Since the end of the Second World War, Germany has tried desperately to distance itself from the ideals of Hitler’s Third Reich. The country has jailed Holocaust deniers and made it illegal to disseminate Nazi propaganda, but the seeds of the neo-Nazi movement appear to be sprouting a new crop of supporters. Last week near Rostock, a northern city in the former East Germany, authorities raided a youth camp run by a neo-Nazi group. Thirty-nine teenagers and children were sent home after police found racist propaganda, including towels adorned with swastikas. The group, Heimattreue Deutsche Jugend, claimed the camp was a youth holiday retreat.
Jörg Ziercke, head of the Bundeskriminalamts, Germany’s equivalent of the RCMP, used the occasion to warn that neo-Nazis were “attacking left-wingers and police officers with an aggression that can be seen as a change of strategy.” During May Day celebrations three months ago in Hamburg, a riot broke out when 6,000 people took to the streets to protest a march involving some 1,500 supporters of the far-right NPD party. Meanwhile, arson attacks carried out by right-wing groups have been on the rise throughout Germany, with some 15 incidents reported in the first five months of 2008—five times as many recorded during the same period last year.
Perhaps scariest of all for authorities, and for Germans as a whole, is that the far-right movement, particularly in eastern Germany, is growing in size and influence. Its adherents now organize festivals, family outings and rock concerts, run citizen’s advice bureaus, and have even established women’s groups and youth clubs. And far-right politicians are getting onto local councils and into state parliaments, giving them public platforms for expressing the beliefs of their supporters. M
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