The first German movement to call itself Antifaschistische Aktion was proclaimed by the German Communist Party (KPD) in their newspaper Rote Fahne in 1932 and held its first rally in Berlin on 10 July 1932, then capital of the Weimar Republic. Its two-flag logo, designed by Association of Revolutionary Visual Artists members Max Keilson and Max Gebhard, remains a widely used symbol of militant anti-fascism.
The late 1920s and early 1930s saw rising tensions between Nazis and leftists. Berlin in particular was the site of regular and often very violent clashes between the two groups. There were several Nazi and anti-Nazi paramilitary groups. On the anti-Nazi side, these included the Social Democrat-dominated Reichsbanner (formed in 1924), the Communist paramilitary and propaganda organisation Roter Frontkämpferbund (Red Front Fighters League or RFB, formed in 1924) and the Communist Kampfbund gegen den Faschismus (Fighting-Alliance against Fascism, formed in 1930). In late 1931, the local Roter Massenselbstschutz (Red Mass Self-Defence, RMSS) units were formed by Kampfbund members as autonomous and loosely organised structures under the leadership of, but outside the formal organisation of, the KPD, as part of the party's united front policy to work with other working class groups to defeat fascism. In May 1932, the Roter Frontkämpferbund had been banned and, following a skirmish between Nazi and Communist members in the parliament, Antifaschistische Aktion was formed as a broad-based alliance in which Social Democrats, Communists and others could fight legal repression and engage in self-defence against Nazi paramilitaries.
The RMSS units were absorbed into Antifaschistische Aktion, forming the nuclei of the latter's "Unity Committees", organised on a micro-local basis, e.g. in apartment buildings, factories or allotments.
As well as fighting fascists, the RMSS and Antifaschistische Aktion used their militant approach to develop a comprehensive network of self-defence for communities targeted by the nazis, for example in "tenant protection" (Mieterschutz), action against evictions. Initially the RMSS units had minimal formal membership, but in the second half of 1932, local executive boards were created to co-ordinate the activities of the KPD, Kampfbund, RMSS and (now illegal) RFB, with the RMSS given a more distinct and almost paramilitary defence role, often co-operating on an ad hoc basis with the Reichsbanner.
Groups called "Antifaschistische Ausschüsse", "Antifaschistische Kommittees" or "Antifaschistische Aktion", all typically abbreviated to Antifa, spontaneously re-emerged in Germany in 1944, mainly involving veterans of pre-war KPD, KPO and SPD politics, as well as some members of other democratic political parties and Christians who opposed the Nazi régime. In 1945, for example, the antifascist committee in the city of Olbernhau included "three Communists and three Social Democrats" while the antifascist committee in Leipzig "had nine members, including three liberals and progressive Christians".
In the French, British, and American zones, Antifas began to recede by the late summer of 1945, marginalized by Allied bans on political organization and by re-emerging divisions within the movement between Communists and others, while in East Germany the Antifa groups were absorbed into the new Stalinist state. On 11 July 1945, the Soviets permitted the formation of the "United Front of the Antifascist-Democratic Parties", which included representatives from the "communist KPD, the Social Democratic SPD, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)".
From the 1980s
Contemporary Antifa in Germany "has no practical historical connection to the movement from which it takes its name, but is instead a product of West Germany's squatter scene and autonomist movement in the 1980s". Many new Antifa groups formed from the late 1980s onwards. One of the biggest antifascist campaigns in Germany in recent years was the, ultimately successful, effort to block the annual Nazi-rallies in the east German city of Dresden in Saxony, which had grown into "Europe's biggest gathering of Nazis".
In October 2016, the Antifa in Dresden campaigned on the occasion of the anniversary of the reunification of Germany on 3 October for "turning Unity celebrations into a disaster" („Einheitsfeierlichkeiten zum Desaster machen“), to protest this display of new German nationalism, whilst explicitly not ruling out the use of violence.
Toilet brush symbol adopted for the Hamburg protests (Antifaschistische Aktion (Germany))
- Antifa movements
- Anti-Fascist Action (UK)
- Anti-Fascist Action (disambiguation)
- German resistance to Nazism
- Loren Balhorn The Lost History of Antifa" Jacobin May 2017
- Eve Rosenhaft, Beating the Fascists?: The German Communists and Political Violence 1929-1933, Cambridge University Press, 25 Aug 1983, pp.3-4
- Eve Rosenhaft, Beating the Fascists?: The German Communists and Political Violence 1929-1933, Cambridge University Press, 25 Aug 1983, p.96-7
- Eve Rosenhaft, Beating the Fascists?: The German Communists and Political Violence 1929-1933, Cambridge University Press, 25 Aug 1983, p.81
- Eve Rosenhaft, Beating the Fascists?: The German Communists and Political Violence 1929-1933, Cambridge University Press, 25 Aug 1983, p.97-8
- Eve Rosenhaft, Beating the Fascists?: The German Communists and Political Violence 1929-1933, Cambridge University Press, 25 Aug 1983, p.54, 98
- Eve Rosenhaft, Beating the Fascists?: The German Communists and Political Violence 1929-1933, Cambridge University Press, 25 Aug 1983, p.98
- David Kahn Betrayal: our occupation of Germany Beacon Service Co., 1950
- Information Bulletin, Office of Military Government Control Office, Germany (Territory under Allied occupation, U.S. Zone). Issues 1-22, 1945, pp.13-15
- Leonard Krieger "The Inter-Regnum in Germany: March-August 1945" Political Science Quarterly Volume 64 - Number 4 - December 1949, pp. 507-532
- Pritchard, Gareth (2012). Niemandsland: A History of Unoccupied Germany, 1944-1945. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 110701350X.
- Vogt, Timothy R. (2000). Denazification in Soviet-occupied Germany: Brandenburg, 1945-1948. Harvard University Press. p. 48. ISBN 9780674003408.
- Focus-Online. "Demo-Samstag in Dresden: Nazi-Aufmärsche und Linke treffen aufeinander". Focus-Online.
- DNN-Online. "Protest gegen Einheitsfeier – Initiativen wollen Dresdner „Einheitsfeierlichkeiten zum Desaster machen" – DNN - Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten".
- BALHORN, LOREN (2017-05-08). "The Lost History of Antifa: 72 years after the triumph over Nazism, we look back to postwar Germany, when socialists gave birth to Antifa". Jacobin. Retrieved 2017-09-01.
- Autonome Antifa (M) Die Geschichte der Antifaschistischen Aktion, April 1995, ANTIFASCHISTISCHEN AKTION/Bundesweite Organisation (in German)
- Heinz Karl and Erika Kücklich, eds, Die Antifaschistische Aktion. Dokumentation und Chronik, Mai 1932 Bis Januar 1933. Berlin : Dietz, 1965.(in German)
- Hans-Helmuth Knütter Antifaschismus: der geistige Bürgerkrieg. Foreword by Heinrich Lummer. Hamburg : Die Dt. Konservativen e.V. 2010. (in German)
- Albrecht Lein "Antifaschistischen Komitees nach 1945" Antifaschistische Aktion 1945: d. "Stunde Null" in Braunschweig Musterschmidt, ISBN 3788117028 1978 (in German)
- Jeannette Michelmann Die Aktivisten der ersten Stunde: Die Antifa 1945 in der sowjetischen Besatzungszone zwischen Besatzungsmacht und Exil-KPD Vorgelegt dem Rat der Philosophischen Fakultät der Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena(in German)
- Patrick Moreau, Linksextremismus: eine unterschätzte Gefahr (with Jürgen P. Lang) Bonn 1996. (in German)