Dortmund, Germany — Germany’s neo-Nazis are hanging up their bomber jackets, unlacing their black leather boots and even grabbing a bite to eat at their local Turkish kebab shop.
Eschewing their predecessors’ fierce aversion to anything “un-German”, they blend into the local community and easily escape detection. But police and experts say this new generation of young fascists is potentially far more dangerous and reckless than their older peers.
“Today a neo-Nazi can eat Turkish kebabs and still go out and beat up immigrants,” said journalist Johannes Radke, who has reported on the German far-right for more than a decade.
“They say, ‘We’ll let everyone do whatever they want as long as they’re a Nazi at heart.’”
Headquartered in the down-at-heel western industrial city of Dortmund, a new group known as the Autonomous Nationalists (AN) is at the forefront of this transformation.
They share the hard-core xenophobia of older cadres in the far-right, but their appearance and tactics are those of a dynamic, Internet-savvy youth movement.
They wear stylish running shoes and expensive brand name windbreakers and communicate with each other via Twitter. The use of English slogans at protests, for decades taboo in far-right circles, is widespread.
“They see themselves as the avant-garde of the Nazi scene,” Radke said. “They’re much more professional than some drunk, dim-witted skinhead - and more dangerous.”
Authorities and residents across Germany have become more sensitive to the threat of far-right militants since revelations last year that a neo-Nazi cell waged a seven-year racist killing spree throughout the country, murdering nine people, mostly ethnic Turks, one of them in Dortmund.