On July 23, 2020, Germany’s largest weekly magazine, Der Spiegel, published an article alleging that right-wing conspiracy-theorists and “doomsday prophets” were luring Germans to Cape Breton to establish a colony of “like-minded” new settlers.
Within two days, two of those named in the article — Andreas Popp and Eva Herman — issued official statements denouncing it as a “defamation campaign,” and threatening legal action against Der Spiegel and any media outlets that spread the story.
Popp and his partner Herman, who in 2003 was voted German television’s favourite presenter before she was sacked four years later for publishing a book defending family policies and gender roles of Nazi Germany, addressed one of their statements to their “friends, neighbours and fellow citizens on Cape Breton.” (The Halifax Examiner published it in its entirely in this article.)
In it, Popp and Herman wrote that they would “clear up these unbelievable accusations,” and that:
Firstly, we would like to make it very clear that we have never (!) supported “Nazi” thoughts, nor will we ever support them.
– We dissociate ourselves from any right wing ideas in every way possible.
– We explicitly stand behind Canada’s values, such as cosmopolitanism and tolerance.
– We would never deny the Holocaust and are aware of our responsibility in the context of German history.
They contend that there are no documents from them that “in any form show right-wing ideas or even Holocaust denial,” saying:
The opposite is the case. We constantly warn of the great danger of new totalitarian currents, such as those that appeared in the darkest chapter of German history. I, Andreas Popp, became a Canadian citizen years ago out of firm conviction and handed in my German passport at the same time. The assertion that we wanted to establish a German colony here is false.
They write that they will do all they can “to clear up this matter and help restore Cape Breton’s good reputation,” as if an article about their views and activities would somehow harm Cape Breton’s reputation rather than theirs.
Their second statement came as a press release in both English and German on the website of Wissensmanufaktur (Knowledge Creation), which Popp and Herman represent.
Referring to the claims in the Spiegel article that “participants in our seminars, which we regularly hold on the Canadian island of Cape Breton, are being asked to buy land,” Popp and Herman state:
This is a false assertion and absolutely not the case. We, as persons Andreas Popp and Eva Herman, who give lectures for the Wissensmanufaktur, have never asked anyone to buy land. We are neither property dealers nor developers.
For land issues we cooperate with the land developer Cape Breton Real Solutions. We do not take part in sales or sales talks. . . We are neither aware of the planning of a “colony”, nor are we planning a colony ourselves. Nor are we in contact with people who have “brown ideas” [a euphemism for Nazi sympathies], just as we ourselves do not have them. The people who attend our seminars are politically independent, open-minded, close to nature and mostly spiritual. We ourselves are also politically independent, we do not belong to any party or any other political association.
The president of Cape Breton Real Solutions, Juergen Gindner chimed in to defend Popp and Herman.
In a statement to the Cape Breton Post, Gindner called the Spiegel article “disrespectful reporting.”
In a Cape Breton Post article, Nicole Sullivan quotes Gindner’s statement:
We got to know Eva Herman and Andreas Popp as reliable, serious and friendly people who have a conservative attitude to life, which preserves values and traditions … In no way do the two belong to a right-wing. They are also not involved in any party politics.”
The author of the Spiegel article, Martin Doerry, has a PhD in German history, is a former deputy editor in chief of Der Spiegel, and the author of three books, including “My Wounded Heart: The Life of Lilli Jahn” about his grandmother, a Jewish doctor who was killed at Auschwitz.
In a Q & A with the Halifax Examiner, Martin Doerry defended the accuracy of his article on German right-wing conspiracy theorists selling land in Cape Breton:
The team from Der Spiegel that stood behind my work — our legal department and the documents department — did very intensive fact checking for my story. We possess lots of documents, many more than we could present or write about, to prove our allegations.
He also said that Popp and Herman had not told the public which detail of his story was wrong, only that everything was fake.
But what about the statements made by Popp and Herman, and by their allies? How well do they stand up to scrutiny? The Examiner took a look at some of their publications and online videos to find out what they are saying in German to German-speaking audiences, and also reached out to them for comment.
Nothing right-wing to see here …
The Halifax Examiner asked Popp if he or Eva Herman had ever spoken for or at an event of the, anti-immigration AfD (Alternative fuer Deutschland) political party, which according to DW (Germany’s international public broadcaster), appeals to the “right-wing extremist fringe” with some individual leaders who promote “neo-Nazi ideas” and use “Neo-Nazi language.”
Popp replied by email:
The AfD is a right-wing party! We do not support the AfD or any other political party. Neither my partner nor I have ever appeared at an event that was either related to the AfD or organized by the AfD.
