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GERMANY | Cats and Camper Vans

Wednesday, 29 February 2012, 15:44 | Source: Spiegel |

The Bizarrely Normal Life of the Neo-Nazi Terror Cell

The neo-Nazi terror cell of Uwe Böhnhardt, Beate Zschäpe and Uwe Mundlos managed to hide from the police for almost 14 years. But between murders, attacks and bank robberies, the trio led a surprisingly normal life. They kept cats, played computer games and even went on vacation several times together.


After 10 people were dead, two bombs had exploded and four post offices and six savings banks had been robbed, Uwe Mundlos, Uwe Böhnhardt and Beate Zschäpe went on a vacation together.

It was the summer of 2007. They had loaded up a van and driven north, and now they were staying at a camping site on the Baltic Sea island of Fehmarn, located near Germany's border with Denmark. A few months earlier, the two men had killed a police officer and severely wounded her partner with a shot to the head. But now they were about to spend a few relaxing weeks on the beach.

Mundlos, Böhnhardt and Zschäpe, who went by the names Max, Gerry and Liese, strolled over to one of the nearby campers and asked whether anyone wanted to play cards. The campsite neighbors later said that they had quickly developed a friendly relationship with the trio. Böhnhardt bought an inflatable boat with an outboard motor, Mundlos went windsurfing with one of the neighbors and Zschäpe spent a lot of time sunbathing. Life was peaceful in that summer of 2007.

They didn't discuss politics. None of the other campers had any idea that the three were leading a double life, that they had been on the run for almost 10 years, and that at least two of them were under the delusion that it was up to them to save the German people. Böhnhardt and Mundlos believed that enemies were lurking around every corner: in politics, in the media and -- naturally -- among leftists. They also thought they had enemies among ordinary Turkish greengrocers and owners of döner kebab stands.

They began running from the authorities in January 1998, when police found a pipe bomb, among other incriminating items, in a garage that Zschäpe had rented in the eastern city of Jena. Their lives as fugitives came to an end in November 2011, with the deaths of Böhnhardt and Mundlos in a camper in the eastern city of Eisenach. Thirteen years and nine months had passed in the interim.

What happened during that time? What was life like for the three fugitives? Was Zschäpe the lover of the two murderers, or was she their housekeeper? Or were the three merely a group of people that fate had thrown together, who could no longer find their way back to normal life?

Coming Clean

Zschäpe, now imprisoned in Cologne, is saying nothing. But Max B., Holger G. and Carsten S., former associates who helped the group hide from the police -- and without whom the trio could not have committed murders -- are now willing to come clean. SPIEGEL has gained access to thousands of pages from investigative files, including statements by neighbors and vacation acquaintances, as well as evidence found in the rubble of their last hiding place in Zwickau. All of this yields a picture of three people who, near the end of their years on the run, were leading a surprisingly open life. At the same time, the reconstruction of this period of almost 14 years shows how close the authorities came to finding them at times -- and yet never did.

The three met in the early 1990s in Jena. Zschäpe and Mundlos were a couple at the time. Later, after the relationship had ended, she became romantically involved with Böhnhardt. The three couldn't have been more different. Mundlos was the smartest member of the group. His father had taught computer science at the Jena University of Applied Sciences since German reunification. After finishing the 10th grade, Mundlos completed a training program in data processing at Carl Zeiss, a famous Jena company that makes optical systems. Then he performed his compulsory military service and went back to college to obtain his Abitur, the German high-school diploma that is a requirement for university. Three months before the final examinations, however, he disappeared with Böhnhardt and Zschäpe. He was 24 at the time, and the oldest member of the trio.

Böhnhardt, the son of a teacher and an engineer, had dropped out of school, and he had multiple convictions on charges of theft, assault and extortion -- a repeat offender, in other words. He said little, saw himself as a man of action and worked in construction. In 1997, he was about to be sentenced to a prison term of two years and three months for various offences, including an episode in which he hung a mannequin decorated with a Star of David from a highway overpass. Böhnhardt, 20, had a strong incentive to disappear.

Only Zschäpe came from a difficult background. After she had given herself up to police on Nov. 11, 2011, she told the officers that the two Uwes had had a sheltered upbringing compared to her childhood. For that reason, she said, it was "inexplicable" to her as to why the two had "developed in that fashion." Zschäpe referred to herself as a "grandma's child." Mundlos and Böhnhardt became her substitute family. She was 23 when the three went into hiding.

Although the trio is often described as having gone "on the run," it is perhaps not the right expression. After all, Zschäpe, Böhnhardt and Mundlos didn't have to go far to remain undetected. According to the investigators' reconstruction of their lives underground, they lived in at least seven different apartments in the cities of Chemnitz and Zwickau in eastern Germany. And the longer they lived underground under assumed names, the safer they felt. For instance, they went on vacation more frequently than was previously thought. They went to the Baltic Sea island of Usedom in 2000, and to the northern German cities of Flensburg and Lübeck in 2002 and 2004, respectively.

