Quinn Slobodian and William Callison in Dissent:
In 2016, a dramaturge, a career politician, and a retired sociologist met at the Paris-Moskau Restaurant in Berlin to hatch a plan to disrupt the German left. The dramaturge was the fifty-something Bernd Stegemann, a large man in wire-framed glasses with the slumped mien of an eternal graduate student. He worked a five-minute cab ride away at the Berliner Ensemble, a theater company founded by Bertolt Brecht in the same year as socialist East Germany.
The politician was Sahra Wagenknecht, one of the country’s most poised and merciless critics of the status quo. Born in East Germany to an Iranian father and a German mother, Wagenknecht was the parliamentary chairperson of die Linke (the Left) party. Since its 2007 founding, die Linke’s mixture of ex–Social Democrats and former East German communists had polled around 10 percent nationally. Despite her party’s mediocre electoral performance, Wagenknecht had remained one of the most popular politicians in national polls and a fixture on primetime talk shows.