In March 2015, the progressive German publication Taz reported that local AfD officials organized an “Alternative Knowledge” congress in the town of Witten, in the province of North Rhine-Westphalia, and that Popp was a speaker at the event. His name appears on the official invitation for the event.
Another of Popp’s associates, Michael Vogt, was a speaker at the 2016 “Alternative Knowledge” congress.
In May 2020, Transparency International Germany published a report on the spreading of a conspiracy theory by one of its board members, Dr. Wolfgang Wodarg, that there was no COVID-19 pandemic, and that it was all a “political lie.”
One of those who helped Wodarg spread the conspiracy was Eva Herman, who interviewed him for Knowledge Creation in March 2020 in a video called “A war against citizens. Coronavirus a big fake?”
The Transparency International report describes the Wissensmanufaktur (Knowledge Creation) Internet portal as something that brings together “protagonists from the conspiracy theory and right-wing extremist spectrum.”
It also says that, “Eva Herman spreads propaganda, which is still circulating in right-wing extremist circles.”
The total failure of Germany?
In December 2019, in a Knowledge Creation online video recorded in their Cape Breton studio, Andreas Popp “interviews” his partner, Eva Herman, about her new book, “The Total Failure of Germany: A chronology,” which documents the last four years of things Herman describes as “unimaginable” that have happened in her native Germany.
Germany’s “total failure” began, said Herman, early in 2015, and it happened “overnight.” There was sudden “mass migration” into Europe, particularly Germany, from Asia and Africa and the Arab countries.
Other devastating events leading to German’s downfall, Herman tells Popp, are “climate change hysteria” and the “Fridays for climate,” the weekly school strikes started by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg. (A month earlier, speaking in Switzerland, Popp described Greta Thunberg as a “sick girl” who was being misused.)
Herman goes on to say that when the “mass migration” into Germany began she had a “bad feeling” about it because “three-quarters of the population were jubilant.”
She is referring to how welcoming Germans were to the refugees who poured into their country, fleeing conflict and disasters in the Middle East and northern Africa. Popp describes the scenes of people welcoming trainloads of refugees with gifts in 2015 as “almost absurd.”
A preference for colours in their “pure state”
Herman then says that she was concerned about the confrontation of “two different cultures” meeting each other, and recalls earlier warnings from the 1970s onwards by German politicians about letting “too many Muslims into western Christian countries.”
Popp follows up by saying that all this is being swept under the carpet by mainstream media; one of the “favourite subjects” for Wissensmanufaktur is the “lying press.” Popp then says to Herman that she is much “more careful” with her words than he is, because he is a Canadian and more “relaxed.”
Another of the things that Herman sees leading to Germany’s “total failure” is the “the old white man under attack.” She doesn’t specify what she means by “old white man.” But several German speakers have suggested to the Examiner that it is a dog whistle term for traditional representations of the Christian God, and/or a generic white man.
Herman later speaks again of the “hatred” she sees directed at “this old white man” who is smeared by feminists, who should remember that they could be the man’s daughters. Then, says Herman:
It all comes down to a homogeneous skin colour, which is actually the goal.
This is the famous intermingling that nature actually doesn’t foresee.
He adds this explanation: 1
When I see a beautiful meadow full of flowers, with different colours — red, yellow, orange, violet, blue, all possible blossom colours — and let’s say we mix them together, then we don’t have a colourful meadow any more, just a brown meadow. Brown is what you get when you mix all the complimentary colours together; the result is always brown. And I have something against that. I prefer colours in their pure state.
As if on cue, Herman interrupts Popp (in what looks very rehearsed — Popp and Herman are life partners, after all) — apparently oblivious to her partner’s horrendously bad metaphor that reveals either his woeful ignorance of or a deliberate attempt to misrepresent how genetics work and how nature actually thrives on diversity, and she suggests that he is being “racist.”
Popp quickly replies:
Black is also a colour I honour and respect. I say, they have different mentalities. I had lots of friends, for example, back when I was actively working in business in Germany, with Black Africans. That was a different mentality that I really appreciated. We always had the watches, and they always had the time. [Both Popp and Herman chuckle] … those were just different mentalities.
The Knowledge Creation (Wissensmanufaktur) channel on Youtube has 199,000 subscribers; this particular video had been viewed 122,631 times as of August 7, 2020, and there were 855 comments, nearly all favourable. It is also available on the Wissensmanufaktur website.
Refuge from Germany’s “sham democracy”
In late 2019, Popp also stated publicly that democracy is a new form of “feudalism.”
