German Crackdown on Neo-Nazis Does Little To Stall the Movement

By Michael Levitin

Published March 17, 2006, issue of March 17, 2006.
  • Print
  • Share Share

BERLIN — In part of a nationwide crackdown on the growing neo-Nazi movement, Germany’s highest administrative court handed down a first-ever ruling this week classifying a neo-Nazi rock group as a criminal organization because its lyrics spread racial hatred. The decision came on the heels of a national controversy stirred up here last week, when local officials in the former eastern German town of Halberstadt bowed to pressure from extreme right groups and canceled a concert by anti-Nazi activist and political songwriter Konstantin Wecker.

The developments underscored that neo-Nazism not only persists in Germany but also appears to be growing stronger, both politically and culturally, even as the government tries to halt its momentum.

In an effort to reverse the trend, German officials have begun eyeing the music of extremist groups. This week, the country’s top administrative court upheld a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence for Michael Regener, the singer and songwriter whose group, Landser, was found guilty of “inciting public hatred against foreigners and minorities in Germany.” It marks the first time in Germany that a collective prosecution successfully targetted a music group. “The primary goal of this band was to commit crimes,” said Jürgen Lampe, spokesman for the federal prosecutor.

Such songs as “The Reich Will Be Back,” featuring lyrics like “Turks and Commies and all that scum will soon be forever gone,” have struck a chord with this country’s under-educated, xenophobic youth. Indeed, neo-Nazi organizations, through their savvy distribution of music in schools and small cities, have become popular and freely accessible to many students.

“Democratic forces in Germany are simply at a loss to effectively counter an ideology of dumb violence that is infesting more and more young minds,” said Frank Jantzen, an expert on right-wing movements, according to press reportd.

Despite police vigilance and a German public that takes the neo-fascist threat seriously, support for such groups among young, poor and unemployed men — especially in the former East — is mounting. The news weekly Focus reported last month that the number of neo-Nazi skinhead activists rose in 2005 by some 300 to more than 4,000, while the ranks of the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party jumped by 700 to 6,000 registered members. Even faster growth of neo-Nazi groups is happening across the border in Poland, where a new, openly anti-gay president seems to look the other way each time skinheads strike out — as they did, without reprisal, against a gay march last year.

An example of such agitation happened March 8 in Halberstadt, when National Democratic Party members threatened to buy all the tickets and disrupt a “Nazis get out of our town” concert by the singer Wecker. The neo-Nazis claimed that the musician’s criticism of their movement was an unacceptable form of political campaigning in the run-up to March 26 state elections. Local officials agreed to cancel the show.

The decision to cancel the concert was criticized by the German Jewish community and by state officials.

Klaus Jeziorsky — interior minister for the state of Saxony-Anhalt, in which Halberstadt is located — expressed dismay at the concert’s cancellation. “One cannot give in to threats by right-wing extremists,” he said, upbraiding local officials.

Germany’s Central Council for Jews labeled the authorities’ decision “politically bankrupt.”

Refusing to buckle, Wecker took his concert to nearby Jena, vowing to return to Halberstadt in the summer for an open-air concert. “One shouldn’t give in to the NPD,” he told the online edition of Der Spiegel. “I haven’t given up on Halberstadt.”






Find us on Facebook!
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.