Just 100 Kilometers Away

Their disappearance in January 1998 took them from Jena to Chemnitz, 100 kilometers (60 miles) to the east, where they stayed with a friend for the first few weeks. After that, an acquaintance from the local neo-Nazi scene offered them the apartment of her boyfriend, Max B., a tall, broad-shouldered man with the powerful hands of a stonemason. He had become part of the Chemnitz skinhead scene with the help of classmates in the vocational school he attended.

His small apartment in an old, three-story building wasn't far from downtown Chemnitz. At first, Mundlos, Böhnhardt and Zschäpe lived there alone, while Max B. stayed at his girlfriend's apartment. The trio had brought along a computer and a printer, which they set up in the bedroom. When Max B. and his girlfriend broke up a short time later and B. returned to his apartment, he moved into the bedroom, while the trio occupied the living room.

Max B. didn't feel entirely at ease with his guests. They told him about a fake bomb that they had supposedly deposited in Jena. Once he saw the butt of a pistol sticking out of a bag. He would have preferred to get rid of the three as quickly as possible, he later told police, but they didn't want to leave.

Instead, B. accepted the situation. He and Mundlos used to play "Panzer General" ("Tank General") on Mundlos's computer, a strategy game that simulates World War II battles. In his later interrogation, he referred to Mundlos as "Uwe the intellectual." He described Böhnhardt, on the other hand, as "authoritarian" and said that Böhnhardt would dominate Mundlos in conversations.

It was a tense time. Once, when a police officer turned up in front of the building, Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt jumped behind the door. Mundlos told Max B. in a whisper that he should watch the policeman to see if he went away, "otherwise we'll go up on the roof."

Habitual Liars

People on the run are habitual liars. They live in a state of panic, constantly fearing that the truth about them could be discovered at any moment. Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt had been wanted by the police since January 1998, and they had almost no money. Because of their circumstances, they hit upon an idea that would have serious consequences for Max B. He and Mundlos were roughly the same height, had about the same build and even similar faces.

Mundlos had passport photos taken of himself and went to a registration office with B.'s identity card and birth certificate. On Sept. 7, 1998, the Chemnitz city government issued a passport that contained the personal data for Max B. and a photo of Mundlos. According to the passport, its holder was 1.82 meters (6 feet) tall and had brown eyes. There was now a second "Max B.," in the shape of Mundlos.

Duplicating someone's identity is a clever method for someone who wants to disappear but doesn't want to assume the risks associated with a completely forged passport. It's also cheaper. And all the person with the duplicate identity has to do is to ensure that the "original" doesn't do anything stupid.

During this period, Mundlos was spending a lot of time in front of the computer in the bedroom, writing articles for skinhead magazines and designing layouts -- his intellectual contribution to furthering the neo-Nazi cause. But whenever he flipped through right-wing extremist fanzines, he only saw reviews of concerts and references to drinking, rather than the militant propaganda he would have preferred. He was irritated by the apathy he saw.

Running Out of Cash

In October 1998, an article titled "Thoughts on the Movement" appeared on page 26 of White Supremacy, a German skinhead magazine. The author was anonymous, but it was probably written by Mundlos. It was the first piece he had written from the underground, a lament on the lack of discipline among fellow extremists. In it, he chastised them for making "pleasure" the focus of their lives rather than the "struggle." He also criticized neo-Nazis for the hypocrisy of pushing anti-drug messages while at the same time indulging in heavy drinking, writing that they "wouldn't survive a single day without alcohol." Mundlos used the word "Kampf" ("struggle" or "fight") eight times. "Those who are not willing to actively participate in the struggle," he wrote, are merely supporting everything "that is directed against our people, our country and our movement."

Mundlos didn't see himself as an ordinary neo-Nazi, but rather someone who had a goal and was determined to fight for it. Together with Böhnhardt and Zschäpe, he developed a board game they called "Pogromly," a Nazi version of Monopoly that they hoped to sell to fellow radical right-wingers.

The trio was low on funds. They accepted donations at right-wing concerts, which were sometimes even organized as benefits for the three fugitives. In January 1999, Ralf Wohlleben, then an official with the far right National Democratic of Germany (NPD), told an associate that something had to "happen as soon as possible," because the trio urgently needed money.

At the same time, they were also becoming more demanding. According to investigators, they asked their associates for documents, money, weapons and, in 2000, even motorcycles. But it was more than their helpers could provide. Mundlos, Böhnhardt and Zschäpe gradually came to the realization that if they wanted to live underground, they would have to take matters into their own hands.

