Can't you even get a coffee in Germany without Nazi connections?

Backwerk has a founder who apparently supports far-right structures. This isn't an isolated case, says Nathaniel Flakin

The founder of Backwerk is accused of inviting to a meeting of right-wing politicians and the Far Right.
The founder of Backwerk is accused of inviting to a meeting of right-wing politicians and the Far Right.

Backwerk runs hundreds of bakeries across Germany and neighboring countries – a McDonaldization of the beloved German Bäckerei. And it really is convenient! As you would expect, Backwerk is controlled by a faceless corporate structure: It was bought by the the Swiss holding company Valora in 2017, which was in turn bought by the Mexican beverage conglomerate FEMSA in 2022.

The bakery chain has been in the news recently, and not because of bread. The company was founded by Hans-Christian Limmer – he didn't open the first location, but like Ray Kroc of McDonald's fame, he turned single locations into an empire. Limmer sold his shares in Backwerk in 2013 for an estimated 100 million euros.

Red Flag

Red Flag is a column on Berlin politics by Nathaniel Flakin. It appeared in Exberliner magazine from 2020 to 2023 and found a new home at the Berlin newspaper nd – as their first content in English. If you like a regular dose of very local communist content, please share. Nathaniel is also the author of the anticapitalist guide book Revolutionary Berlin.

Diese Kolumne auf Deutsch lesen.

Limmer is not just a serial entrepreneur in the food service industry, but apparently also a supporter of right-wing structures: Last November, he invited an elite group of right-wing politicians to an exclusive Potsdam hotel to discuss »remigration« with the right-wing extremist Martin Sellner. In a statement to the business newspaper Handelsblatt, Limmer claimed that he signed the invitation without looking into the speakers. He didn't attend the meeting and later distanced himself from the content of the meeting in which he had »played no role« in the planning.

According to Wikipedia, Limmer grew up in a household full of Holocaust deniers and Nazis. He has been involved in the right-wing extremist association Gedächtnisstätte which aims to build a private memorial for German victims of the Second World War.

Limmer is no longer an investor in Backwerk, and his new company, the burger chain Hans im Glück, asked him to leave when reports of the Potsdam meeting went public. So, if you buy a coffee or a burger, you don't need to worry about directly supporting fascism.

Yet Limmer is no outlier. What happens when you get a yogurt drink from Müllermilch? I had never tried one before because of persistent rumors this would support the Nazi party NPD. I had never seen any evidence. In November of last year, however, Handesblatt revealed that Müller was meeting regularly with Alice Weidel, the head of the far-right party AfD. This was about the same time that one of Weidel's top advisors was talking with Sellner about deporting millions of people.

This list could continue. I've written before about how realty speculators have an affinity for the Far Right. Some of the richest capitalist dynasties in Germany today are the heirs of Nazi war criminals who supported Hitler. But the problem isn't just with German oligarchs, either. Elon Musk spreads antisemitic conspiracy theories and uses his vast wealth to help Nazis get their message out.

There is something about billionaires, amassing vast power without any democratic legitimacy, that makes them incline toward a Nietzschean world view. Especially if all that money is inherited, the benefactors almost need to believe a select few are born to rule and the rest of us can only serve. It's no coincidence that so few billionaires donate money to advance the cause of proletarian revolution. As one author put it, the ultra-rich are ultra-conservative.

In the last month, hundreds of thousands of people have been taking the streets to protest against the AfD. That's great. If only racism were limited to that one party! The government (SPD, Greens, and FDP) is calling for more deportations. The opposition (CDU) is trying to outdo them with racist agitation. While the AfD is getting all the flak for the Potsdam meeting, there were as many CDU members present to listen to Sellner. The owner of the hotel is a local CDU official. There was an unsurprisingly large number of »entrepreneurs,« i.e. capitalists.

Some people suggest a boycott. But the only way to prevent capitalists from supporting right-wing politics is to put their wealth under democratic control. Expropriation would protect democracy.

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