BERLIN — Germany's domestic intelligence agency has put under observation some adherents of a disparate group that has attacked the country's lockdown measures, and whose ranks have become increasingly radicalized as the pandemic has worn on, the Interior Ministry said Wednesday.
The so-called Querdenker movement has held regular protests against lockdown measures, bringing together a broad range of demonstrators, including people opposing vaccinations, others who deny the existence of the coronavirus, mask opponents, conspiracy theorists and others.
The protests have also attracted neo-Nazis and other right-wing extremists, and authorities have warned that the loose-knit movement is growing increasingly radical.
Some demonstrators have taken to wearing Stars of David, suggesting that they are being persecuted by the government like Jews were under the Nazis — a practice slammed by Germany's leading Jewish group as "disgusting."
"The observation of the so-called Querdenker movement by the BfV is urgently needed," said Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews.
"Right-wing extremists use the protests against the coronavirus requirements strategically to win supporters, they use it to spread their ideas deep into the middle of society, it is imperative that this development be stopped."
The Interior Ministry said the movement has repeatedly exploited legitimate protests and demonstrations to provoke confrontations with authorities, and that in some cases have shown "clearly that their agenda goes beyond mere mobilization to protest against the state's coronavirus protective measures."
By putting individuals and groups linked to the movement under observation, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, known as the BfV, will be able to collect more data and details on individuals from the scene.
The BfV typically labels a group "extremist" to put it under observation, but in this case introduced a new category, allowing it to deal with suspected cases in addition to proven extremism.