A growing number of extreme right-wing groups regard violence as a legitimate means to achieve their ends. Thus, in 1999 the number of extremists ready to employ xenophobic violence increased by 10 percent. Moreover, despite a 9.2 percent decline in the overall number of crimes committed by right-wing extremists in 1999, violent xenophobic crime rose by 5.4 percent. Anti-Semitically motivated crime decreased from 991 incidents in 1998 to 574. There was a rise in the number of extreme right-wing groups, but their membership declined.
THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
The Jewish community has more than doubled since 1989, when mass immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union began, and is now about 100,000. The largest Jewish centers are Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich and Hamburg, but Jewish communities are active in most other large cities. Of the 520,000 Jews that lived in Germany in 1933, some 180,000 perished in the Holocaust. The rest emigrated and very few of the original German Jews or their descendents live there today.
Allgemeine Jüdische Wochenzeitung is the most prominent of a number of publications which serve the needs of Jews in Germany. The Zentralrat, the umbrella organization of German Jewry, now has its headquarters in Berlin. During an official visit to Israel in February 2000, German President Johannes Rau declared: “I bow my head in humility before those who were murdered, those who have no graves at which I could ask forgiveness.”
THE EXTREME RIGHT – GENERAL TRENDS
Since the beginning of the 1990s, a growing number of extreme right-wing groups, mainly neo-Nazis and skinheads, have justified violence as a legitimate means to achieve their ends, a trend the authorities have been observing with great concern. Often, close ties of interdependence exist between militant activists and political parties of the extreme right.
The number of extremists ready to employ violence, primarily against “strangers” or “foreigners,” increased in 1999 by 10 percent, from 8,200 in 1998 to 9,000. A correlated growth of 5.4 percent was observed in the number of violent right-wing crimes (a total of 746). At least 2 murders and 11 attempted murders were committed in 1999 by right-wing extremists. Overall, however, the total number of officially registered xenophobic and anti-Semitic crimes attributed to right-wing extremists decreased by 9.2 percent, to 10,037 during the same period.
Frequent confiscation of weaponry by the police has demonstrated that arms acquisition is not a problem. Even youngsters increasingly carry personal weapons, and guidelines for constructing explosive devices circulate on the Internet. Nevertheless, militant right-wingers lack paramilitary facilities for their training. Since members of extreme right-wing parties and organizations are prohibited from serving in the army (labeled “political cleansing” by the radicals), they have sought alternative facilities “in order to be prepared when the German Volk has to fight for survival in its own homeland.” Militants join Schützenvereine (shooting clubs) or paint-ball clubs in order to learn to handle weapons. There they avoid the risk of being discovered by the authorities and accused of possession of forbidden weapons or membership in a criminal organization. The ultra-right-wing Thule network considers the presence of foreign members in paint-ball clubs as an opportunity “to train on live targets.”
Those who advocate violent means call on followers to join the underground in order to prepare for a civil war against the multicultural society. The Hamburger Sturm (HS), the publication of the Free Nationalists, for example, mentions armed “brown” cells that are being formed to fight “for freedom of white people.” The struggle is to be undertaken by armed men with computer knowledge. Like many other right-wing extremists, the Free Nationalists emulate the British Nazi group Combat 18, which was behind a number of violent assaults. The Hamburger Sturm prints names and data of left-wing persons and centers which could be “visited.”
PARTIES AND ORGANIZATIONS OF THE EXTREME RIGHT
The Federal Office for the Defense of the Constitution (BfVS) reported a further increase in the number of extreme right-wing organizations and groups, from 114 in 1998 to 134 in 1999. At the same time, in contrast to the previous year when an upward trend was registered, membership in these groups decreased by about 4 percent, from 53,600 to 51,400. A similar tendency could be observed among neo-Nazis -- a rise in the number of groups from 41 to 49 while the total number of activists decreased by at least 8 percent.
The Republikaner (REP), led by Dr. Rolf Schlierer, declined in membership from 15,000 in 1998 to 14,000 in 1999. While in the 1992 and 1996 state elections they won 15 seats in the Baden-Württemberg parliament, in the 1999 local elections they gained representation in a few communal assemblies in Berlin only by virtue of the fact that they succeeded in lowering the voting threshold from 5 percent to 3 percent. Nevertheless, they still have a large following. The bi-monthly Der Republikaner has a circulation of approximately 22,000 but, through the Internet, reaches a much larger readership. Their heavy propaganda campaigns conducted on their websites try to show that the injustice allegedly done to the German people by the Allies during World War II still continues. Any proposals for compensation to Jewish or non-Jewish slave workers during World War II are vehemently criticized. Anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and xenophobia are implicitly or openly disseminated, as the following quotations demonstrate:
- “Dresden exemplified senseless murder of the civilian population.”
