In many European countries, USA, Israel and Australia, people are protesting against Corona restrictions in the streets. This movement in Germany is called ‘Querdenken‘, which means unconventional or independent thinking. This interview was conducted with various people in Germany, who support the ‘Querdenken Movement’.
Shortly after the Corona measures started to restrict our daily lives, Michael Ballweg founded the “Querdenken” (independent thinking /thinking differently) movement in Stuttgart. The ‘Querdenker Movement’ has been officially under surveillance by the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) since December, claiming that “extremist, ideological conspiracy and anti-Semitic content is deliberately mixed up with legitimate criticism of the state measures that aim to contain the pandemic”.
Pandemic skeptics, anti-vaxxers, anti-lockdown protesters or simply opponents regularly meet in the streets and protest against their Government by marching, dancing and singing. Protests are frequently accompanied by counter-protests, which sometimes results in tense situations.
According to a questionnaire made with 1,100 protesters about their motives and attitudes, almost half of them said that they had never participated in a demonstration before the Coronavirus protests. I met with some of them and asked them their opinions. Here are the answers of Elias, Janni, Thomas, Karen and Drea.
Can you tell me briefly about yourselves?
Karen: I am 37 years old, was born and grew up in South Africa. My father is a South African preacher and my mother, who is German, is Biology teacher and worked as a Health Advisor. I am studying to become a Sport and English teacher. At the moment, I am financing my studies working at the Postal Office.
Drea: I am 38 years old and studying German Literature.
Elias: I am 17 years old and living with my parents, four siblings and our animals in a village. I am in the 11th. grade and also a beekeeper.
Thomas: I was born in 1968. After Humanistic School, I studied Theology. I have been working as a pastor at a Protestant Church but I am currently unemployed.
Janni: I am 38 years old and working as caretaker. I have been studying for many years to become a teacher in French and politics. But I do not want to become a teacher, because I do not find the German Education System ethical. This Education System does not treat kids equally; there is always competition and kids have no chance to improve their individual skills.
What does Querdenken mean? Are you a ‘Querdenker’?
Janni: It is a rebellious movement, that was established last yearagainst heavy Corona measures. It is a grass roots movement, which means it came naturally from the society; a reflection of the anger in the streets. This movement has been, from the very beginning, placed by the media in a Right Wing position. Today in Germany nobody is allowed to describe her/himself openly as ‘Querdenker’, as there would be consequences; you can be called Nazi or Fascist. I politically come from the Left Wing and I myself am against Fascism.
Karen: I would not define myself as a ‘Querdenker’ neither, but rather see myself as a person, who thinks independently and critically.
The mainstream media misuses and stereotypes ‘Querdenken’ with negative connotations and display them as racist and as conspiracy theorists. It actually defines a person who thinks out of the box, but those views often are misunderstood and not accepted by the mainstream.
Thomas: Some of the people in Germany who think opposite to today’s mainstream politics call themselves ‘Querdenker’. This word had earlier positive connotations, as it means to think different, alternative or queer. For example; some Christians say the Catholic Church is good, some others say the Protestant Church is good. And a ‘Querdenker’ asks; “maybe both Churches Catholic and Protestant have something in common?” One should not be only right or left. There are more alternatives. There are many people who are against the Corona politics from all views. Therefore, ‘Querdenker’ is neither Left nor Right Wing.
I would also not call myself ‘Querdenker’, because the ‘Querdenker Movement’ is being watched by the State. I am just against the Corona measures.
Drea: I also have a critical opinion towards the Corona politics and that is why I participate in activities that most people associate with the label “Querdenken”.
Elias: I do not know what ‘Querdenken’ exactly means. But as much as I know I agree with them.
What is your aim and gain?
Karen: Not only ‘Querdenker’, I also join local demonstrations which stand for Fundamental Rights and Freedom of Speech. I have been demonstrating from the very beginning of the Pandemic to fight against the Corona Policy. I want our normal life back, living without fear of becoming sick from a virus.