Leading a Quiet Life

They moved out of Max B.'s apartment and, between September 1998 and April 1999, lived in an apartment in Chemnitz, using an assumed name for the lease. After that, they moved to the southwestern outskirts of the city, to a development of communist-era prefabricated apartment blocks that had been built shortly before the Berlin Wall came down. It was a quiet neighborhood where new arrivals could remain relatively anonymous and inconspicuous. They found an apartment on the second floor of a six-story apartment building near a small patch of woods.

The lease for the two-room apartment at Wolgograder Allee 76 took effect on April 16, 1999, and it was made out in the name of André E. The monthly rent for the apartment -- which was just 39 square meters (420 square feet) in size, plus a small balcony -- amounted to 416.40 deutsche marks (€212.90).

That autumn, Mundlos and Böhnhardt took a radical approach to solving their money problems, robbing two post offices in Chemnitz. They came away with 69,000 deutsche marks.

It wasn't long before the police showed up at their door, but not because of the robberies. Neighbors had complained about the loud noise coming from the apartment, telling police that they had heard people bellowing Nazi songs. One neighbor complained about cigarette butts that had been thrown onto her balcony, burning holes into the plastic outdoor carpet. It remains unclear whether the noise was actually coming from the apartment where the trio lived.

Apparently Mundlos, Böhnhardt and Zschäpe felt relatively safe during this time, and their sense of security prompted them to discuss expanding their activities beyond bank robberies. Holger G., who is currently in pretrial detention on charges of providing support to the trio, told investigators that around the year 2000 there were several heated debates involving him, Wohlleben and the three fugitives, and that they discussed the possibility of arming themselves "to do more." According to G., the debates led to a split, with Wohlleben and G. favoring caution. Böhnhardt, Mundlos and Zschäpe, however, opted for a more radical approach.

The Killing Spree Begins

On Sept. 9, 2000, a 38-year-old Turkish flower vendor was killed in Nuremberg with eight bullets from two different weapons. It was the first murder in a series that would baffle the police and the public for years to come.

Böhnhardt and Mundlos documented the pathological sense of pride they derived from their actions, and from the fact that they weren't caught. On March 9, 2001, at approximately 11 p.m., they saved the first version of a video attributed to a group calling itself the "National Socialist Underground" (NSU) onto their computer. The film lasted two minutes and 16 seconds. It related to the Nuremberg murder and to the bombing of an Iranian grocery store in Cologne. The NSU logo, with the three interconnected letters, appeared for the first time in the video. It also featured the song "Kraft für Deutschland," or "Strength for Germany," by the neo-Nazi band Noie Werte, who declare war on the "bourgeoisie and capital" and yell: "We will always hate those who call themselves our enemies, and we will fight them until they leave our country."

Mundlos and Böhnhardt went to great lengths to prepare for their subsequent attacks. They reconnoitered their victims' surroundings, drew sketches and photocopied city maps. They entered their information and observations into tables. In one case, they described the surroundings of a snack bar in Nuremberg as follows: "Problem: gas station next door. Turk at gas station comes over to talk whenever he can." They compiled lists of police radio frequencies and addresses. The investigators later found databases containing up to 5,300 addresses on a USB stick, including the addresses of politicians, Jewish and Turkish cultural facilities, hostels for asylum seekers and military sites.

Between September 2000 and August 2001, the neo-Nazi terrorist cell murdered four immigrants, and the trio produced a second video in the fall of 2001. The song "Am Puls der Zeit" ("On the Pulse of the Times") by Noie Werte, which was used in the video, contains the words: "The resistance is ready." The video related to four murders and an attack. It was more than five minutes long, twice as long as the first video, and it included photos of three victims as they lay dying.

By now Böhnhardt also had a new passport, another duplicated identity. He and Mundlos had convinced Holger G. to grow a moustache, put on glasses and take photos of himself to the passport office.

Good Connections

The trio used the money from the bank robberies to move from the small flat in Chemnitz to a four-room apartment on Heisenbergstrasse in Zwickau. After a few months, they moved again to a 77-square-meter, ground-floor apartment at Polenzstrasse 2, also in Zwickau, which came with a cellar and attic space. The four-story building dated from the late 19th century, and the entrance to the flat was in the rear.

Through their friend André E., the three met Matthias D., a truck driver, and used his name for the lease. D. was already looking for a room in Zwickau where he could rest after working the night shift. From then on, he contributed €50 to €70 ($65 to $91) a month to the rent, with the trio paying the rest, according to what D. later told investigators. He claimed that he was completely unaware of the true identities of the three people with whom he occasionally shared the apartment.

Mundlos obtained a membership at a video and computer-game rental store. He came to the store "once in a while," says the owner, adding: "I believe he called himself Andreas." Zschäpe, using the name "Lisa Mohl," also became a member, and sold the store a copy of the video game "Alfred Hitchcock - The Final Cut" for €5.