- “The REP demand a central memorial for civilian victims of the Allied war criminals.”
- “Germany does not need a memorial for its daily self-humiliation.”
- “Schröder capitulated to American blackmail during the compensation negotiations for slave workers.”
- “Instead of paying billions in tax-payers’ money for new reparation payments, the Federal Republic should demand compensation for millions of German slave workers.”
- “It is scandalous that a further DM5 million of tax-payers’ money will flow into new National Socialist victims’ funds, while no compensation is given to German victims.“
- “Berlin should support the collective suit of Sudeten-Germans to recover lost insurance money.”
The Republikaner congratulated Jörg Haider and his extreme right-wing FPÖ for their electoral success and launched a campaign of solidarity with Austria. “German tourists should holiday in Carinthia (Haider’s home state, which he governs) instead of going to Belgium or Mallorca,” declared the head of the REP when the European Union (EU) instituted sanctions against Austria.
The Deutsche Volksunion (German People's Union -- DVU), the most successful party of the German extreme right, founded in January 1971 by the millionaire publisher Dr. Gerhard Frey, also declined in membership, from 18,000 in 1998 to 17,000 in 1999. The DVU looks to the FPÖ as a model of success. The EU’s boycott of Austria was criticized as “hypocritical” by the DVU party organs, the weeklies Deutsche National Zeitung (DNZ) and Deutsche Wochenzeitung (DWZ), which have a combined circulation of 48,000 copies since their merger in September 1999.
The DVU organs continued in 1999 to spread anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and xenophobia (see ASW 1998/9). The party’s strong financial position, which contributed to its success in the 1998 election in Sachsen-Anhalt (see ASW 1998/9), where it received 13 percent of the vote, again played a major role in the 1999 elections. The party won 5.2 percent of the vote in Brandenburg, where it formed a faction in the state legislature, the Landtag, and gained a seat in the parliament of Bremen. According to surveys conducted at the time, 10 percent of Brandenburg’s young voters supported the xenophobic election slogans of the DVU, such as: “Criminal foreigners out of Germany.” The DVU’s Internet website and party organs continued to incite against asylum seekers, who allegedly live off the German tax payer, and against the Euro which they claim will ruin the German economy. The slogan “Kinder statt Inder” (Children instead of Indians) which appears in the party organs is directed against the federal government’s proposal to issue greencards to foreign high-tech workers in order to assure the future of the German economy.
Although its membership is the smallest among the German extreme right-wing parties (6,000 members), the Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (German National Democratic Party -- NPD), chaired by Udo Voigt, is by far the most militant organization of the radical right. Demanding “a total change in the German political situation,” the NPD considers itself the representative of the “united right” in the country. Neo-Nazi links of the NPD are evident in the presence of Frank Schwerdt on the NPD executive. Schwerdt, founder of the neo-Nazi Die Nationalen and lately webmaster of the HNG (see below) site, served nine months in prison for racist incitement (see ASW 1998/9). Schwerdt’s colleague Christian Wendt was responsible for the September edition of the NPD organ Deutsche Stimme (DS).
During its 35th anniversary celebrations in 1999, the NPD leadership stressed the concept of NAPO (National Extra-parliamentary Opposition). Openly Nazi expressions, such as German Reichsgebiet (Reich territory), to describe the Federal Republic, or Ostmark, for Austria, often appear on its Internet homepage. The Junge Nationaldemokraten, the youth movement of the NPD, has close links with neo-Nazi skinheads and other militant right-wingers. Founded in 1969, it is currently chaired by neo-Nazi Sascha Rossmüller. Its organ is Der Aktivist (The Activist).
In the June 1999 municipal elections, the NPD received between 3 and 7 percent of the vote, thus obtaining seats in eight city councils. Saxony, with 1,300 members, has the strongest NPD organization in Germany, although it lost 100 members during 1999. Because of its growing attraction for young people, the director of the Office for Defense of the Constitution in Thuringia has demanded that the NPD be banned.
According to an official NPD release, when the party comes to power:
- Priority in jobs will given to Germans.
- No German soldier will defend non-German interests in foreign countries.
- Germany will leave NATO.
- The EU agreements will be revised.
