Germany may ban Telegram to silence anti-vax Jew hate

Former celebrity chef Attila Hildmann has used the platform to share antisemitic conspiracies


German authorities are considering banning the messaging app Telegram to stop antisemitic anti-vax conspiracy theorists spreading their hate.

The most notorious figure is Attila Hildmann, who has attracted a large following, spewing out poisonous bile.

He claims that Jewish figures including financier George Soros and Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg are “planning eugenics and genocide”.

The 40-year-old former celebrity chef uses the encrypted messaging app to share his pernicious ideas with an online audience of far-right and anti-vax followers across Germany.

Born in Berlin of Turkish descent, Hildmann was adopted by German parents. After his father died of a heart attack, he became an outspoken vegan and then a bestselling cookbook writer.

In 2015 he began to voice alarming views regarding immigrants. But he was still seen as a celebrity, and competed in a German TV dance show in 2016 on which Motsi Mabuse was a judge before she joined the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing.

In 2020 at a rally for anti-vaxxers, Hildmann declared himself a “German nationalist”, dubbing opponents “parasites” and “sub-humans” guilty of “high treason against the German people”.

Using monstrously twisted rhetoric, he said Jews helped finance the Holocaust, and Zionists tried to “wipe out the German race”.

Claiming Angela Merkel was Jewish, he said she belonged to “the same tribe” as Soros, Zuckerberg and the Rothschilds, who were now planning “eugenics and genocide”.

Last year, social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, banned Hildmann, as did Amazon and other distributors of his vegan products.

An arrest warrant for slander, harassment and incitement to racial hatred was issued against him last February.

But he fled to Turkey after a member of the German judiciary was suspected to have tipped him off about the investigation into his activities. Experts say his dual German and Turkish citizenship makes it hard to extradite him.

His Telegram channel was banned last June to stop him from communicating with his 100,000 followers. But he then created a complex network of cross-posting accounts. He also evaded the authorities by uploading antisemitic videos on a hidden hate-speech platform.

His website can still be accessed and provides a direct link to his Telegram account. Germany now questions how he was allowed to gain celebrity status. Last year, Der Spiegel asked: “Did we give Attila Hildmann too big a stage?”

Anti-vax protesters across Germany have worn striped pyjamas to liken their supposed persecution to that of Jewish concentration camp prisoners, with the word “unvaccinated” written in a Star of David on the sleeve.

In their twisted logic, Covid measures discriminate against the unvaccinated in a way that they suggest bears comparison with Nazi persecution of Jews under Hitler.

In recent months the rhetoric has escalated to online death threats against politicians who support the Jewish community and measures to stop Covid.

One Telegram user posted a photo of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s Minister-President, Manuela Schwesig (SPD), in a local group of the “Querdenker” (Lateral Thinkers) movement, which is leading the anti-vax protests.

“She will be picked up, either by patrol car or ... hearse,” read the post, weeks after torch-lit protesters marched on her house.

Another Telegram user wrote of Saxony’s Minister-President Michael Kretschmer (CDU), posting: “March in on the guy, pull the guy out of there and hang him up somewhere.”

German Federal Minister of the Interior, Nancy Faeser (SPD), has said Telegram could be banned “as a last resort”. But critics doubt this will work.

Ann Cathrin Riedel of the Association for Liberal Internet Policy said: “Radical thoughts do not disappear when you block a messenger service, people just move on to another platform.”

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