The New Nazis

 

When Menace in Europe was published, no chapter provoked more hostility than the one about Germany, in which I noted that the German band Rammstein’s fascination with Third Reich imagery and dramaturgy might not be as innocent as it sounds, especially given that Third Reich imagery and dramaturgy don’t sound all that innocent. Comments like these–“Claire Berlinski is just a paranoid little Jew”–were among the more printable. In fact, the Nazis sent me more hate mail than the Islamists and the communists (and that’s when I decided to take up the martial arts, but that’s another story).

Unlike many who are keen to deny the danger of right-wing extremism in Europe, proposing instead that we focus our alarm upon the menace posed to liberal democracy by Islamic extremists, I’m a dual-direction Cassandra. Europe does indeed have a dangerous ultra-right, and by “ultra-right,” I do not mean dutiful Anglicans and devout proponents of market deregulation, I mean Nazis. Call them neo-Nazis or new Nazis if you like, but when they start killing immigrants in the name of racial purity, I see no need for that qualifier.

The so-called National Socialist Underground killed nine immigrants (eight of them Turkish, one Greek). They avoided detection for years because the police were looking in the wrong direction. What’s worse, the NSU does indeed appear to have links to Germany’s far-right NDP:

The head of Germany’s crime squad, Joerg Ziercke, said the arrest this week of a 35-year-old man in Jena in east Germany where the cell was based indicated a link to the anti-immigrant National Democratic Party (NPD).

The man was a senior NPD official in the state of Thuringia.

“I am convinced we will find further links to the NPD,” he told a news conference. “But it is up to politicians to decide what to do with the evidence found in our inquiries, that is not our job.”

Anyone who didn’t see this coming just wasn’t paying attention:

“We weren’t surprised at all,” explained Reinhard Koch, director of ARUG, an initiative based in the western city of Wolfsburg that provides counselling for young people exposed to right-wing extremism. “There have long been signs that at some point such groups would form, and not only for us–it should have been clear to the authorities too.”

On top of that, “It can’t be ruled that there are other such groups,” Koch told The Local. “Weapons caches were constantly being found in this scene or that scene–it happened so often that people stopped even wondering what these weapons were for.”

As far as Koch is concerned, the distance between the ‘ordinary’ neo-Nazi scene and the ‘hardcore’ element prepared to commit murder is very small. “You shouldn’t imagine that there are these nationalist gangs like the Kameradschaften, and then there’s a huge gap and then there’s a terrorist scene,” he said. “It all blends seamlessly together.”

Koch’s work with reformed neo-Nazis has taught him that violence permeates all parts of the extremist right-wing scene. This violence does not just take the form of drunken brawling at weekends, but disciplined training with guns administered by ex-servicemen.

“We have people in our programmes who have had weapons training themselves,” said Koch. “They were trained in western Germany, in Lower Saxony, by neo-Nazis who used to be mercenaries, for instance in the former Yugoslavia. Some were part of European training networks and got training in France or Belgium.”

The training takes place in remote country areas, sometimes privately owned, and sometimes rented for the purpose, either in an afternoon or over several days. “They often look for isolated wooded areas,” said Koch.

Dierk Borstel, researcher into right-wing extremism at the University of Bielefeld, was also unsurprised to read the recent revelations about the NSU. “We’ve known that the option of terrorism, the option of militancy, the option of murder has been discussed in the extremist right-wing scene for some time,” he told The Local.

“A few years ago there was a group based in the Potsdam area that went underground that called itself the ‘National Resistance’ who specialized in blowing up Jewish cemeteries,” he said. “We have constantly had weapons and explosives finds, but they were never taken seriously. It was simply massively underestimated. The police just thought they were little boys playing cowboys and Indians.”

The word for that is “denial.” Men who look like Nazis, call themselves Nazis, blow up Jewish cemeteries and kill Turkish shopkeepers are not little boys playing cowboys and Indians. They’re Nazis.

This problem will get worse. Anyone who doubts me on this might note that where Europe’s concerned, I’ve so far been right about everything else.

There are 43 comments.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  1. flownover Inactive

    Let’s start with the general lack of common sense in the region. How can Brevik get an insanity declaration ? Because he was crazy enough to plan things and be suitably equipped to kill lots of people ? Are Europeans so lulled into a sense of relativism that they are defenseless ?