After the boycott of Austria was imposed, strong anti-EU voices emanated from the party and links to Austria were strengthened. The Bavarian NPD began recruiting Austrian neo-Nazis, providing them with a legal framework in which to act, thus circumventing the restrictive Austrian law. According to police sources, the NPD was planning to organize a march through the Brandenburg Gate on 12 March 2000, the anniversary of Austria's annexation to the Third Reich, to protest against the EU steps, under the slogan “We are one people.” The police finally allowed the parade but not through the Brandenburg Gate.
In addition to the party organ, the monthly Deutsche Stimme (DS), edited by K.H. Sendbühler, and the free leaflet “DS-Extra,” NPD cells throughout Germany publish their own regional papers. They continue to espouse xenophobia, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial and openly glorify Nazi values, Hitler and the institutions of the Third Reich (see ASW 1998/9).
Since 1999, the Hilfsorganisation für nationale politische Gefangene und deren Angehörige e.V. (Support Organization for National Political Prisoners and Their Relatives -- HNG) (see previous reports), the largest neo-Nazi group in Germany, has had a website on the internet and thus enlarged its field of activity enormously. Their meetings are honored by the presence of well-known neo-Nazi activists. During their main convention (Hauptversammlung) in Fulda, Friedhelm Busse, leader of the banned FAP (Free Workers Party), addressed the public and a newly founded movement, Freier Mädelbund (Free Women’ Association), which helps the women of imprisoned neo-Nazis, sent a delegation. Among extremists, the HNG is regarded as a recruiting and communication system which looks after war criminals, Holocaust deniers and criminal neo-Nazis, treating them as “political prisoners.”
Parades and Meetings
When right extremists marched in Berlin, Rostock and Barmstedt on 17 August 1999 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the death of Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess, several dozen demonstrators were detained. According to the BfVS, public activity has strengthened extreme right organizations and parties, such as the NPD, which in 1999 organized at least 60 demonstrations throughout the republic. Typical of the activities of the NPD was a parade, organized by Udo Voigt on 29 January 2000 when 500-800 neo-Nazis marched through the Brandenburg Gate to protest the approval of the Holocaust memorial (see below). A Berlin court had overruled a police decision to ban the NPD’s participation.
The trend, noted in 1998, of neo-Nazis and outlawed groups joining established, especially extreme right-wing, parties in order to be able to continue their activities, persisted. The legal status of a political party is used to prevent the police from banning parades of right-wing extremists.
German neo-Nazis participated in international meetings which took place in Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Austria and Spain.
ANTI-SEMITIC AND RACIST ACTIVITIES
Reports of anti-Semitically motivated crimes decreased considerably in 1999, from 991 in 1998 to 574.
Desecration of Jewish Cemeteries and Holocaust Memorials
In recent years, desecration of Jewish cemeteries (47 recorded in 1999, although the real number was suspected to be much higher) has occurred with equal frequency in both West and East Germany. A high percentage of anti-Semitic attacks was directed against Holocaust memorials and exhibitions. For example, an exhibition in Berlin/Kreuzberg, at the former Anhalt train station, documenting the expulsion of Jews from Berlin during the Nazi regime, was totally destroyed by arson on 31 August 1999. On 28 July 1999 an exhibition dedicated to concentration camp prisoners was vandalized for the second time in the cemetery at Weimar. The exhibition, which was part of a project called “Youth Church 99,” stressed the connection between Weimar, declared the European “cultural town of the year,” and the Buchenwald concentration camp situated nearby. Holocaust memorials were desecrated in Bad Durkheim, in March, in Berlin, in June, and in Göttingen, in July.
As the dissemination of Nazi propaganda is forbidden in Germany, publications with illegal content, now called Nationale Presse Zeitungen gegen den Anti-Deutschen Trend (Nationalist Press Against Anti-German Tendencies), is distributed from abroad, mainly Belgium, France, Australia, Russia, Poland, Lithuania and the US. However, the easiest, cheapest and most effective way to disseminate hate propaganda and communications is via the Internet. Most far right parties, groups and activists have their own homepage with links to fraternal groups worldwide. German Internet sites propagating anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism increased by 65 percent, to 330 in 1999 (200 in 1998) after having quintupled the year before. One out of five sites contains material which violates German law. Almost all sites are posted from outside the country, mainly on US servers. An increase in hate propaganda directed against the Jewish population was registered by the German authorities, who were sharply criticized by the Zentralrat for their passivity.