The trio made an important connection at the video store: Hermann S., an employee, who helped the terrorists buy additional weapons, or at least that was what they told their confidants. Sources talk of a pump-action shotgun, and say that Mundlos and Böhnhardt were very excited about the weapon. Mundlos apparently bragged that he now knew where to get hold of weapons. Today, the men from the video store deny any involvement.

Böhnhardt and Mundlos also discovered other sources for weapons. On one occasion, Holger G. took a train to Zwickau with a cloth bag in his luggage, as G. would later tell investigators. According to G., he was acting as a courier on Wohlleben's instructions. Zschäpe picked up G. at the train station in Zwickau, and they walked to the apartment on Polenzstrasse together. Once they were inside, Böhnhardt and Mundlos opened the bag and pulled out a weapon, and one of the two proceeded to load it.

G. says today that he never wanted to have anything to do with weapons. He is currently in pretrial detention, and his case, together with 10 others, is being kept separate from the investigations against Zschäpe and André E. The federal prosecutor's office wants to be able to file separate charges against the 13 defendants.

Ideological Message

In 2002, the trio, in their hiding place on Polenzstrasse, continued to work on the theoretical justification of their acts of violence and what they considered to be their own importance. In March, they saved a document with the file name "NSU Brief.cdr" ("NSU letter"). It's the only known document to date in which the neo-Nazi terrorists attempted to create something resembling an ideological message. "The National Socialist Underground embodies the new political strength in the struggle for the freedom of the German nation," the document reads.

According to the document, the NSU's goal is to "energetically fight the enemies of the German people" and to support its comrades in the far-right scene. It notes that there is no turning back for those who live by the motto "victory or death," and that "enough words have been spoken; now they can only be reinforced with actions." But like the two videos produced until then, this document was apparently never published. Instead, the NSU remained a terrorist cell that never claimed responsibility for its actions. It was a strange form of terror -- the silent cell.

Böhnhardt and Mundlos committed robberies, murdered and built bombs without anyone ever suspecting that they were behind the crimes. They were outlaws, and yet no one had any reason to track them down.

In 2005, Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt went to see Holger G., who had lent his identity to Böhnhardt, at his apartment in the northern city of Hanover. G. would later tell investigators that he had told the trio that he was no longer involved in the neo-Nazi community. "They didn't make me feel as if I were a traitor," G. told the authorities. In retrospect, he added, it had seemed to him as if they had wanted to make sure that there were no problems with the identity Böhnhardt had borrowed. On another occasion, they asked him if he could give them his driver's license.

Mundlos and Böhnhardt also paid a visit to Max B., whose identity Mundlos had copied. They asked him whether he needed money, of which they had enough by then. They sat outside with B. for two or three hours and then left.

Living an Inconspicuous Life

Aside from the murders and bank robberies, the trio lived an inconspicuous life. When there was a leak in the ceiling of the Polenzstrasse apartment in the summer of 2006, because of a problem with the bathtub in the apartment above, they bought metal bathroom furniture. A neighbor remembers that Zschäpe's rent was reduced because of the problem.

Zschäpe, who went by the name of "Lisa," was a reliable tenant who cleaned the stairwell when it was her turn. She advertised a reward when her cat disappeared. Böhnhardt and Mundlos spent several hours a day playing violent computer games. The volume was turned up so high that a neighbor in the apartment above them constantly heard what she called "banging" noises, as she would later tell investigators. Instead of turning down the volume, they spent €2,000 on sound insulation. "We didn't hear anything after that," says the neighbor.

But she also became an involuntary witness to a conversation between Böhnhardt and Mundlos as they were taking their bicycles down to the basement. The two men were discussing weapons they wanted to use "to shoot people." This prompted the neighbor to ask Zschäpe whether the men actually kept weapons in the apartment. Zschäpe said that they did, but that they had permits and were members of a gun club.

In the summer of 2006, Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt drove a Skoda station wagon, with two bicycles on the roof, to Grömitz, a beach town on the Baltic Sea. They stored the photos from their vacation on their computer in a file called "Vacation 2006." In one snapshot, Zschäpe is putting a shoe on as she sits on the passenger seat. In another, the three vacationers are strolling through the pedestrian zone in Grömitz, wearing T-shirts and three-quarter pants.

Testimony under a False Name

There was another leak in the ceiling that winter, but this time the circumstances posed a threat to their own safety. It turned out that the apartment above them had been burglarized, and that the intruders had opened faucets to obscure their tracks. The Zwickau police suspected that a young neighbor was involved in the break-in. The case was assigned to an officer in the city's youth crime division.

What Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt couldn't have known was that while the water leakage episode was unfolding, agents with the Saxony State Office for the Protection of the Constitution (the state-level branch of Germany's domestic intelligence service), had André E., a neo-Nazi, under surveillance only 4 kilometers away. The authorities believed that E. and his twin brother Maik held "prominent positions" within the right-wing extremist community.