    • #1
    • December 3, 2011, at 7:09 AM PDT
    • Like
  2. Liver Pate Inactive

    When Mark Steyn was put on trial by Kangaroo court human rights commissions in Canada, one of the other cases involved a certain individual repeatedly sock puppeting as a Nazi on internet message boards who turned out to work for those self same human rights commissions (conjuring up images of a human rights style GlenGarry Glenn Ross boiler room scheme). The point Steyn and others made at the time was that in Canada (and I assume the United States) Nazis were never the problem they were and continue to be in Europe. They certainly weren’t so scarce in Europe that you had to create them out of whole cloth. And, in an interesting aside, note the speech code laws that have been in effect all this time in Europe. They apparently haven’t worked.

    Just because this development isn’t unexpected, doesn’t mean its not still alarming.

    • #2
    • December 3, 2011, at 7:21 AM PDT
    • Like
  3. Skarv Coolidge

    Shouldn’t we stop referring to the right when we discuss Nazis? Jonah Goldberg has demonstrated the common left-wing roots of communism, fascism, and national socialism in LF. All the isms above (and Islamism) are totalitarian and want to control every individual. Conservatives trusts individuals and leaves it to each and everyone to decide how to run their own lives.

    Flownover asks. ” Are Europeans so lulled into a sense of relativism that they are defenseless ?” I would say yes. I left Sweden 15 years ago and I think it is irreversible in Europe. But it is scary to see US approach positions commonly held in Europe some 20-30 years ago. I hate to see that timing is the only difference.

    • #3
    • December 3, 2011, at 8:06 AM PDT
    • Like
  4. Valiuth Member

    Well I think Brevik is probably certifiably insane. I mean its not like they have the death penalty so declaring him insane gives them grounds to keep him locked up indefinitely. People often assume that if you are declared insane in a legal matter you get to walk. Actually you are thrown in a maximum security sanitarium and never see the light of day. It is essentially sentencing him to life in prison. At least in the US it is.

    • #4
    • December 3, 2011, at 8:09 AM PDT
    • Like
  5. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    Europe does indeed have a dangerous ultra-right, and by “ultra-right,” I do not mean dutiful Anglicans and devout proponents of market deregulation, I mean Nazis. Call them neo-Nazis or new Nazis if you like, but when they start killing immigrants in the name of racial purity, I see no need for that qualifier.

    The so-called National Socialist Underground killed nine immigrants…

    OK, but how is it again that National Socialists movements are in fact a phenomenon of the Right?

    I know Right and Left in Europe are different from Right and Left in the United States, but I was under the impression that the truly European form of extreme right wingery would be wanting to reinstate monarchy and so on, not National Socialism.

    For example, my understanding is that the British National Party attracts more former Labour supporters than it does former Conservative supporters. Etc…

    Could you explain what is conventionally meant by the Right-Left divide in Europe, and why this convention is justified?

    • #5
    • December 3, 2011, at 8:15 AM PDT
    • Like
  6. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Shall we dispense with the Left-Right debate entirely and just called them Nazis? Makes everything a lot simpler. We all know that Nazis are a problem.

    • #6
    • December 3, 2011, at 8:19 AM PDT
    • Like
  7. Valiuth Member
    Skarv: Shouldn’t we stop referring to the right when we discuss Nazis? Jonah Goldberg has demonstrated the common left-wing roots of communism, fascism, and national socialism in LF. All the isms above (and Islamism) are totalitarian and want to control every individual. Conservatives trusts individuals and leaves it to each and everyone to decide how to run their own lives.

    Lets not be blind to our own sides faults. I think Jingoism, Xenophobia, and Racism have a good standing on the conservative spectrum of the political charts. That is not to say they are exclusive to the Right. I thought what was the success of the Nazis was that they mixed the economic policies of the socialists with the nationalist policies of the imperialists. Both of these were very popular with people and the Nazis gave them one party that advocated both.

    I think to the extent that the New Nazis are simply focused on their nationalist pride, and ethnic purity they are far more Right than Left. Really which side they spring from is irrelevant they are bad news, and it hardly makes me feel better to know they are more Left than Right.

    • #7
    • December 3, 2011, at 8:21 AM PDT
    • Like
  8. Mel Foil Inactive

    I guess the “right-wing” Nazis are the ones that crave small limited government, personal privacy, and religious freedom. Kind of like being an atheist clergyman?

    • #8
    • December 3, 2011, at 8:26 AM PDT
    • Like
  9. Anon Inactive

    The extremes of the normal distribution curve will always be with us, Ms. Berlinski. There will always be the very good and the very bad, with the great majority a mixture of both, to one degree or another. The question of what to do about immediate mortal threats is the great moral dilemma of all civilizations. You’re quite right, the threat is what it appears to be. Because so few are usually involved, we tend to write it off as nonsense, but as you note it’s much more than that.

    It’s not as though we haven’t seen it before. And it’s not as though Santayana hasn’t warned us.

