This is a cross post by Edmund Standing
TIME reports on a disturbing rise in far-right extremism and neo-Nazism in Germany:
The attack seemed singularly horrific — an Egyptian pharmacist, Marwa el-Sherbini, was testifying during an appeal hearing in a Dresden courtroom on July 1 when a Russian émigré, Alex Wiens, lunged at her with a seven-inch kitchen knife. The pregnant mother was stabbed to death as her husband and 3-year-old son looked on helplessly. After protests swept the Arab world, Wiens was sentenced to life in prison in November for what the court deemed a racially motivated murder.
Though shocking in its brutality, the attack was not an anomaly in Germany — authorities say the country has experienced a disturbing rise in extreme right-wing violence in recent years. The Federal Criminal Police Office (or BKA) said in a report released last week that politically and racially motivated crimes by the far right hit a record high of more than 20,000 in 2008. Figures for 2009 won’t be released until early next year, but the BKA expects them also to be above normal.
Some experts believe that parties like the NPD may be a driving force behind the rise in violence. A study published last Thursday by the Hannah Arendt Institute for Research on Totalitarianism in Dresden, found close links between the NPD and far-right radicals in the eastern state of Saxony, where the NPD entered the regional parliament after winning 9.2% of vote in a 2004 election. Researchers said there was a steep rise in the number of clashes between far-right groups and left-wing activists after the vote. “The NPD has successfully recruited young people from the violent far-right subculture and the neo-Nazi Kameradschaften[Brotherhood] groups,” Uwe Backes, deputy director of the institute and author of the report, tells TIME. “The left wing has become the far right’s Number One enemy in Saxony.”
The NPD officially rejects violence and explicit Nazi references. Nonetheless, the federal government attempted to ban the party in 2003 only to be overruled by the German high court — an embarrassment for then-Premier Gerhard Schröder.
According to the German intelligence services, up to 30,000 Germans are believed to hold far-right beliefs — and among those, one-third are bent on violence.
Earlier this year, Spiegel published an interview with a former NPD official which offered a revealing insight into the true nature of the party:
Luthardt: There is no moderate wing. The few isolated moderates there are have no say. The media training courses at party headquarters are very effective. The members know how they must sell themselves. It starts with the instruction that any meeting with outsiders must be held in innocuous offices. That applies to everyone apart from the chairman. He deliberately poses behind a massive desk with party flags in the party headquarters. The Jena party headquarters deserves its name “Brown House.” No journalist has ever been in there.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What would they see?
Luthardt: A load of SS pictures in the cellar. And there’s a room with weapons.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: So the claim that the NPD isn’t interested in the “Third Reich” is just for self-protection.
Luthardt: It’s pure tactics. The idea is to atttract those who haven’t yet understood that the party isn’t right-wing radical, it’s much more radical than that. It’s about showing a respectable image in public. That’s why the party leadership prefers members who have totally normal haircuts and clothes. They can be sent to man the information stand.
The idea that NPD members ‘know how they must sell themselves’ echoes the now famous words of BNP leader Nick Griffin in this speech from 2000:
And, as with the NPD, it is transparently clear that the idea that leading BNP members and the BNP’s support base have no interest in Nazism and the Third Reich is utterly false.