I also like to join these demonstrations because one can meet like-minded people, who do not worry about social distancing and masks. I feel like a normal person, surrounded by loving and open-minded people. The atmosphere is beautiful. I meet a lot of interesting and honest people there, who also feel misunderstood by the mainstream and try to stay positive in these difficult times.
Elias: I am only 17 and had no political background. Before Corona I was at some ‘Fridays for Future’ demonstrations. I am against those measures since the beginning, just like my family. We fight for our freedom. We so far have not achieved much. But personally, I have many gains like binding with interesting people and organising cool actions. We help each other a lot and at the same time have fun.
Drea: My primary aim for now is to end the Corona measures to restore a social and political climate that allows calm and rational discussions about society’s concerns.
Karen: More and more people are waking up and this scares the politicians. In the beginning there were very little police officers at the demonstrations and now more and more. And they are getting more aggressive and even brutal. They cancel many ‘Querdenken’ demonstrations to hinder that we come together and influence others. Weirdly, they treat other political demonstrations differently and do not hinder them.
Thomas: We want that the old people can decide their selves, whether they want to be visited or not. A retirement home’s manager should not decide whether the residents can meet their families or not. Everybody should freely decide if they want to be vaccinated or not. And all the side effects of Corona vaccines and how many died after the vaccination should be announced. But we do not find that information in the mainstream media.
Drea: In general, I think that during the last months, the protesters against the Corona politics were highly successful in building various networks, as well as creating independent communication platforms that will help identify and tackle important concerns of society on the basis of people’s needs and wishes.
What is wrong with the Corona Measures?
Elias: That we have to carry face masks and regularly do Corona tests at the school.
Karen: According to science these measures do not make any sense. As a student I have access to academic databases and studies. I also have been following statistics and social media. I discovered that; what we learn from the mainstream media and our Ministry of Health is incorrect or the truth is manipulated. The risk group and Covid deaths are mostly over 80 and fragile, but in the media they say they are young and can have so called ‘long Covid’, which does not underlay scientifically based evidence.
People who have a positive Covid test before death, go into Covid death statistics, although they maybe died from heart attack or other fatal diseases like cancer. Why are no autopsies carried out or even restricted by the Ministry of Health? So now we do not have any evidence if these people really died of Covid. I did not understand why the politicians did not take the Swedish route; trusting their citizens self-judgement, no restrictions or lockdowns, keeping the schools open but protecting the fragile .
Drea: Some of my close friends immediately suffered financially and mentally. I think that irrational decisions were made out of fear. I also believe that such strict measures like lockdowns are too authoritarian for a democratic society. They are not necessary, ineffective and potentially harmful. The politician’s and media’s handling of Corona is destructive to society’s well-being, regarding mental and physical health, social and political climate, economy, and many aspects more.
Janni: The restrain of basic liberties. In the beginning they told us that solidarity was necessary to rescue people from dying but when they wanted to continue with restrictions, I got skeptical. I experienced myself that old people died alone in isolation. I consider myself as attorney for old and weak people, but these measures are no good for them. The same politics treated earlier the old people as a problem for the economy, now they use the old people as an alibi for the restrictions. They have another purpose and they do not tell us. They just use old people to reach their goal. This is hypocritical.
All those pandemic measures are senseless, they have nothing to do with health. After all, health as a whole is not only physical but psychological as well; the social life takes an important role in it. Humans are social creatures and feel good among other people.
Karen: There is also no significant evidence that asymptomatic infection occurs, mostly viruses are transferred by people with symptoms. Viruses mutate quickly, this is normal and is often a good thing, because this often makes the virus less harmful. Human beings have been living with viruses for centuries, they are part of our lives, and our immune system knows how to adapt to them. With lockdowns our immune system weakens because it does not stay in training and cannot adapt to new viruses, which makes them more fatal for us. The topic of masks that they help in public settings is not scientifically sound, rather they could have long-term effects on our health and children’s psyche. They should only be used in hospital settings.
