Konrad Adenauer anchored Germany in the West. Willy Brandt reached across the Iron Curtain. Helmut Kohl, her onetime mentor, became synonymous with German unity. Gerhard Schröder paved the way for the country’s economic success.

Ms. Merkel’s legacy is less tangible but equally transformative. She changed Germany into a modern society — and a country less defined by its history.

She may be remembered most for her decision to welcome over a million refugees in 2015-16 when most other Western nations rejected them. It was a brief redemptive moment for the country that had committed the Holocaust and turned her into an icon of liberal democracy.

“It was a sort of healing,” said Karin Marré-Harrak, the headmaster of a high school in the multicultural city of Offenbach. “In a way we’ve become a more normal country.”

lingering inequality between East and West three decades after reunification is still evident, even though taxpayers’ money has flowed east and things have gradually improved. With the government planning to phase out coal production by 2038, billions more in funding are promised to help compensate for the job losses.

But as Mike Balzke, a worker at the nearby coal plant in Jänschwalde, put it: “We don’t want money — we want a future.”

Mr. Balzke recalled his optimism when Ms. Merkel first became chancellor. Because she was an easterner and a scientist, he expected her to be an ambassador for the East — and for coal.

Instead, his village lost a quarter of its population during her chancellorship. A promised train line from Forst to Berlin was never built. The post office shut down.

Mr. Balzke, 41, worries that the region will turn into a wasteland.

That anxiety runs deep. And it deepened again with the arrival of refugees in 2015.

was up in arms, but only a decade later, it has become the new normal.

Ms. Merkel never backed same-sex marriage outright, but she allowed lawmakers to vote for it, knowing that it would go through.

Mr. Winkler left the party again in 2019 after Ms. Merkel’s successor as conservative leader, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, disparaged same-sex marriage. But he acknowledged his debt to the chancellor.

On June 30, 2017, the day of the vote, he wrote her a letter.

“It is a pity that you could not support opening marriage to same-sex couples,” he wrote. “Still, thank you that you ultimately made today’s decision possible.”

Then he invited her to visit his family, “to see for yourself.”

She never replied. But he and his family used to live just around the corner from Ms. Merkel, who never gave up her apartment in central Berlin. They would see her occasionally in the supermarket checkout line.

“There she was with toilet paper in her basket, going shopping like everyone else,” Mr. Winkler’s partner, Roland Mittermayer, recalled. Even after 16 years, they are still trying to figure the chancellor out.

“She is an enigma,” Mr. Winkler said. “She’s a bit like the queen — someone who has been around for a long time, but you never feel you really know her.”

Six hours northwest of Berlin, past endless green fields dotted with wind farms and a 40-minute ferry ride off the North Sea coast, lies Pellworm, a sleepy island where the Backsen family has been farming since 1703.

Two years ago, they took Ms. Merkel’s government to court for abandoning its carbon-dioxide emission targets under the Paris climate accord. They lost, but then tried again, filing a complaint at the constitutional court.

This time they won.

“It’s about freedom,” said Sophie Backsen, 23, who would like to take over her father’s farm one day.

Sophie’s younger brothers, Hannes, 19, and Paul, 21, will vote for the first time on Sunday. Like 42 percent of first-time voters, they will vote for the Greens.

“If you look at how our generation votes, it’s the opposite of what you see in the polls,” Paul said. “The Greens would be running the country.”

Pellworm is flush with the sea level and in parts even below it. Without a dike ringing the coastline, it would flood regularly.

“When you have permanent rain for three weeks, the island fills up like a bath tub inside the dikes,” Hannes said.

The prospect of rising sea levels is an existential threat here. “This is one of the most important elections,” Hannes said. “It’s the last chance really to get it right.”

“If not even a country like Germany can manage this,” he added, “what chance do we stand?”

Christopher F. Schuetze contributed reporting from Berlin.

