it is now almost as dangerous, he says. "We are experiencing the consequences of a cuddly justice system that does not set limits on rule violations until it is far too late." His sentences are convoluted, long, his voice is quiet. His thoughts jump: From the philosopher Thomas Hobbes and the state’s monopoly on the use of force, to children without a high school diploma, to rapists on the loose.
Philipp Ritz takes a short break, a sip of Diet Coke. He pauses, rests one hand against the tabletop, cradles his massive body in the chair, and takes a running start. "Our slogan as Junge Alternative is, after all, ‘Reason not ideology.’ I’m firmly convinced that that’s what’s needed today, more understanding." Philipp Ritz belongs to a party that often points to its intellect. Academics and businessmen founded the AfD, and its chairman Bernd Lucke is a professor of economics.
Philipp Ritz studied business administration. He comes from an academic household: mother a pharmacist, father an engineer. Ritz is a manager at a pharmaceutical distributor, where he considers new business models. "It’s a bit like politics," he says. Still, he doesn’t want to be a politician. He doesn’t want to sit in any parliament, not the state parliament, not the European parliament, at least that’s what he says. "I want to change things quietly."
The multiparty supporter
The few guests in the brewery this afternoon sit at the front of the bar or outside. The waitress walks by. "Are you all right?" When the door to the kitchen swings open in front of her, the sound of solid beating comes out. The schnitzels are being tapped. Philipp Ritz has spent a lot of time in brewpubs and pubs like the Rote Lowen in Siegburg. This is where the local chapters of political parties meet. Over a beer, they work out who will be the mayoral candidate and where the barbecue will be held.
Ritz was treasurer, assessor, secretary, and deputy chairman of local associations for various parties. In the 1998 election campaign, shortly after the CDU and FDP were voted out of office, he joined the Junge Union in his hometown of Dahlem in the Eifel. "Because I liked Helmut Kohl," he says, "and because I thought Red-Green was a danger." Later, he became active in the FDP and the Julis; the economic policy was better than in the CDU, he says. "Almost nothing of what was in the election program in 2009 was implemented." He sounds resigned, disappointed. He believes that politicians are corrupt, that at some point they start lying to secure their power.
That’s why he’s been waiting for a new party to be formed. "One that will put an end to the rope-lines and focus on rational politics." The same day the Alternative for Germany website goes online, he joins. Finally, something is happening, he thinks. He is fascinated by the fact that the young party has no taboos, no prohibitions on thinking. "We are civic rebels," he says.
That sounds like an uprising. The AfD now wants to shake up the European Parliament, to break away from consensus democracy. The mood at the election party on Sunday is euphoric. Philipp Ritz is in the thick of it. For him, however, nothing will change. He will go home later, to Sankt Augustin near Bonn. It is still safest there. Tomorrow will be another normal day. He will sit down at his laptop, start Photoshop. Philipp Ritz already has an idea for the next image montage. The desk is a good place for a bourgeois rebel.