The authorities had become aware of the men when they were members of a group called the "White Brotherhood of the Erzgebirge" (Ore Mountains). They feared that André E. was planning to establish a new Kameradschaft, a small militant neo-Nazi group. He had a tattoo on his stomach of two World War II German army pistols on both sides of a cracked skull, accompanied by the words, in English: "Die Jew Die." The state intelligence agents did not investigate potential connections between André E. and the trio.

Close to Blowing Her Cover

In early January 2007, an officer with the youth crime division showed up at Polenzstrasse 2 to interview Zschäpe as a witness. She told the police that her name was Susann E., and that she was the wife of André E. She also said that she didn't want to make a statement, and that she hadn't turned up at an earlier questioning session. Instead, she went to police headquarters with André E. on Jan. 11, at 6:30 a.m. There are many indications that the man was the real André E.

Zschäpe, aka Susann E., told the officer who was questioning her that the apartment wasn't hers, but that the lease was in the name of a friend who worked as a long-distance truck driver. She said that she and her husband took care of his cats. Nevertheless, Zschäpe referred to the apartment as "home" and said that "we" had bought bathroom furniture. But the agents didn't notice the contradictions, and the examination ended at 7:15 a.m. Zschäpe left the office with her supposed husband, the same man the authorities had had under surveillance only recently.

Zschäpe couldn't have known that André E. was being watched, but she must have realized that testifying under a false name is risky. She hardly resembles the real Susann E., and investigators later discovered that her signature on the witness report was not the same as that of the real Susann E.

Although Zschäpe had only barely escaped blowing her cover, Mundlos and Böhnhardt robbed a savings bank in Stralsund on the Baltic Sea for the second time a week later. They came away with close to €200,000, which would have been enough to allow them to do nothing for a while -- but things would not turn out the way they had expected. On April 25, 2007, Michèle Kiesewetter, a police officer in the southwestern city of Heilbronn, was murdered with a shot to the head, and her partner was severely wounded.

The Murders Stop

Böhnhardt and Mundlos took the two officers' service weapons and three magazines and, driving a rented camper, managed to slip through the police cordon. At about 2:30 p.m., 30 minutes after the murder, a police patrol wrote down the license plate number of the camper at a checkpoint. But no one followed up on the information.

Something odd happened after the murder of the police officer. The cell suspended its activities and the series of brutal killings stopped. Four-and-a-half years passed until the next bank robbery was committed. What happened during the course of 2007?

Did the members of the NSU have a falling out? Did Zschäpe reproach the two men for having shot and killed a policewoman, someone who not only looked like Zschäpe, but whose social background was also similar? Or were they merely keeping a low profile because of the increased pressure being applied by the authorities?

The only person who could provide an answer to these questions, Beate Zschäpe, is in a prison cell in Cologne -- and is saying nothing.

Vacations on Fehmarn

The authorities now know that Mundlos, Böhnhardt and Zschäpe spent a vacation on the Baltic Sea in the summer of 2007. The campsite on the island of Fehmarn, where they would spend their vacations for the next few years, is on a bay in the southeastern part of the island. The area features a diving school, a golf course, a surfing school, a children's theater, a cosmetics shop, pizza and T-shirt workshops and a beachfront dance club. In the summer, the population expands to the size of a village. The guests from Zwickau rented a Hobby camper, white on the outside and furnished with brown cabinets on the inside, complete with TV, stove and coffeemaker.

The camper was only a few steps from the beach. They could hear the waves from their beds.

But Mundlos, Böhnhardt and Zschäpe remained cautious at the campsite, combining lies with half-truths when the neighbors asked them what they did for a living and where they were from. Mundlos said that he worked in a computer shop, and that his father was a professor. Böhnhardt said that he delivered packages for his father's company, and that he only had vacation once a year, which was why they would always travel for several weeks at a time. Böhnhardt seemed introverted, almost secretive. Zschäpe also said little about herself.

She managed the vacation funds, and her wallet was always full. She always paid in cash. Sometimes she played with the children running around the campsite, telling them about Heidi and Lilly, her cats, one with black-and-white spots and the other with gray stripes. She said that a friend was taking care of her cats while she was away.

Always in a Good Mood

Of the three, Mundlos, who went by the name of Max, seemed to be the most likeable, according to the people they met at the campsite. They describe him as approachable and extremely athletic, with a washboard stomach, someone who liked to surf, jog and go on bike rides. Mundlos knew his way around computers and was quick to help neighbors when they had problems with their email accounts. According to one of the campsite neighbors, he seemed childish, intelligent and was always in a good mood.

Their new acquaintances at the beach thought the trio seemed cheerful, although they did notice a few peculiarities. For example, Böhnhardt had brought along night-vision goggles, and he also had a tattoo of a skull wearing a steel helmet. And although the three would invite the neighbors to their tent for afternoon board-game sessions, they forbade the children from going inside the camper.

