Right-wing esotericist at health food company: chemtrails at rapunzel

Organic pioneer Rapunzel has just come under fire for statements made by its founder. Now it comes out that a climate change denier appeared there.

Joseph Wilhelm poses in front of Rapunzel advertising in Legau Photo: Rolf Schultes/picture alliance

"Homeopathy for Plants," "Stardust and Owl Calls," "Myths, Legends, LightImageSounds" – these are the titles of the "Rapunzel Events," a series of public events that have been held regularly for four years in the company’s own event space in Legau, Swabia. The Rapunzel events attract between visitors and are partly available online as video recordings.

Occasionally, lecturers appear here who represent at least dubious views. On July 12, 2018, for example, Ralf Otterpohl, head of the Institute for Wastewater Management and Water Protection at the Technical University of Hamburg since 1998. The university professor is controversial as a climate change denier and conspiracy theorist, to say the least: students at the Technical University of Hamburg complained about Otterpohl in an open letter as recently as February because he had lectured at university events about the "CO2 myth" and offered "2,000 euros to the person who could prove the effects of CO2".

At Rapunzel, Otterpohl talked about the theses of his book "The New Village". Here the professor promotes the volkisch-antisemitic Anastasia settler movement from Russia, which for years has also been establishing so-called family country estates in Germany, primarily in the East, and presents itself to the outside world as a harmless ecological movement.

Whether Otterpohl’s theses are in line with the world view of Rapunzel’s founder and managing director Joseph Wilhelm must at least be questioned in the meantime. Rapunzel, an organic pioneer from the Unterallgau region, had to remove statements by Wilhelm from the Internet in mid-May because of calls for a boycott by customers. Wilhelm had outed himself here as an opponent of vaccination and a supporter of conspiracy myths. He described mouth-nose masks as "muzzles" and said that a healthy diet was the best protection against infectious diseases. Rapunzel says it employs more than 380 people and made a profit of 17.4 million euros in 2017.

Close to right-wing nationalist attitudes

With Otterpohl, Rapunzel has now apparently given a forum to someone close to right-wing nationalist attitudes. The Anastasia self-supporters also include right-wing esotericists such as Frank Willy Ludwig, who, according to research by Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR), declared: "You will recognize the Jewish race by the gray skin color and the dark, sinister eyes of the night."

Rolf Otterpohl Photo: TU Hamburg

In the fantasy novels of Vladimir Megre, on which the Anastasia settlement concept is based, one reads that Jews manipulated governments and that a Jewish high priest ruled the world. Otterpohl writes in his book on page 76: "Anastasia provides exciting, surprising and often very practical proposals, interesting assessments of city life and very far-reaching visions for the future"

Despite being a professor, he represents here a confused conspiracy ideological mixture of Kennedy assassination, chemtrails, dangerous fluoride toothpaste ("brain destruction!") and cancer healing by natural forces prevented by the pharmaceutical industry. All this could be heard by the audience also in July 2018 at Rapunzel in Legau or later on the screen: The audience agreed with Otterpohl’s theses.

In between, the professor also explains less problematic ways to combat global soil erosion. After Otterpohl’s lecture, Robert Briechle, who is close to the "Reichsburger" movement, presented his country estate in Allgau.

"Refreshing call for optimism".

Research by the author of this article led Rapunzel to remove the video and event report from its website. Previously, it had enthusiastically said that the event was a "refreshing call for optimism and the courage to take life into one’s own hands". The video had generated 4,500 views by the time it was deleted.

When asked again by the taz, a press spokeswoman emphasized that the company had nothing in common with "right-wing extremist and related ideologies. "At the time, we had no information of any proximity to right-wing extremist, volkisch, anti-Semitic or anti-democratic thoughts or networks," the statement reads.

Otterpohl speaks of chemtrails or brain destruction by fluoride toothpaste

Only after "extensively critical comments from customers on the contributions and positions of Mr. Otterpohl" was the lecture video and the post-event report removed from the network "after intensive discussion."

Research shows: Otterpohl is closely connected to the Anastasia movement. Already in April 2018, the professor had offered "geomantic" courses on the perception of so-called elemental beings in Elfingen, Switzerland. Venue: The "Garden Weden", one of the family country estates of the Anastasia movement. Geomancy, i.e. an esoteric "experience" of energy fields, not unlike Feng Shui, was also recommended by the professor to the Rapunzel audience and his students*.

Theses no longer at the university

Only in November Otterpohl distanced himself little credibly from the problematic settlers, because at the same time he strengthened his close co-operation with the Briechle yard.

At least Otterpohl does not want to spread his crude theses in the university in the future: After the complaint of the students "a constructive exchange" had taken place, it says in a statement of the TU Hamburg. Otterpohl has assured "to separate the contents of his research and teaching from his private interests in the future and thus also to do without the TU logo at non-university events.

To date," writes the TU, "no further complaint from the student body has reached us after this conversation."

We received a statement from Ralf Otterpohl regarding this text, which we hereby publish uncommented and without verifying the truth content in the spirit of a broad debate.

"There are several misrepresentations in the article about me. The discussion about the multiple causes of climate change is widely conducted among scientists. Contrary to the assertion in the article, a key point of my presentations is the assertion that man-made climate change is quite substantial and is particularly strong due to deforestation, improper grazing, and most especially soil degradation from agrochemical agriculture. Thus I am part of the broad scientific consensus and not a "climate change denier". In my book "The New Village" I do not, as claimed, advertise the Anastasia book series from Russia and the movement named after her. I merely present it, along with numerous other approaches to ecovillages around the world, in a brief section that includes a critical reference to the unacceptable attitudes of individual actors. I have had only very sporadic dealings with this gardening movement, contrary to the assertion, and am not "closely associated" with it. I am not close to any right-wing nationalist stance and distance myself resolutely from statements such as the quote from Frank Willy Ludwig inserted by Ms. Landwehr. It is suggested here that I share such statements. This absolutely does not correspond to the facts. The labels "conspiracy theorist" and "right-wing esotericist" used by Ms. Landwehr are damaging to my reputation and defamatory. The technical term for "chemtrails" is "geo-engineering". Its illegal application is unfortunately very probable with many scientific publications and also official measured values of drastically increased aluminum loads in the atmosphere. Brain damage and loss of intelligence due to fluoride exposure (especially sodium fluoride) are scientifically proven."

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