When his two sons started school in Germany in the 1980s, he said the “moulding process” began. But he hadn’t been taking it seriously because it was a stealthy process, which he describes as, “Feudalism within the framework of a sham democracy within the framework of a false-flag democracy.”
In his view, populism is definitively “one of the best and most important things that we can have.”
In the same talk, Popp said he has lived in Canada for 15 years, and decided way back in 1969 to try to find the most secure country on earth to live. That led him in 2004 to Canada. But he clarified that his choice had nothing to do with the “country” of Canada, but rather with the most secure “land,” which he found in Cape Breton.
As the Examiner reported here, in May 2020 Popp answered questions in a Knowledge Creation video about setting up a safe haven or “refuge” in Cape Breton, from what he describes as the “shocking” situation these days in German-speaking European countries — Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
In an email, the Halifax Examiner asked Popp if he believes in and supports Canada’s multiculturalism and its democracy and democratic institutions. His reply:
Of course, we believe and support the Canadian values such as cosmopolitanism and tolerance. In our seminars, we talk a great deal about the freedoms that Canadian citizens have and about the liberal zeitgeist of my new homeland. For us Germans, Canada is a great experience, especially the peaceful coexistence of different cultures. My greatest wish would be for the German society to take Canada as an example and to have the courage to tolerate a pluralistic diversity of opinion. What I like most about Canada is the openness with which people express their opinion. There is nowhere else to do that.
The Examiner also asked Popp:
You and Eva Herman express concern about migration into Europe, and especially to Germany, from Arab, Asian and African countries, whereas you yourself are a migrant to Canada. Do you see a contradiction here?
Canada is a prime example of a functioning country of migration, due to the truly impressive migration law and its points system. For Germany and the European Union as a whole, we would like nothing more than a Canadian-style immigration policy. My partner’s concern relates exclusively to the pressure strained by millions of illegal migration. So my status as a migrant with Canadian citizenship has nothing in common with the situation in Germany and therefore I don’t see any contradiction.
In his reply, Popp uses the term “illegal migration” to describe what was in fact a flow of refugees from war-torn countries — many former colonies of European nations and regions where European and world powers have fought proxy wars, extracted wealth, instigated coups, and interfered in politics — into Europe.
Herman and Popp star at a far-right conference
In November 2019, Herman and Popp were featured speakers at a conference hosted by the Swiss far right extremist Ivo Sasek’s Anti-Zensur-Koalition [AZK, or Anti-censorship Coalition] in Switzerland.
That Popp and Herman were featured speakers at the 2019 AZK conference raises questions about their claims that they “dissociate” themselves from any right-wing ideas, and that they are “aware of” their “responsibility in the context of German history.”
Ivo Sasek is a controversial far-right figure, the founder of a fundamentalist Christian sect who preaches about the end of times, and who promotes, among other things, corporal punishment for children that has led to two child abuse charges, although neither led to criminal prosecution.
Sasek is also the founder of AZK, which claims to be “Europe’s biggest platform for uncensored information.”
The protestant church in Germany’s Rhineland region states that Sasek and the AZK “promote anti-Semitism and racism.”
Over the years, speakers at AZK annual conferences have promoted conspiracy theories about everything from chem-trails to vaccines, and spoken in favour of dictatorships.
In 2011, AZK also hosted as a speaker the filmmaker Michael Vogt who “cohabits with the extreme right in Germany,” according to the 2016 academic article by Patricia Anne Simpson, “Mobilizing Meanings: Translocal Identities of the Far Right Web.”
As the Halifax Examiner reported here, Vogt appeared in a 2014 Wissungsmanufaktur video discussion held with both Herman and Popp in the “Indian Culture Center” in Cape Breton. In 2015, Andreas Popp took Vogt on a tour of Cape Breton featured in another Wissungsmanufaktur video, in which Popp paints an idyllic picture of Cape Breton as a kind of paradise on earth, where there is “minimal crime” and he has “never seen a real fight.”
But even before that, Vogt had been to the island several times and even bought land there, as shown in a film he made called “Adventure in Cape Breton, Canada, Nova Scotia,” which features German real estate seller Rolf Bouman. Vogt made that film in 2010, the year before he spoke at the AZK conference.
In 2012, Sasek welcomed right-wing extremist and Holocaust denier Sylvia Stolz to the AZK stage.
The Holocaust was the World War II genocide perpetrated by Adolf Hitler’s Nazis and their collaborators, who killed six million Jews, and it was part of the Holocaust era during which another five million people in other groups — including gay men, political and religious dissidents, the Roma, those with disabilities, ethnic Poles — were also killed.
Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany.