Back in Zwickau, the three neo-Nazis decided to move to an even bigger apartment, although investigators now assume that they probably didn't live together for the entire time. One of the three, probably Mundlos, may have lived alone for a while. The investigators believe that Zschäpe had alternating romantic relationships with the two Uwes.

The trio found an apartment on Frühlingsstrasse, in a quieter section of Zwickau with many single-family homes. There were two empty apartments on the second floor of the building at Frühlingsstrasse 26.

The trio rented both apartments, with a combined floor space of 120 square meters. Once again, Matthias D. signed the lease as the main tenant. Mundlos and Böhnhardt, who was complaining about back pain, had a wall removed, installed soundproofing, replaced the entry door and had a steel door installed in the basement. After moving into the apartments in the spring of 2008, they gradually expanded the space into a fortress-like environment. They installed motion detectors in front of the entry door and the basement door. They placed a surveillance camera aimed at the front door of the building in a flower pot in front of their kitchen window, and installed two other cameras in the apartment, with which they could record images.

Complaints to the Landlord

The apartment now had an "official" section, where they met with guests, and a "secret" section, the entrance to which was hidden behind a wardrobe. The secret section contained, among other things, an exercise room with a bench and a chin-up bar, as well as a computer workstation. A weapon was kept in a hall closet. The police would later find tools in the basement that could be used to repair weapons, food supplies, expensive Cannondale bikes, ammunition and large amounts of gunpowder. They also found an elongated, homemade wooden box with soundproofing and a space to accommodate a long gun with a shortened stock -- presumably for their 9-mm Rhöner single-shot rifle. An opening in the box made it possible for the marksman to fire the gun even while it was enclosed in the case.

Zschäpe introduced herself to the neighbors on Frühlingsstrasse using another assumed name, and told them that she was living with her boyfriend and his brother. But the three terrorists were never truly content in the apartment. Böhnhardt was constantly complaining to the landlord, on the phone and in writing. He complained about the odors coming from the Greek restaurant on the ground floor, cracks in the grout between tiles and the fact that the water didn't get hot enough. A pipe burst in the winter, and the apartment became clammy and cold, so much so that they had to use a space heater.

By now, Mundlos had been using Max B.'s identity for more than 10 years, and he maintained the connection to the real Max B. On one occasion, he and Böhnhardt visited B. and congratulated him on his two sons, giving him two piggy banks for the children that each contained €100. Another time, they sent the children a stuffed crocodile from a fake address on "Panzergeneral Strasse" in Chemnitz – an allusion to the computer game they used to play with Max. B.

No Going Back

In May 2011, they went to see Holger G. in the town of Lauenau, west of Hanover, and asked him to get them a second passport for Böhnhardt, because the first one was about to expire.

G. hesitated, but Mundlos and Böhnhardt told him that there was no going back, that it was too late to back down. Böhnhardt gave G. a haircut, and G. had photos taken of himself and applied for a passport. Then the trio left again, returning to their parallel world.

A neighbor would later tell the police that Zschäpe was often alone in the apartment on Frühlingsstrasse. Zschäpe had told her that the two men were involved in transporting cars. The neighbor also said that Zschäpe received regular visits from a female friend and her two children -- presumably the real Susann E.

Shortly after the 2011 summer vacation on Fehmarn, Böhnhardt and Mundlos robbed a savings bank in Arnstadt, not far from Jena. They stole €15,000, which apparently wasn't enough. On Nov. 4, they robbed another savings bank, this time in Eisenach.

It would be their last robbery. The police discovered the camper during the ensuing manhunt. When they went inside, Mundlos had already shot Böhnhardt and himself.


Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

The Trail of Hate:,1518,817215,00.html
Interactive graphic on NSU murder gang:,,27425,00.html

FRANCE | Top Socialist attacked by far-right thugs

Wednesday, 29 February 2012, 15:42 | Source: |

A top figure in the Socialist party and his journalist partner have been attacked by a crowd shouting anti-Jewish slogans and chanting support for the far-right National Front. Arnaud Montebourg and Audrey Pulvar, a prominent broadcaster, said a group of about 15 men surrounded them as they left a restaurant late on Tuesday night and shouted “Le Pen for president”, referring to far-right leader Marine Le Pen. They also shouted “France for the French” and “Juden, Juden, Juden” (which means Jews in German) before throwing glasses at the couple as they left the restaurant in Paris’ chic 16th district, Pulvar said in Twitter messages.

The incident came just days after Pulvar gave Le Pen a grilling in a weekend television show about her alleged association with European nazi groups. “This shows that there is a climate within Mrs Le Pen's (National Front) where racist speech is made freely,” Pulvar told AFP. Le Pen, who opinion polls put in third place in the presidential vote in April and May, said “obviously I condemn this type of aggression.” But she added: “You cannot consider, before the police have done their work, that these people are people from the National Front.”