    “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”

    • #9
    • December 3, 2011, at 8:38 AM PDT
    • Like
  10. flownover Inactive
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake

    act a phenomenon of the Right?

    I know Right and Left in Europe are different from Right and Left in the United States,

    Explain the distance between Tim McVeigh and Bill Ayers ? Well, at the point when they both made and planted the bombs ?

    The success of their endeavours vary, they were both bombthrowers. Murderers.

    • #10
    • December 3, 2011, at 8:47 AM PDT
    • Like
  11. Paul A. Rahe Contributor

    You are right, alas, that things are going to get worse. The crisis of the European Union is upon us, and it will not go away. The economic consequences are going to be grim, and the nasty folks in every country in Europe are going to gain ground.

    • #11
    • December 3, 2011, at 9:03 AM PDT
    • Like
  12. Johannes Allert Inactive

    Flownover stated – “Explain the distance between Tim McVeigh and Bill Ayers ? Well, at the point when they both made and planted the bombs ?” — One got the death penalty, the other got promoted to a high paying job.

    That aside Flownover is spot on. It’s not about left-right ideolgy. It’s about confronting evil and when “our side” fails to do that, we fail our values and society. People have been using Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism to uphold the right against smears by the left. Fair enough; however, even Mr. Goldberg concedes fascism does indeed exist on both the left and right side of the aisle. Ayers is an excellent example of what happens when one side excuses the actions of gutter slime.

    • #12
    • December 3, 2011, at 9:14 AM PDT
    • Like
  13. TeeJaw Inactive
    Valiuth

    I think to the extent that the New Nazis are simply focused on their nationalist pride, and ethnic purity they are far more Right than Left. · Dec 3 at 7:21am

    Edited on Dec 03 at 07:22 am

    Ethnic purity? Right wing? I think conservatives would be right in taking that as an insult.

    • #13
    • December 3, 2011, at 9:16 AM PDT
    • Like
  14. Barfly Member
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Shall we dispense with the Left-Right debate entirely and just called them Nazis? Makes everything a lot simpler. We all know that Nazis are a problem. · Dec 3 at 7:19am

    Frankly, no. You can’t deal with what you don’t understand. Nazism, old and new, is the political expression of those on the left that adore themselves. It appears to be of the right to the careless observer because it opposes other forms, like M-L-ism, that grow out of self-loathing.

    Pointing at the filth and saying “ooh, bad!” might satisfy, but it just adds to the noise. They like noise.

    • #14
    • December 3, 2011, at 9:26 AM PDT
    • Like
  15. David Williamson Inactive

    I agree with most of the comments. While there is indeed a growing Nazi problem in Europe, and increasing anti-Jewishness, it’s fairly minor compared to what’s happening around Israel’s borders.

    Having just read Mr Steyn’s Saturday morning piece, it’s hard to be optimistic about the way the whole world is going.

    • #15
    • December 3, 2011, at 10:16 AM PDT
    • Like
  16. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Valiuth

    I thought what was the success of the Nazis was that they mixed the economic policies of the socialists with the nationalist policies of the imperialists. Both of these were very popular with people and the Nazis gave them one party that advocated both.

    I think to the extent that the New Nazis are simply focused on their nationalist pride, and ethnic purity they are far more Right than Left. Really which side they spring from is irrelevant they are bad news, and it hardly makes me feel better to know they are more Left than Right.

    According to the European dimensions of Left-Right politics, you could well be correct, Valiuth. For one thing, since you’re a European immigrant, you’ve had direct experience of European political attitudes, which many of us haven’t.

    That said, I still think we could profit from a Claire-ification on what Claire means by right-wing in the European sense.

    I have a feeling that to right-leaning Americans, the European brand of right-wingism should be perplexing. So exploration of terms is in order.

    • #16
    • December 3, 2011, at 10:24 AM PDT
    • Like
  17. Mendel Member

    While we might not hear about it much in America, Germans have been well aware of neo-Nazism in their own country for years. The true extent is obviously still hidden, but there is a hypersensitivity among the general public toward extreme nationalists, and that is a good thing.

    I have witnessed neo-Nazi demonstrations in Germany where the number of counter-protestors outnumbered the neo-Nazis by about 10 to 1. Every few years there is a loud national debate about whether the tamed-down NPD (German Nationalist Party) can even be allowed to exist. The Germans are definitely not blind to the matter.

    At the same time, no one really knows how many silent sympathizers exist in society. While the most open supporters are mostly in areas of East Germany with high unemployment, I saw Hitler greetings and heard Nazi songs being sung in one of the wealthiest regions of western Germany. Frightening.

