Otto Wels is a student and lives in Mainz. This may seem confusing at first, but it makes sense. At least if you ignore the historical person for a moment and focus on Niklas Wenzel, who is an influencer on Instagram under this name. “I created the account about two years ago, when the Union’s mask scandals gradually came out,” he says in an interview with “vorwärts”.
Wenzel created a meme that matched the content, but he didn’t want to publish it on his private account. “A day later I decided to create a second account and upload it there. That’s when I saw that the name otto.wels was still available and thought it was a lot of fun to use it,” he says. More than 3,600 people now follow his account, and some even call him “Otto”.
Niklas Wenzel: “I see Otto Wels as a strong political role model”
For this reason alone, he identifies very closely with the former SPD chairman. “I see Otto Wels as a strong political role model,” he says, choosing an image from sports to explain: “It’s very easy to play the ball wide when you’re 3-0 up, but how do you do it do we deal with the idea of fair play in the event of a serious injury, when you run the ball at goal when the score is 0-0 in the Champions League final? I think it’s very important to take Otto Wels as a guide, because in the most difficult situation you can imagine, he knows what backbone means and what it means to stand up for one’s values and principles.”
On Wednesday evening in Berlin, Wenzel has the opportunity to speak about Otto Wels. Then the Otto Wels Prize will be awarded in the Bundestag, with which the SPD parliamentary group honors young people and young adults between the ages of 16 and 20 every year, “who deal with the question of what special challenges they face in a creative way our democracy and our society are currently in place and how we can work together to ensure that our democratic coexistence stands on solid foundations”.
Discussion round as appreciation
Wenzel will take the opportunity to discuss the topic “Promote democracy – strengthen cohesion!” with Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of the Interior, and the youngest member of the Bundestag, Emily Vontz. The social democrat, who is studying political science and journalism for a bachelor’s degree in Mainz, says: “I find it very remarkable that my small commitment on Instagram is recognized in this way. I see that as appreciation.”
Maybe he’ll meet one or two members of the Bundestag whose pictures he usually uses as templates for his memes on Instagram. Shortly after the general election, he started a series and planned to post a meme of all SPD MPs. “I’m about halfway through, but now it’s getting difficult,” he says.