François Hollande, the Socialists’ presidential candidate, condemned the attack on Pulvar and Montebourg, who stood against him in a party primary last year to pick a contender for the presidential vote. “It is unacceptable to attack a person for his ideas and to do it in a cowardly manner with shouts, insults, with glasses thrown and with remarks that border on anti-Semitism and racism,” he said.

An opinion poll published on Tuesday by IFOP said Hollande would take 28.5 percent of the vote in the first round, against 27 percent for President Nicolas Sarkozy. Le Pen would come in third place in the first round with 17 percent, the poll said.

France will vote in the first round of the presidential election on 22 April, followed by a second-round run-off on 6 May.

SERBIA | Arkan’s fascists on trial for crimes against Roma

Wednesday, 29 February 2012, 10:28 | Source: Balkan Insight |

Belgrade’s Special Court held a preliminary hearing last Wednesday for the trial of Serbian former paramilitaries charged with war crimes against Roma in July 1992 According to the indictment, the leader of the group, Simo Bogdanovic, also known as Sima Chetnik, and seven other members of the paramilitary unit Arkan’s Tigers, committed war crimes against 23 Roma civilians in the villages near the town of Zvornik, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in July 1992.

The Serbian Prosecution Office for War Crimes filed charges against Simo Bogdanovic, Damir Bogdanovic, Zoran Stojanovic, Tomislav Gavric, Djordje Sevic and Zoran Alic in April 2010, while Zoran Djurdjevic and Dragana Djekic were indicted in December 2011. Bogdanovic’s group allegedly killed at least 22 civilians and threw their bodies into a pit near the town of Zvornik, and raped and sexually maltreated three women, two of them underage. Women were raped daily and over a long period of time.

The accused are also charged with the destruction of important historical and cultural heritage sites. According to the indictment, they blew up a mosque in the village of Skocic by setting the explosives under its foundations. The Serbian Prosecution Office is running four separate cases related to the events in Zvornik, since the town was the site of some of the most brutal crimes during the Bosnian war. Zvornik, a city on the river Drina close to the border with Serbia, was occupied in May 1992 when the Arkan Tigers, a Serb paramilitary unit backed by the Yugoslav People’s Army, JNA, entered and expelled most of the non-Serb population and killed more than 1,000 people. The leader of the Arkan’s Tigers, Zeljko Raznatovic, known as Arkan, was killed in Belgrade in 2000. His unit was created under the control of the state security in Serbia, but it acted independently during the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo.

CZECH REPUBLIC | Interior Ministry: Ultra-right activities

Wednesday, 29 February 2012, 10:27 | Source: ROMEA |

The Czech Interior Ministry has noqw released its fourth-quarter report on extremism in the Czech Republic for 2011, which describes the activity of the Czech ultra-right scene as in decline. Anti-Romani crusades are currently in fashion with members of the scene, however, who are also focusing on the ongoing criminal prosecutions of their ideological co-thinkers, which they compare to a “witch-hunt”. The report says the ultra-right scene is also continuing to grapple with its own continuing decentralization and fragmentation.

The report states that even though the situation in the north of Bohemia had significantly calmed down by the fourth quarter of 2011, the right-wing extremist scene took particular advantage of any anti-Roma demonstrations there to shore up its position. The report also says that expressing disagreement with the imprisonment of their fellow members has become a central interest of the ultra-right movements, who often refer to those in prison as “martyrs” whom “the system” is doing its best to silence for voicing what they view as justified opposition.

The report found that extremist movement activity declined during October and November and was marginal in December 2011. One of the factors reportedly responsible were disputes inside the Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS). The analysis says the DSSS is continuing to play the role of a political, representative entity for right-wing extremist movements and mentions the party’s strategic effort to organize regionally. The party is reportedly doing its best to create party branches that will prosper in the long run at local, regional and state level and is particularly responding to the upcoming municipal elections. By creating structures similar to mainstream political parties, the DSSS hopes to win over voters who are not right-wing extremists. The party’s repeated public statements distancing itself from descriptions of it as extremist or nazi also play a role in those efforts.The analysis also reports that local National Resistance (Národní odpor - NO) cells are being incorporated into DSSS structures. NO elements are said to be frequently serving as the basis for the new local DSSS organizations.

Even though the various local organizations did join forces to demonstrate “against political trials” on 17 November 2011 in Prague, there is a significant ongoing rivalry between some of them due to the local leaders’ different ideologies and personalities. The report also describes the new directions in which the Czech right-wing extremist scene is heading: “Efforts at an innovative approach to the ideology, or rather, the application of new directions to it continue to be evident. Among the adherents of autonomous nationalism (the Autonomous Nationalists, the Free Youth - Svobodná mládež) in particular, a preference is growing for alternative streams of the extreme left that reflect on the current economic situation and emphasize the social environment. Paradoxically, this is leading to the promotion of Strasserism, nationalism through a social class understanding, and criticism of globalization and the political-financial system, a position that is rather close to ultra-left entities. Support for the independence of Palestine is a similar example, as it is based in these groups’ original principle of antisemitism.”