    • #17
    • December 3, 2011, at 10:54 AM PDT
    • Like
  18. Mendel Member
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Shall we dispense with the Left-Right debate entirely and just called them Nazis? Makes everything a lot simpler. We all know that Nazis are a problem. · Dec 3 at 7:19am

    Claire is spot on.

    German neo-Nazis do not fit in anywhere in the normal political spectrum mostly because their platform only has one plank: ethnic German nationalism.

    While there is a political party with a tamed-down national socialist platform (the NPD), the violent neo-Nazis have never voiced any desires other than “Deutschland den Deutschen!” (Germany to the Germans).

    • #18
    • December 3, 2011, at 11:00 AM PDT
    • Like
  19. Mendel Member
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake

    Valiuth

    I have a feeling that to right-leaning Americans, the European brand of right-wingism should be perplexing. So exploration of terms is in order. · Dec 3 at 9:24am

    The German understanding of the right-left continuum is certainly different from the American understanding. For instance, the FDP, a classically liberal party (small government, free markets, etc) cannot be placed on the traditional left-right spectrum, according to many German political scientists.

    • #19
    • December 3, 2011, at 11:09 AM PDT
    • Like
  20. Mendel Member
    David Lund: Then there’s the Pirate Party, which just won seats in some German states for the first time (over the 5% minimum)– geeky, young, uber-libertarians · Dec 3 at 11:56am

    Some of whom also have neo-Nazi associations in their past.

    Being a classical liberal in Germany means being disappointed every day, either by society or by your own allies. So I guess there is some common ground with the US.

    • #20
    • December 4, 2011, at 1:02 AM PDT
    • Like
  21. Give Me Liberty Inactive

    Mendel, my wife’s family is from Canada and a dozen years ago some of them would tell me that their European cousins were better off under Communism. Thankfully, Canada has moved in the right direction maybe there is still hope for Europe.

    David Lund: Rattlesnake, that’s not right. In Germany the FDP is against Statism and for small government. We would call them Libertarians. Just like our Libertarians, they don’t fit on the spectrum (exhibit A: Ron Paul).

    I disagree, Libertarianism is to the right of Conservatism. I have long said that it is really the Conservatives that are in the political center not left leaning so-called moderates. More than 40% of Americans identify as Conservative, the noisy left gets a little better than 20%, and Libertarians often get lumped in with conservatives or other.

    • #21
    • December 4, 2011, at 1:18 AM PDT
    • Like
  22. FX Meaney Inactive
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Shall we dispense with the Left-Right debate entirely and just called them Nazis? Makes everything a lot simpler. We all know that Nazis are a problem. · Dec 3 at 7:19am

    Good solution. They are totalitarian thugs.

    • #22
    • December 4, 2011, at 1:43 AM PDT
    • Like
  23. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    David Lund: Rattlesnake, that’s not right. In Germany the FDP is against Statism and for small government. We would call them Libertarians. Just like our Libertarians, they don’t fit on the spectrum.

    I certainly agree that the notion of “political spectrum” is pretty much bunk to begin with. The Nolan Chart, a two dimensional rather than one-dimensional model, is a much better reflection of reality, though still imperfect, I’m sure.

    However, if I’m not mistaken, the American Right-Left divide cuts a different line across the Nolan chart than the European one does, with our Right skewing more libertarian.

    It’s not that libertarian ideas are totally absent from European politics so much as that there is less breathing-room for them to begin with. It seems to me that European politics is simply more communitarian overall, which would agree with:

    Mendel

    The conservative parties in Germany (CDU/CSU) usually support measures like austerity, privatization and deregulation, but they’re starting from a much, much higher baseline than us in most categories.

    • #23
    • December 4, 2011, at 2:03 AM PDT
    • Like
  24. Joseph Eagar Member

    Must we exhibit discomfort at calling neo-Nazis ultra-right? Like several others have said, the right wing in Europe is very different than movement American conservatives. The original Nazi Party was (in my opinion) an example of centrist totalitarianism, nonetheless it was the racial right-wing that inspired modern-day Nazis, not the left-wing elements.

    It’s not like the right is this monolithic group all over the world. There are large national differences.

    • #24
    • December 4, 2011, at 3:24 AM PDT
    • Like
  25. MMPadre Inactive

    Have skinheads made it impossible for a Jew to safely walk the streets of Malmo, and made Sweden leader in euro rape stats? Have neo-Nazis made parts of Paris virtual no-go zones? Did a right-wing fanatic kill Theo van Gogh? Does the University of Bielefeld have professors who examine the Islamist threat –to go with their Dept. of Skinhead Studies– or is that beyond the multicultural pale?

