1: What far-right parties are active? What defines them as far-right/fascist/radical right?
The far-right in Germany is not limited to “fringe” or informal groups, there are two legitimate political parties, the Alternativ für Detschland (AfD) and the Nationaldemokratische Partei (NPD), that have representatives at the local, state, and national levels. The AfD is fairly new to the political scene and has only been an official party since 2013, but now holds 91 seats in the Bundestag and is the third
largest party representation. Since 2017 the Party has seen increased support among voters aged 18-30, particularly in the former East Germany, but they now have elected officials from all 16 German states. Anti-immigrant rhetoric is frequently espoused by both AfD politicians and supporters, with many party
leaders claiming to be fighting against an “invasion of foreigners”. Following an attack at a synagogue in Halle (Saxony-Anhalt), in which a man named Stephan Balliet attempted to carry out a mass shooting and killed two people outside after not being able to gain entry, SPD politician Rolf Mützenich said “he was buoyed by a system of agitation, chauvinism and far-right extremism. And the AfD is part of that
system”. Many politicians have echoed this sentiment, but it’s hard to ignore the AfD is gaining more support each election.
The NPD, however, has been active for over fifty years and has been called a neo-nazi party from its inception. Unlike the AfD, the NPD has never been able to achieve the minimum five percent of the vote to gain seats in the Bundestag, but they have held a number of local and state positions. In September 2019, Stefan Jagsch was elected mayor of Waldsiedlung (Hesse) after running unopposed, but after public
outcry the city council is pushing to reverse the decision. Since 2017 there have been calls to ban the NPD and the spread of their racist views, but they have survived all attempts. Additionally, in May 2019 the German Constitutional Court ruled on behalf of the NPD and ordered the media company ARD to air one of their ads, which rallied for the “creation of ‘safe zones’ for Germans who have become ‘victims’ of
mass immigration. Even more upsetting is the fact that the NPD has started creating vigilante patrols in areas that have a high number of immigrants to “protect” German citizens. It is unsurprising that this is occuring in Bavaria first, which was the birthplace of National Socialism, and fitting for one of the largest
neo-nazi organizations in operation today.
2 Are there any extremist/violent groups operating in the country? What acts of terror have they been responsible for?
In July 2018, the trial for Beate Zschäpe, a member of the National Socialist Underground (NSU), one of the most infamous neo-Nazi groups, finally came to an end. Beate received a sentence of life in prison for almost 13 years of right-wing funded crimes her and two other NSU members committed across Germany. The fact that this terror cell went undetected for so long is an indicator of a bigger problem of neo-nazism within Germany and how it hasn’t been handled as a serious threat. With
anti-immigrant sentiments becoming prominent within far right platforms, attacks against immigrants are on the rise. Acts such as the 2004 nail bomb attack in Cologne, which targeted a Turkish neighborhood, are thought to be the effect of far right radicalization and are thought to be committed by violent terror groups. Groups like Nordkreuz have been especially active in targeting left leaning or sympathetic politicians, Nordkreuz having created a “death list” of 25,000 politicians and stockpiling weapons. Support and encouragement of crimes are also becoming more common, PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West) leader Lutz Bachmann has called for opponents of his to be killed. Activists are frequently inspired to commit such acts when they are encouraged by their leaders to do so. Frequently, like with Der Dritte Weg, protests will be planned but would eventually morph into violence.
Because of the number of established and underground extremist groups operating in Germany, far-right extremist violence is now one of the biggest threats to domestic security. A prime example occurred in June of 2019, the country was shocked by the assasination of Walter Lübcke, who had a pro-immigration agenda and was the first German politician to be killed by far-right extremists in the post
war era. The main suspect in Lübcke’s murder is Stephen Ernst, a Christian extremist with ties to the NPD and Combat 18, a British neo-Nazi group with cells in the United States and Canada. Lübcke’s killing is one in a string of attacks against German political figures who have left-wing, or pro-refugee platforms. The European refugee crisis and Angela Merkle’s open arms policy agitated many of these groups into action. While attacks are still rare compared to the frequency seen in the United States, they are emblematic of a changing political culture that has gotten progressively violent over the years. Or perhaps, a political culture that has been operating silently since the Nuremberg trials, and is only now rearing its ugly head.
Another group who has recently caught the attention of the German police is ‘Revolution Chemnitz’, a neo-Nazi group belonging to the hooligan and skinhead scene working around Chemnitz in Saxony, their goal is to surpass the NSU and make them look like a ‘kindergarten group’ in comparison. They were accused of attempting to arouse a violent uprising in Chemnitz. While unsuccessful, the number of small extremist groups popping up is indicative of bad times to come. Again in Saxony, lies another group, Gruppen Freital, an extremist group targeting immigrants and anti-fascist activists. In 2018, they were charged in Dresden for charges of terrorism and attempted murder. Between July and November 2015, the group purchased pyrotechnics from the Czech Republic, modifying them to use as explosives in five attacks. They targeted refugee homes, the homes and offices of Die Linke politicians, and an alternative housing project set up by refugee supporters in Dresden.
3 Is the far-right in this country looking globally for influence? Can you find evidence of global connections between the far-right in this nation and others?
There is substantial evidence of the German far-right being influenced by outside groups. The Identitarian Movement, for example, is a far-right ideology centered around the belief that the culture and territory of Europe should be preserved for those who are “authentically European”. This xenophobic and Islamaphobic movement originated in France and its international influence has infiltrated German borders where there is an estimated 600 active members. Lastly, there is perhaps no better example of the transnationality of the far right in Germany than the National Socialist Knights of the KKK Deutschland, because historically far-right members from other countries have looked to the American far-right for inspiration. And today, as far right beliefs are on the rise, the growth of KKK sympathizers internationally has led to the revival of the National Socialist Knights of the KKK Deutschland.
The German far-right has also had significant success in expanding their influence into other countries around the globe as transnationality becomes a more common theme within the far-right. Of course Nazi Germany has had an everlasting affect on society with the continuation of neo-nazi affiliations, especially considering the Nuremberg trials that followed WW2, which failed to prosecute Nazis on a wider level. Now, modern German movements have also become global voices of the far-right. For example, PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident) is a far-right and anti-Islam political movement in Europe. Although this movement was originally German Nationalist, the group has expanded into several international offshoots such as Pegida Austria, Bulgaria, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Additionally, PEGIDA has worked alongside many international far-right groups with similar beliefs in organizing protests and demonstrations. This is one of the most worrying trends developing in Europe. With extremist governments gaining legitimacy, Europe must take the threat of domestic right-wing extremism more seriously.