What is the most absurd measure for you actually?
Karen: To wear face masks in public to be healthy and feel healthy, even in fresh air. Long before Covid it was scientifically known that face masks do not protect from any viruses; it is used professionally in hospitals to not contaminate a body in open surgery. But suddenly new studies pop up and claim that masks protect you from viruses.
I rather think it has long-term effects on our health and it handicaps the communication because you cannot see the face and mimicry. This will have great psychological effects on our children and the next generation. I think this is worse than the virus.
Elias: The deadline to go out after 10 o’clock in the evening. As if the virus is less dangerous after 10pm. I also find it funny when I see people driving alone in their car and carrying face masks.
Thomas: Most of the measures are absurd. Face masks for example; it does not help at all, as the air can go in and out through the sides.
Many doctors know that the vaccines or tests are not needed. That is why the Government opened many test and vaccine centres and employed the unemployed people, who have nothing to do with medicine. And those people easily carry those actions without hesitation, doctors cannot do this as they know that those might harm the body.
Janni: This force for vaccination. Now they want to vaccinate the kids! There are only very few kids that are hit by Corona. Absurd!
Thomas: The definition of pandemic was changed 12 years ago. Earlier they called it pandemic when an entire population was hit. Now it is called pandemic when only a part of the society is hit. And this virus is not really that contiguous as it is claimed. Prof. Ioannidis proved that the Corona Virus is less contagious than the Influenza.
The numbers of the so called, “incidences” are only based on test results. When the test results are positive does not mean a person is ill. It only says that this person is per definition ill. You need a thorough diagnosis by the doctor to be defined ill and test cannot diagnose an illness. Those positive tested people have no symptoms but they are counted as ill. More tests mean more positive results. I do not understand that the Germans cannot see “behind” these absurd calculations.
Are you also against the vaccination?
Karen: My mother had many allergies and tried to solve her problems with classical medicine, but it did not work. She eventually cured her allergies with alternative medicine. This holistic way helps to understand your immune system better and sees the health from all aspects holistically.
I have always been advised that genetically modified food is unhealthy and should not be eaten. But now we are forced to vaccinate ourselves with a mRNA vaccine, which is based on gene technology. This is absurd! We also do not know the long-term effects of this vaccine, as this is a totally new technology. Why is there so much propaganda around vaccines, but no propaganda for other treatments? There are other medical treatments that work against Covid like ‘Ivermectin’. But because of the vaccine propaganda they took ‘Ivermectin’ off the market.
I also have learnt that vaccines are often misused by the Pharma Industry to make a lot of money instead of saving lives. An example was the Swine Flu Pandemic in 2009, where many vaccinated in Sweden developed narcolepsy, a sleeping sickness. Often Media or Big Corporations hinder information getting to the public about vaccine side effects, because they want to make money. For instance, now with the Covid pandemic the government has invested a lot of money in vaccines and a lot of propaganda is done for the vaccine in the mainstream media.
So, is it all about money?
Karen: Closing small businesses but keeping big businesses open, cancelling cultural events but paying tax money to save big corporations like the car industry or airplane companies from bankruptcy… These measures are all about money. Government tries to sell masks, tests and vaccines. Germany has a big Pharma Industry. You just have to look where the money flows. I am sure the industry is making money with this pandemic.
Why do the ‘Querdenker’ have a negative reputation today in Germany?
Karen: Because the Media and Politicians portray the ‘Querdenkers’ as something evil, crazy conspiracy theorists or as right-wing radicals. Which is not true. I do not understand why so many Germans trust the politicians and the mainstream media. There are many experts, doctors and scientists like John Ioannidis, Wolfgang Wodarg or Sucharit Bhakdi who are critical about the Lockdown, but they are not invited by mainstream media, are censored, or even denounced.
Elias: They are affraid and not well informed. They get the information about Corona from biased sources.
Janni: You should look at the media and politics. Many believe what they learn from them and get scared. I follow both alternative and mainstream media and see the difference. Mainstream spread fright by showing pictures from intensive stations or giving infection numbers, and other scenes with negative connotations. They even show unrelated pictures to scare people.