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Germany’s Far Right Is Nowhere in the Election. But It’s ‘Here to Stay.’

BERLIN — They promised they would “hunt” the elites. They questioned the need for a Holocaust memorial in Berlin and described Muslim immigrants as “head scarf girls” and “knife men.”

Four years ago the Alternative for Germany, or AfD, arrived in the German Parliament like a wrecking ball, the first far-right party to win a place at the heart of Germany’s democracy since World War II. It was a political earthquake in a country that had once seen Hitler’s Nazi party rise from the fringes to win power in free elections.

Founded eight years ago as nationalist free-market protest party against the Greek bailout and the euro, the AfD has sharply shifted to the right.

The party seized on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to welcome over a million migrants to Germany in 2015 and 2016, actively fanning fears of Islamization and migrant crime. Its noisy nationalism and anti-immigrant stance were what first catapulted it into Parliament and instantly turned it into Germany’s main opposition party.

But the party has struggled to expand its early gains during the past 18 months, as the pandemic and, more recently, climate change have shot to the top of the list of voters’ concerns — while its core issue of immigration has barely featured in this year’s election campaign.

The AfD has tried to jump on the chaos in Afghanistan to fan fears of a new migrant crisis. “Cologne, Kassel or Konstanz can’t cope with more Kabul,” one of the party’s campaign posters asserted. “Save the world? Sure. But Germany first!” another read.

At a recent election rally north of Frankfurt, Mr. Chrupalla demanded that lawmakers “abolish” the constitutional right to asylum. He also told the public broadcaster Deutsche Welle that Germany should be prepared to protect its borders, “if need be with armed force.”

None of this rhetoric has shifted the race, particularly because voters seem to have more fundamental concerns about the party’s aura of extremism. Some AfD leaders have marched with extremists in the streets, while among the party’s supporters are an eclectic array of conspiracy theorists and neo-Nazi sympathizers.

shot dead on his front porch by a well-known neo-Nazi. The killer later told the court that he had attended a high-profile AfD protest a year earlier.

Since then, a far-right extremist has attacked a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle during a Yom Kippur service, leaving two dead and only narrowly failing to commit a massacre. Another extremist shot dead 9 mostly young people with immigrant roots in the western city of Hanau.

The AfD’s earlier rise in the polls stalled almost instantly after the Hanau attack.

“After these three attacks, the wider German public and media realized for the first time that the rhetoric of the AfD leads to real violence,” said Hajo Funke of the Free University in Berlin, who has written extensively about the party and tracks its evolution.

“It was a turning point,” he said. “They have come to personify the notion that words lead to deeds.”

Shortly after the Hanau attack, Thomas Haldenwang, the chief of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, placed elements of the AfD under surveillance for far-right extremism — even as the party’s lawmakers continued to work in Parliament.

“We know from German history that far-right extremism didn’t just destroy human lives, it destroyed democracy,” Mr. Haldenwang warned after announcing his decision in March last year. “Far-right extremism and far-right terrorism are currently the biggest danger for democracy in Germany.”

Today, the agency has classified about a third of all AfD members as extremist, including Mr. Chrupalla and Alice Weidel, the party’s other lead candidate. A court is reviewing whether the entire party can soon be placed under formal observation.

“The AfD is irrelevant in power-political terms,” said Mr. Funke. “But it is dangerous.”

Mr. Chrupalla, a decorator who occasionally takes the stage in his overalls, and Ms. Weidel, a suit-wearing former Goldman Sachs analyst and gay mother of two, have sought to counter that impression. As if to hammer home the point, the party’s main election slogan this year is: “Germany — but normal.”

A look through the party’s 207-page election program shows what “normal” means: The AfD demands Germany’s exit from the European Union. It calls for the abolition of any mandates to fight the coronavirus. It wants to return to the traditional German definition of citizenship based on blood ancestry. And it is the only party in Parliament that denies man-made climate change, while also calling for investment in coal and a departure from the Paris climate accord.