    I’ve no doubt neo-Nazis (of whatever political taxonomy) are on the rise. But I question your sense of proportion. Obsessing about fascism has long been the Left’s standard form of denial, even as its policies created the conditions that radicalize street gangs into political entities. Call it a self-fulfilling prophecy; call it chickens coming home to roost. But let’s put the blame where it belongs, and remember that in a race to the bottom there are no winners.

    • #25
    • December 4, 2011, at 3:58 AM PDT
    • Like
  26. Give Me Liberty Inactive

    Well said,Padre!

    MMPadre: Have skinheads made it impossible for a Jew to safely walk the streets of Malmo, and made Sweden leader in euro rape stats? Have neo-Nazis made parts of Paris virtual no-go zones? Did a right-wing fanatic kill Theo van Gogh? Does the University of Bielefeld have professors who examine the Islamist threat –to go with their Dept. of Skinhead Studies– or is that beyond the multicultural pale?

    I’ve no doubt neo-Nazis (of whatever political taxonomy) are on the rise. But I question your sense of proportion. Obsessing about fascism has long been the Left’s standard form of denial, even as its policies created the conditions that radicalize street gangs into political entities. Call it a self-fulfilling prophecy; call it chickens coming home to roost. But let’s put the blame where it belongs, and remember that in a race to the bottom there are no winners. · Dec 3 at 2:58pm

    • #26
    • December 4, 2011, at 4:14 AM PDT
    • Like
  27. Publius Inactive

    One of the lessons of the last century is that when people say that they want to kill the Jews, they mean it.

    It doesn’t require even a cursory understanding of history to understand that when someone takes the Nazi label, they are clearly identifying themselves as astoundingly evil people and should be reacted to accordingly.

    • #27
    • December 4, 2011, at 5:54 AM PDT
    • Like
  28. HVTs Inactive
    Valiuth

    Lets not be blind to our own sides faults. I think Jingoism, Xenophobia, and Racism have a good standing on the conservative spectrum of the political charts.

    In the US, those three terms are merely pejoratives used to stigmatize and delegitimize opponents of the Left. They have no basis in fact (no “good standing”) as ‘conservative’ or ‘right wing’ phenomena [the latter being a term this thread pretty well establishes means whatever anyone wants it to mean].

    The simplest example of the three is “racism”, which was institutionalized by Democrat Party machine politics in the southern states (aka “Dixie Democrats”) under what are broadly referred to as Jim Crow laws (apartheid). Is the Democrat Party a “right wing” party? Not in the vernacular of US politics it isn’t. The Left has successfully taken what was a Democrat Party phenomenon and simply through repetition attached it to “the Right”, which is another way for Leftists to say “Republicans and anyone else that doesn’t support Democrat Party candidates.”

    So in short, you’ve fallen into the Left’s trap of brandishing labels for political effect and assuming that there is an objective basis for their subsequent common usage.

    • #28
    • December 4, 2011, at 7:44 AM PDT
    • Like
  29. Anon Inactive
    MMPadre: Obsessing about fascism has long been the Left’s standard form of denial,

    Do you mean the left obsesses about fascism as a positive or negative? I’ve always considered fascism a child of the left. Its basic principles and operating protocols all require control by the cognoscenti. Always turns out to be a messy business. Take the Mussolini and Hitler models as examples. I’m trying to visualize a small government form of fascism, but I just can’t see it.

    • #29
    • December 4, 2011, at 7:46 AM PDT
    • Like
  30. HVTs Inactive
    Publius: … when someone takes the Nazi label, they are clearly identifying themselves as astoundingly evil people

    To be accurate shouldn’t we say they are affiliating themselves with evil people? Once they do evil things, they identify themselves as evil.

    The problem is many abhorrent beliefs result in murderous evil. Nazism’s preeminent goal was elimination of inferior races. On the grim level of deaths, Communism—preeminent goal: elimination of inferior classes—is second to none. Yet Communists like Castro and Gorbachev are feted by cultural elites living conveniently well outside a dictator’s reach. Probably all of us have gone to a movie or read a book by (or starring) one of those useful idiots. We help enrich them and they help enable a system with core beliefs and practices as repugnant as Nazism. Closer to home, Blacks were allowed to be raped, otherwise terrorized and murdered for a century after “liberation” by a Democrat Party-controlled Southern political machine. We ever ban the Democrats as Germany banned Nazis?

    Outrage at contemporary Nazis appears conveniently selective. That’s not an argument for abandoning outrage or prosecution. But how we apply standards of acceptable affiliation is a real problem.

    • #30
    • December 4, 2011, at 8:13 AM PDT
    • Like
  1. 1
  2. 2