I experienced on the demonstration in Leipzig in November 2020 that a group of hooligans entered in to that colourful crowd, vandalized and attacked police, and then after half an hour they left. However, all the cameras recorded only this half an hour and showed the public this scene as if it was the entire event. These things happen in almost every ‘Querdenken’ demonstration but the media only broadcasts these violent pictures and ignore the peaceful and colourful crowd of demonstrators. If I had not seen what happens on these demonstrations myself and only informed myself by mainstream media, I would also be sceptical against the ‘Querdenken’ movement.
Karen: I think many will not admit that they were wrong and apologize for their wrong doings. It is hard to admit that you were manipulated by the media and the politicians, and you have been wrong all along.
Thomas: Germany had once a dictatorship with Right Wing politics; the so called the National Socialist Party . Since some of the Right Wing people also criticise the Corona politics, the ‘Querdenken’ are also associated with this ideology.
What is the problem with Right Wing politics?
Thomas: During the World War people of the Right Wing had committed big crimes in Germany . They had murdered Jews, Homosexuals, Communists or Socialists, and also Christians. So “right” is stereotyped. The problem with ‘Querdenker’ is that the German Right Wing Party “AfD” is also against those Corona politics. Well, Germans fear that somebody like Hitler comes back into power and then they think one should fight against the right politics, no matter what they say; so whatever comes from right is framed as wrong.
But they forget that the GDR (German Democratic Republic- East Germany) was also a dictatorship. They were Left Wing but they also committed heavy crimes. China is also officially Left and has a terrible dictatorship. But they are getting economically more powerful than the USA. Today many big German companies like Volkswagen, BMW or Mercedes cooperate with China. This gives China the power to decide over German politics more and more. And this politically means that someone who has intelligence and technology can control the people.
How do you raise your voice as a protester?
Elias: We regularly do flash mobs, motorcades, promenades or passive protest with posters. We want to bring people to think, to make them understand that there is something wrong. And to make others, like us, to feel that they are not alone.
Drea: My way of protesting the Corona politics is mostly through political work. I joined a political party, called ‘Die Basis‘, established in 2020 as a reaction to the Corona policies of the Government. It is a party that supports grass root democracy.
Thomas: I tried to discuss this theme at Facebook but it was problematic. I was not understood by some readers. I had shared a link showing the opinion of Prof. Wolfgang Wodarg, who had criticised 10 years ago the swine flu vaccination. Wodarg had said that the vaccination against swine flu was not necessary and the tax money was thrown out. And indeed, the scandal came into the light. Wodarg had criticized this so it should not have happened again. After some posts on Facebook, showing the opinion of Dr. Wodarg and others, I have then been told by my employee that I was not supposed to express myself in Facebook this way. The reason was; “the church should protect the weak people”.
Thomas: That means one should not hug the grandma. The consequence of those measures is that many ill people die alone. That is ridiculous but the church sees it differently. It is typical in Germany; the church talks parallel to the Government. This is one of the reasons that I am not working as a pastor today.
You mean churches in Germany are not independent?
Thomas: They have been state churches since hundreds of years. Actually, we are since 1918 a little bit freer, but most of the church people still think that what the state says applies automatically to the churches. Even if a pastor says: “the Government is wrong”, he should still do what the Government says.
Do you think that Germany is polarized?
Elias: Yes, many people believe that there is a pandemic and more people than average die because of this virus. But we do not think so.
Thomas: Yes, we cannot discuss normally with each other anymore. Whoever does not follow Government’s Corona measures is labelled as ‘Querdenker’. And on the other side those who follow the measures are labelled as ‘Schlafschaf’ (sleeping sheep) by that movement.
Karen: I think the reason is disinformation and anxiety of the virus. Also, almost 60% of Germans are employed by the Government and they are bound to Government rules. Many governmental employees like teachers and doctors, who expressed their critical opinions against the government lost their jobs or were bullied so that they resigned.