That the AfD’s polling numbers have barely budged for the past 18 months suggests that its supporters are not protest voters but Germans who subscribe to its ideas and ideology.

“The AfD has brought out into the open a small but very radical electorate that many thought we don’t have in this country,” said Mr. Quent, the sociologist. “Four years ago people were asking: ‘Where does this come from?’ In reality it was always there. It just needed a trigger.”

Mr. Quent and other experts estimate the nationwide ceiling of support for the party at around 14 percent. But in parts of the former Communist East, where the AfD has become a broad-based political force entrenched at the local level, it is often twice that — enough to make it the region’s second-strongest political force.

Among the under 60-year olds, Mr. Quent said, it has become No. 1.

“It’s only a question of time until AfD is the strongest party in the East,” Mr. Quent said.

That is why Mr. Chrupalla, whose constituency is in the eastern state of Saxony, the one state where the AfD already came first in 2017, predicts it will eventually become too big to bypass.

“In the East we are a people’s party, we are well-established at the local, city, regional and state level,” Mr. Chrupalla said. “In the East the middle class votes for the AfD. In the West, they vote for the Greens.”

Christopher F. Schuetze and Melissa Eddy contributed reporting.

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Greek Neo-Nazi, a Member of Europe’s Parliament, Sent to Face Prison

ATHENS — A convicted Greek neo-Nazi and member of the European Parliament was extradited back to Greece on Saturday to serve a 13-year prison term for his part in running the criminal organization Golden Dawn, once Greece’s third-largest political party.

Ioannis Lagos arrived in Athens on a flight from Brussels, the seat of the European Parliament, where he has sat as an independent since 2019. The parliament’s lawmakers stripped him of his immunity at the end of last month.

Greek state television aired footage of the handcuffed 48-year-old being escorted off a plane and into a van at the Athens International Airport by armed officers of the Greek police’s counterterrorism unit. Shortly afterward he was rushed through the back entrance of the capital’s court complex.

“For orthodoxy and Greece, every sacrifice is worthwhile,” he told reporters.

Mr. Lagos was a leading member of the extreme-right and now-defunct Golden Dawn, which rose to prominence in Greece’s Parliament in 2012 at the peak of the country’s financial crisis. He was among dozens of former legislators and supporters of the party convicted in a landmark verdict last October.

After the country’s most high-profile political trial in decades, a Greek court ruled that the party had operated as a criminal organization, systematically launching violent attacks against migrants and leftist critics. A total of 13 of the party’s former lawmakers were given prison terms, including another prominent member Christos Pappas, who remains at large.

Mr. Lagos fled to Brussels immediately after the verdict, taking advantage of the immunity he was afforded as a member of Europe’s Parliament. Efforts by the Parliament to lift his immunity were delayed by the pandemic.

Starting as an obscure far-right organization with a penchant for using neo-Nazi symbols and oratory in 1980s, Golden Dawn was propelled into the political mainstream a decade ago, fueled by public discontent against austerity measures imposed by Greece’s international creditors and an influx of migrants.

Casting itself as a patriotic and anti-establishment force, it was a force in Greece’s Parliament from 2012 to 2019, becoming the third-largest party at its prime. But it discreetly maintained links with neo-fascist parties in Europe and the United States.

Its decline was precipitated by the murder of the leftist musician Pavlos Fyssas in 2013 by a member of Golden Dawn, Giorgos Roupakias.

That killing led to the arrest of the entire party leadership and a judicial investigation, prompting a five-year trial that put most of its politicians and dozens of supporters behind bars. A notable exception is Mr. Pappas, the party’s No. 2, who remains at large.

Like many other members of Golden Dawn, Mr. Lagos has insisted that the case against him is politically motivated and that he is being persecuted for his views, not his actions.

The extradition of Mr. Lagos was welcomed by Greece’s center-right government.