During the year, a new hit list was circulated by militant neo-Nazis, calling themselves the Anti-Antifa. They specialize in so-called enemy reconnaissance, involving the collection of information on those deemed to be anti-Nazis in Germany. Police are increasingly concerned over the phenomenon since the discovery of "hit-lists" on the Internet, offering a reward for the murder of those named. In July 1999, a far-right group published the name, address, photograph and daily travel habits of a man they said “bad-mouths Nazis and hangs arowith Russians.” A reward of DM10,000 ($5,370) was offered for physical proof of his murder
Another example was the dossier “Wehrwolf,” a collection of about 150 names and addresses of “enemies of the people” sorted into categories, such as "parliamentarians" (a total of 40 Bundestag deputies of all parties), “disseminators of democratic propaganda” and “Hebrews.” The large number of Jewish names and institutions indicates the anti-Semitic attitudes of the authors of the list, members of the Anti-Antifa Saarpfalz, a clandestine group that uses a Netherlands post office box. Jewish addresses listed included the offices of all Jewish communities in Germany, the Centrum Judaicum, El Al offices, several restaurants in Berlin and even two matrimonial bureaus in Frankfurt and Munich. In addition, memorials to victims of the Nazis are marked on a map of Berlin. The authors make no secret of their approval of violence. Under the headline “Martyrs of the White Aryan Resistance,” they declare their solidarity with Kay Diesner, a neo-Nazi activist given a life imprisonment for murdering a policeman.
The Internet is also used to disseminate radio programs online, including neo-Nazi news and announcements. Mike Penkert, prohibited in 1996 by the Berlin-Brandenburg Media Institute from operating his neo-Nazi Radio Germania, resumed broadcasting in May 1998 from his Internet page, from the “R[eichs]-Hauptstadt” (designation of Berlin under the Nazi regime). Among others he offers a Nationale Hitlist, with the latest music hits (mostly illegal) on the market. Titles include: “Das Reich kommt wieder” (The Reich will return), “German Born,” “White Music,” “Trotz Verbot nicht tot“ (Still active despite the ban).
Members of extreme right and neo-Nazi organizations have continued to use discussions and chat groups of the mainstream parties such as the CDU and FDP, to spread xenophobic and anti-Semitic propaganda, as well as slogans of the NPD, the REP and the DVU. The PHI Nachrichtenagentur, an extreme right-wing press agency, operating solely on the Internet, issues daily releases. The PHI distributes its material from a server in Germany but is located in Kaunas, Lithuania.
The Music Scene
Today music is one of the largest sources of income for the extreme right, and is used to create a youth culture centered on racism, neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism, with its associated paraphernalia. CDs with illegal racist and anti-Semitic content are co-produced and/or distributed from outside Germany with the help of neo-Nazis from Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the UK, Poland, Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Switzerland. Thousands of CDs were confiscated in 1999 in police raids.
The number of skinhead bands performing and recording racist and anti-Semitic songs remained in 1999 at about 93 groups. Although there was a 20 percent decrease in the number of concerts reported (to 105), the audiences were larger, showing an increase in their popularity. The biggest event took place in Garitz, Sachsen-Anhalt, on 4 September 1999, with 2,000 participants. Representatives of neo-Nazi organizations exploit White Power music concerts to recruit new members.
Leading music fanzines such as Blood & Honour Division Deutschland and Der gestiefelte Kater (Puss in Boots) report increasingly on demonstrations and meetings of the NPD/JN and the Nationaler Widerstand (National Resistance), thus creating a link between various groups on the far right.
ATTITUDES TOWARD THE HOLOCAUST AND THE NAZI ERA
In Germany, Holocaust denial is unconstitutional and thus illegal. The German Penal Code is one of the most advanced and effective in combating Holocaust denial; nevertheless, the process of bringing a denier to court remains complicated. While some deniers have been sentenced to prison terms, others manage to elude the laws, most notably illustrated by the case of Germar Rudolf (see previous reports). Rudolf, who is regarded as a hero by far right extremists around the world, absconded in 1995 rather than serve a 14-month jail term for infringing Germany's Holocaust denial legislation. He first fled to Spain and then, when he realized the German authorities were on his trail, to England. Under his former wife's maiden name of Scheerer, he uses different safe houses in southeast England and has forged links with far right extremists, including members of the National Front and the British National Party, as well as with British Holocaust denier David Irving. Rudolf has continued to challenge the Holocaust via the Internet and runs his own publishing house, Castle Hill Publishers, from a post office box in Hastings. In 1999, Castle Hill distributed the latest work of the Swiss Holocaust denier Jürgen Graf, criticizing Raul Hilberg’s work on the Holocaust (Riese auf tönernen Füssen. Raul Hilberg und sein Standartwerk über den ‘Holocaust'). Rudolf’s publishing house also publishes and distributes Vierteljahreshefte für freie Geschichtsforschung, mainly on the VHO-website Stichting Vrij Historisch Onderzoek (see Belgium), the main forum for German Holocaust deniers.