Stolz is a former German lawyer who was convicted of inciting racial hatred in 2008, while she was defending Holocaust-denier and neo-Nazi Ernst Zuendel, who lived in Canada for decades before being deported to his native Germany. Stolz was sentenced to three and a half years in prison. Hardly had she emerged from that sentence than she was back in the limelight, taking centre stage at the AZK conference in Switzerland in 2012.
Stolz told the AZK audience that there were no “witnesses” or “documents” as evidence “of crime scenes, methods of killing, the number of dead, who the killers were, time period, bodies, or a trace of one murder ” to prove that the Holocaust happened. She invited the audience to get to know some Nazis, to enthusiastic applause. Sasek thanked her emotionally for helping to “look for and find the truth.”
A Swiss lawyer took both Sasek and Stolz to court for contravening laws against racism, but Sasek could not be held responsible for what his guest said at his AZK conference. However, in 2018, Stolz was found guilty and sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Popp has spoken at two AZK conferences. But Herman told the audience of 3,000 at the 2019 AZK conference that this was her first time. She said she was impressed by the atmosphere and by Ivo Sasek’s talk of a “new world.”
Herman said this was her first time back Europe in three years, and that she had once thought she would never be back.
Popp then shouts out to his host, “Ivo, you are the reason! Thank you!”
Among many other things in Popp and Herman’s 1 hour and 12 minute AZK performance, Popp describes German history books as “war reports that are interpretations of history by those who declared themselves the victors.”
After Popp and Herman finish their talk, Ivo Sasek and his family (he has 11 children) take to the stage, and perform a song written by his son Joschua and daughter Ruth-Elpida called, “Dunkelziffer” — or Dark Figures. The song laments the “hidden figures” of World War II, the victims of Stalin and “zig [untold] millions” of victims of Allied bombers. The song makes no mention of the Holocaust.
When Joschua Sasek introduces the song, he makes a veiled but still obvious reference to his belief that the history of the war and the Holocaust have been falsified, that the “figures” (numbers) in the history books just don’t hold up to scrutiny.
Joschua Sasek also endorses Andreas Popp’s comments that “the winners write history, and falsify it accordingly.”
It is a chilling performance, one that a German immigrant living in Nova Scotia told the Examiner made his head hurt.
Climate change just a “big story”
One of the other subjects that Popp evoked at the AZK conference was climate change, saying before you could even talk about it you needed to know what a climate was. He defined climate as “average weather values,” and said that it would be impossible to measure all of these. Still, said Popp, they take an “air molecule and look for 0.0397% carbon dioxide,” and out of that, make a “big story” that young people are supposed to believe without questioning. He called the climate story “absurd” and said it has been disproven often enough.
At the AZK conference, Andreas Popp was introduced as an entrepreneur, an author, a lecturer in macro-economics, and a “scientific leader” of Knowledge Creation, who once worked for the Guardian Royal Exchange, an insurance company. At one point during the conference, Popp told the audience he was “scientifically trained.”
In an email, the Halifax Examiner asked Popp about the comments he made about climate change at the AZK conference, and what education he had for dismissing the scientific evidence of the global community that human activity (the burning of fossil fuels) is causing climate change.
I have never dismissed human-induced climate change. What was an issue at the conference you mentioned was to show that human beings play only a minor role. I question the scientific evidence in part. In other words, I believe that at least equal evidence is credible, always with the aim of forcing dialogue and achieving a final scientific result.
He did not answer the question about his education.
Popp’s reply appears to contradict his words in an interview with MMnews.de, in an online video called “Climate lies: who profits?” In that, he says “carbon dioxide cannot be the reason for climate change,” and “most climate scientists” know this.
Someone who has attended one of the seminars that Knowledge Creation hosts in Cape Breton (and who asked not to be named), described the experience as, “incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Popp and Herman, he said, were on an elevated stage, speaking softly into microphones, and the sound seemed to come from everywhere, surrounding participants.
Participants had to give up their cellphones and there were no recording devices allowed, said the source. After 20 minutes, he said, some people were crying, because, “Popp knows how to feed on their fears.”
He confirmed what Popp maintains, that participants are told they shouldn’t buy property right away. But, says the source, because participants are so panicked by the doomsday predictions and conspiracy theories they hear that “of course they buy land,” sometimes right away.
The person said the prices for the properties are inflated by about 10 times their actual value, but added that there is nothing criminal there. The people who buy the properties for such prices are doing something “stupid,” he said, but selling to them “is not criminal.”
“Popp could sell you a bucket of sand in the middle of the desert,” said the source. “And he would never say anything that would incriminate him, he is too smart.”