“Greek democracy strived and eliminated the toxic poison of Golden Dawn,” said Aristotelia Peloni, a government spokeswoman. “Rule of law stood strong against the criminals, and the judiciary gave its answer with its rulings.”

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Greek Neo-Nazi Lawmaker Stripped of Immunity by European Parliament

BRUSSELS — The convicted Greek neo-Nazi Ioannis Lagos was stripped of his immunity as a member of the European Parliament on Tuesday, clearing the way for his extradition to Greece months after he was sentenced in a landmark trial.

Mr. Lagos, a leading member of the now-defunct criminal organization Golden Dawn, which formed a political party that in its heyday was the third largest in the Greek Parliament, told The New York Times in written comments earlier this year that he was planning to flee to a “European country” where his rights would be protected, but did not specify which.

On Tuesday, shortly after the waiving of his immunity was announced, he did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The decision by the European Parliament, announced Tuesday morning after a secret ballot held a day earlier, comes after months of delays of procedure over protocol and the Covid-19 pandemic.

and he was sentenced to 13 years in prison for running a criminal organization, but was protected until now by immunity afforded to members of the European Parliament.

Golden Dawn rose to prominence a decade ago, systematically targeting the European Union and migrants, especially Muslims, during the financial crisis that devastated Greece’s economy and society.

The trial in Greece lasted more than five years and is widely regarded as one of the most important cases against neo-Nazis in contemporary Europe, where forces of the far right became empowered during the financial crisis and further emboldened after the refugee crisis of 2015-2016, in some cases penetrating the mainstream political spectrum.

One of the leading members of the party, Christos Pappas, remains on the run after his conviction.

Mr. Lagos has been fighting to hold on to his immunity and avoid extradition to Greece to serve his sentence, while also claiming the case against him is political and that he’s being prosecuted for his political thoughts, not his deeds.

has come under criticism for taking months to deliberate on the waiver of Mr. Lagos’s immunity and for refusing to prioritize his case over other pending immunity cases of European lawmakers wanted in their home countries over smaller legal matters.

The Parliament’s relevant committee defended its pace and prioritization of cases as partly a matter of slowed-down deliberations because of the coronavirus outbreak and partly an effort to meticulously follow protocol to avoid any charges of bias.

The committee recommended the European Parliament waive Mr. Lagos’s immunity last week, in an anonymous vote of 22 to 2, and the full Parliament supported that decision in a vote by 658 to 25, with 10 abstentions.

The next step is for the Greek authorities to ask the authorities in Belgium, where the Parliament is based most of the time and Mr. Lagos is a resident, to arrest and extradite him.

It would then be up to Belgian courts to rule on the request, which may take months. The Brussels Public Prosecutor’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Should the Belgians block a request, Mr. Lagos would continue to sit in the European Parliament, but that seems highly unlikely.

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London Police Officer Convicted of Membership in Neo-Nazi Group

LONDON — An officer in London’s main police force was convicted on Thursday of being a member of a banned neo-Nazi group, his force said, becoming the first British police officer to be convicted of a terrorism offense, according to the BBC and other British news sources.

Benjamin Hannam, 22, a probationary police officer who applied to the London force, the Metropolitan Police, in 2017 and joined it in early 2018, was found guilty of membership of a banned organization — the neo-Nazi group National Action — as well as two counts of fraud by false representation and two counts of possession of document likely to be of use to a terrorist, the police said in a briefing.

The fraud charges related to lying on application forms for his police position, local media at a court in London reported.

Mr. Hannam demonstrated an “adherence to fascist ideology and a potentially veiled but nonetheless evident neo-Nazi mind-set,” the prosecutor, Dan Pawson-Pounds, said according to The Independent, adding that he had met with people at National Action events even after the group had been banned. The group, which praised the murder of a British lawmaker, Jo Cox, was outlawed in December 2016.

according to the BBC.

would recruit more minority officers in order to be more representative.

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