Following international pressure as well as the demands of Chancellor Schröder, Germany's leading industries announced on 16 February 1999 they would set up a fund to compensate slave laborers who worked for them during World War II; nevertheless, the dispute between the various interest groups was still ongoing. In September, during his visit to Germany, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak impressed upon Schröder the need to urge German companies to pay overdue compensation to World War II slave laborers, who include many non-Jews from Eastern Europe, before they die. Schröder promised Barak that his government would try to persuade the companies to improve their offer and reach a settlement as quickly as possible.
The design submitted by an American architect for the central monument in Berlin to the six million Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust was approved by the German parliament on 25 June 1999 (for a detailed chronology of the struggle to erect a memorial, see ASW 1998/9). The foundation for the Holocaust memorial in Berlin was laid on Holocaust Memorial Day, 27 January 2000, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. German President Johannes Rau and Bundestags President Wolfgang Thierse attended the ceremony. Berlin mayor Eberhard Diepgen, who opposed the plan to erect the memorial, was absent. The memorial will cost DM15 million and is scheduled for completion in 2002.
Sinti and Roma demanded the erection of a memorial for the 500,000 members of their people murdered by the Nazis. The central council of Sinti and Roma reported on 26 July 1999, that the Berlin Senate, parliament and federal government had authorized the erection of a monument in the capital between the parliament building and the Brandenburg Gate. However, the debate over the size and place of the monument continues.
The dispute over the Wehrmacht exhibition, documenting wartime crimes of the German army, continued to provoke violent incidents and demonstrations (see previous reports). On 19 July 1999, for example, a demonstration against the exhibition took place, arranged by the National Democratic High School Union (INHB). Many of the participants waved NPD flags and shouted “Glory and honor to the Waffen-SS.”
Polish historian Bogdan Musial, writing in Contemporary History Quarterly of October 1999, challenged the authenticity of nine photos in the exhibition. He claimed that the atrocities had, in fact, been committed on prisoners by the Russian NKVD (Ministry of Interior in Soviet Russia). He argued that the Hamburg Institute for Social Research, which mounted the exhibit, had included the photos intentionally. Hannes Heer of the institute denied this allegation but admitted that most of the photos had come from former Soviet archives and had been retouched. He stated that the error would be corrected when the exhibition moved to New York.
Following the debate about the authenticity of the exhibition, Jan Philipp Reemtsma, head of the Hamburg Institute, announced its tempora closure on 4 November. It is important to note that the neo-Nazi Deutscher Rechtschutzkreis informed its subscribers that the association had helped finance Musial’s proceedings against Reemtsma. However, Musial denies any involvement with neo-Nazis. Martin Voigt is the chairman of Deutscher Rechtschutzkreis, which was founded in 1979 mainly to advise and support legal proceedings of neo-Nazis and extreme right-wingers.
RESPONSES TO RACISM AND ANTI-SEMITISM
As in previous years, propaganda material and weapons were confiscated in numerous police raids, and illegal texts and CDs were blacklisted or banned. Mobile task forces and racial sensitivity police training programs were some of the measures instituted to combat xenophobic and anti-Semitic violence. A special German police task group has been set up to monitor and take action against hate groups on the Internet and the German Ministry of Justice is trying to persuade the EU to pass laws against neo-Nazi activities on the web. In an original attempt to combat the spread of hate propaganda on the Internet, anti-fascist groups began purchasing racist domain names to prevent neo-Nazis from using them.
Of the numerous public and official responses to anti-Semitism and racism, a few of the more outstanding ones are outlined below.
A new version of the Oberammergau Passion Play was staged in Germany on 21 May 2000. The play, which is based on New Testament narratives of the Passion of Jesus, originally projected theological anti-Judaism, as well as anti-Semitic messages. Adolf Hitler, who saw the 1934 presentation, praised it as a “precious tool” in the fight against Jews and Judaism. Anti-Semitic messages have been eliminated in the new script.
TV moderator Christian Rahbari, who had made an unacceptable anti-Semitic joke on his late-night talk show, was dismissed without notice by TV.BERLIN. The show was taken off the screen and the station apologized to the Jewish community.
Fredrick Toben, an Australian historian and Holocaust denier was arrested in Germany and charged with writing and spreading anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi material, which he had published and placed on the Internet. Toben was released on bail after being sentenced to ten months imprisonment on 11 November 1999.
In another case, Manfred Roeder, a 70-year-old Nazi, was sentenced in December 1999 to two years in prison for having denied the Holocaust at a NPD election rally in 1998.