The person estimates that there are about 40 people in Popp’s “inner circle,” which in his view is “a cult.” Only some of them live in Cape Breton, as others are finding it isn’t so easy to get residency in Canada, and he estimates there are more than a hundred in what he calls the “outer circle.”
He doesn’t think they pose any danger to Canada because, in his view, they have no interest in Canada.
“The kind of people Popp is attracting want to come and live in Canada as they would have lived in Germany, with the values of 1933 to 1945,” said the source. But, he added, most people in the area think they are very nice, they have lots of money and they pay their bills.
He alleged that Cape Breton Real Solutions is a “shell” company, and that its president Juergen Gindner worked for Popp in Germany before he moved to Canada to run the real estate company.
Cape Breton Real Solutions
On the Cape Breton Real Solutions website, it states (in German) that, “An estimated 2,000 people from German-speaking areas live on Cape Breton Island. A real community has also emerged here because of nearly 15 years of seminars held here by Wissensmanufaktur.”
The Examiner asked Cape Breton Real Solutions president Juergen Gindner what relationship exists between Knowledge Creation and his company, and whether this statement contradicts his and Popp’s denials that there is no link between the seminars and land purchasing.
In an email, Gindner wrote:
We know and greatly appreciate Andreas Popp as economist and representative of the Wissensmanufaktur for a very long time. Otherwise, we are two independent companies, each doing their own business.
Many people who come because of the seminars fall in love with the wild and natural beauty of Canada. They are also fascinated by the mentality of the local population. Some of them are so fascinated by Cape Breton that they are considering buying a plot of land and build a house. In this case, as a German- speaking real estate developer, we are a welcome contact who can take away many bureaucratic hurdles for people.
According to the company’s website, Cape Breton Real Solutions has 102 plots of land for sale, most averaging about 10,000 square metres (1 hectare, or about 2.5 acres), in seven estates. More than half have been sold, a few are on “special demand,” and the rest are “exclusively reserved.”
Asked by the Examiner what “exclusively reserved” meant, whether the parcels were reserved for certain clients or if deposits had already been made, and how many of the purchasers were German-speaking Europeans with no permanent residency or citizenship in Canada, Gindner replied:
These are properties where we are in negotiations with customers. For some of them deposit has been made. Our main target group is people from Europe who love Canada and some want to move and work here. The vast majority of our valued buyers are German-speaking Europeans. The statuses are very different. Some came as tourists and applied for Permanent Residence after their purchase. Others have a work permit, and there are also buyers who only spend their holidays in their home here.
The Examiner also asked Andreas Popp about the relationship between Wissenmanufaktur and its seminars in Cape Breton, and Cape Breton Real Solutions.
With the Wissensmanufaktur we give about four seminars per year. Over the years, thousands of German-speaking people have booked seminars and visited us in Canada. The vast majority were very impressed besides the actual seminars of Canada and especially of Cape Breton. Some of these seminar participants have decided to buy a lot of land here. Some to live here, others to own a holiday home on Cape Breton.
In my experience, land buyers prefer German-speaking real estate companies, such as Cape Breton Real Solutions, probably because of the services that focus on the needs of German-speaking real estate buyers. Before that, we worked for over 10 years with Canadian Pioneer Estates ltd. also owned by a German-speaking person, named Rolf Bouman. I find it perfectly understandable that the company advertises that there is a large German-speaking community here. That, after all, is their business model.
Asked whether he has any interest — financial or other — in Cape Breton Real Solutions, or if he was involved in setting it up, Popp replied that Cape Breton Real Solutions is an “independent cooperation partner” with Knowledge Creation.
Gindner was an investment banker in Germany before moving to Cape Breton with his wife in 2019 to become president of Cape Breton Real Solutions, which was incorporated in 2018.
Despite Popp’s and Herman’s claims that Cape Breton Real Solutions and their seminars for Germans interested in seeking a refuge in Cape Breton are separate entities, it is clear that they are extremely closely intertwined.
What does it all matter?
A German citizen who has been living in Nova Scotia for more than a decade agreed to speak with the Examiner about the revelations in the Spiegel article, on condition of anonymity.
For her, it is “mortifying” because she says the values of the people involved, “goes so against the way that many of us have been brought up.”
She believes that it is a story that needs watched because, because of the way the seminars are organized to bring “like-minded people to Cape Breton.” She worries that this being a “very privileged group of travellers,” they may not even see themselves as “immigrants,” while taking advantage of the fact that they are in Canada, where people might not even know about, let alone complain to the police about their activities, as they might do in Germany.
- Andreas Popp speaking at the 17th annual AZK conference, at 1:06:15. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3a5V8VjA8Yk&t=299s [accessed August 10, 2020] ↩