We are living in parallel worlds. The majority believes in the mainstream media. I lost many of my friends through my political position as ‘Querdenker’.
Janni: I see lots of colourful and various people on Querdenken demonstrations: academics, handicraftsmen, teachers, doctors, old and young people from all kinds of political wings. The others against ‘Querdenken are mostly from extreme left wing; which is for me again a big hypocrisy: The extreme Left is normally against the ruling sovereign class but now they are allied with the Government. They became the watch dog of the monarchs.
I, as a left wing, walk with some right wing people and so I feel myself connected with my entire society. The extreme Left walks with the rulers.
What kind of people are the Corona critics?
Karen: People like me. Freedom seeking people who think independently and searching for the truth. Many are self-employed or from the middle class who are unhappy with the current government and the restrictions. It is a variety of people who want their fundamental rights back and live peaceful lives. If you think in stereotypes; there are some hippies, anti-vaxxers and people from the alternative medicine.
Drea: I do not think you can classify the protesters against the Corona politics based on demographic or psychological traits but in my personal experience, the vast majority is driven by prosocial intentions.
And the others?
Thomas: I do not know exactly what the others think. Under these polarised conditions I did not have much occasion to talk to them. Some believe that there is a big danger, lots of people die and to reduce the loss one should follow these political measures.
Many call ‘Querdenker’ also “Conspiracy theorist”. Why?
Thomas: If many of those who criticize the measures appear correct, then people will start asking themselves why the politicians are continuing with these measures. When the politicians cannot give reasonable answers, then they bribe, let’s say journalists, to write an article which gives them a good image and label criticizers as conspirator. Pharma industry has more money than the banks, and they want to control the states. But this is again a “conspiracy theory”.
Karen: Politicians and the pharma industry are so intertwined. I believe that the politicians use the pandemic for economic reasons and to distract from the financial crisis we are in and with this view I am called a ‘conspiracy theorist’.
Janni: What the alternative media broadcasts as conspiracy later becomes reality. They claimed that face masks protect from the virus. It is nonsense; such a small microorganism can go through any fabric.
Aerosol can not be a rational motive for masks. In Germany this March the physicians examined the Aerosol; the infection danger in fresh air is almost zero. One does not need research for this, because it is obvious. Our body needs oxygen and if you block your breathing, there will be harmful effects. We breath unhealthy stuff out, like CO2 and bacteria and with the masks we have to breath them back in.
Elias: There definitely do exist such people but if they do not know the background of their ideas, then it is normal that they label them as a conspiracy theorist.
Drea: Some people wish that their opponents were inferior, so they look for the weirdest member of the group and pretend that this is how the whole group is like. Some others willingly use the label “conspiracy theorist” to give their opponents a bad reputation.
If you are a politician, what would be your pandemic politics?
Karen: In a pandemic as a politician, I would calmly look at the scientific evidence and without spreading panic in the country. It is important that you listen to all experts on the topic and not only some experts with maybe financial interests. I would promote a healthy lifestyle with healthy nutrition, exercise and keeping people psychologically sane without panic. It would be important to support the health system to protect the vulnerable against the virus and keep them safe, but to build up their immune system if they are fragile with good nutrition and exercise. I think there should be more focus how to build a strong immune system against viruses and preventing sickness, than always only treating the symptoms with medication and vaccines.
Elias: First, I would inform myself precisely. If really many people would die, then I would do a short but hard lockdown. Lockdowns cannot be a consistent solution. I would try to find a solution that people can continue their normal lives without fear.
Drea: I would have provided extensive care and protection for vulnerable parts of the population as the status quo even before a pandemic can hit it. I would also install an institution of independent scientists from various academic fields who make evidence-based decisions about the necessity to act and the nature of the actions that need to be taken.
Thomas: Politics should only recommend what to do and leave the decisions to the individual. There are other remedies than vaccination, like homeopathy, and they work.
Janni: I do not see a pandemic!