SPAIN | Franco-era crime probe judge acquitted

Wednesday, 29 February 2012, 10:27 | Source: dpa |

Spanish former judge Baltasar Garzon has been acquitted of professional misconduct in trying to investigate the crimes of fascist dictator General Francisco Franco. Garzon was put on trial after trying to launch Spain’s first judicial inquiry into the crimes of Franco, whom he held responsible for the unlawful killings of more than 100,000 opponents during the 1936-39 Civil War and his subsequent rule which lasted until 1975. Far-right groups sued Garzon, arguing he had overstepped his authority and ignored a 1977 amnesty granted for Civil War-era crimes. The Supreme Court acquitted Garzon with six votes to one. The former judge committed an “error” in trying to retroactively apply to the Franco-era human rights legislation which was not in force at the time, but he was not guilty of deliberate misconduct, the court said. However, Garzon has already been disbarred in another trial, in which he was found guilty of illegally wiretapping conversations between suspects and their lawyers in a corruption case.

The Supreme Court had now acquitted the judge in the Franco trial after his opponents had first “got him out of the way” in the other trial, left-wing leader Cayo Lara said. The Supreme Court was aware that a guilty verdict in the Franco trial would have shocked public opinion at home and abroad, so it used the wiretapping trial to suspend Garzon, the former judge’s supporters say. On 9 February, Garzon was disbarred for 11 years, a decision that spelled the end of the 56-year-old judge’s career. The court subsequently shelved a separate inquiry into an alleged bribery case involving the former judge.

Garzon is known internationally for his human rights investigations, including a failed attempt to extradite former Chilean ruler Augusto Pinochet in 1998. In 2008, he tried to launch Spain's first judicial inquiry into the crimes of Franco and his collaborators, but was forced to drop it under pressure from some legal experts and conservative politicians.

At the trial, Garzon argued that the inquiry had represented hope for tens of thousands of people whose family members were still buried in Franco’s mass graves. Relatives of Franco’s victims used the trial to air their grievances, describing their vain attempts to locate the remains of their loved ones. Franco had a systematic plan to eliminate leftists who had fought against him in the Civil War, Garzon and witnesses maintained.

GERMANY | German FA condemns antisemitic incident

Wednesday, 29 February 2012, 10:26 | Source: AP |

The German football federation has condemned an antisemitic incident involving Kaiserslautern’s Israeli striker Itay Shechter and says it will not tolerate such abuse after a small group of Kaiserslautern fans directed Hitler salutes at Shechter during Sunday’s practice. “We want to underline that the DFB (federation) will not tolerate such actions and we must act decisively to nip them in the bud,” the DFB’s designated president Wolfgang Niersbach said in a statement. “Racism and antisemitism have no place in football. We have to defend ourselves with all means available to football against (such incident),” said Niersbach, who takes over Friday from Theo Zwanziger. “And we wish that authorities will pursue the case decisively.”

The club, which is second from bottom in the Bundesliga, reported the incident to the police. Police spokesman Wolfgang Denzer said authorities were still evaluating the evidence. The club’s official fan group has apologized for the incident. The club says fewer than 10 fans were involved and belonged to a hooligan group banned from games. Kaiserslautern has urged fans to help police identify the perpetrators. On Monday, the club said it “distances itself expressly from any form of racism, discrimination or antisemitism.” Kaiserslautern spokesman Christian Grubber said the club has received more than 1,000 emails condemning the incident. The Israeli embassy in Berlin and also condemned the attack and said it was “appalled.”

Hitler salutes and other Nazi symbols are outlawed in Germany. The DFB has conducted a campaign to eliminate racism and other abuse for years and such incidents are rare at top league matches, although lower leagues remain a problem.

FRANCE | Far right rallies in defence of Syria’s Assad

Wednesday, 29 February 2012, 10:25 | Source: France 24 |

Former far-right boss Jean-Marie Le Pen has defended Syria’s Bashar al-Assad on French radio, claiming Allied forces during World War II had far more blood on their hands. French far-right leader Marine Le Pen had spent much of last week carefully deflecting journalists’ probes into her party’s stance on Syria – only to see her plain-spoken father quash her efforts when he brazenly defended Bashar al-Assad in an interview on French radio. Describing the Syrian conflict as a civil war, former National Front (FN) leader Jean-Marie Le Pen said that it was “not abnormal for the Syrian state to defend itself,” and that Bashar al-Assad should not face criticism from countries who fought Nazi Germany during World War II. His comments came just days after his daughter, presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, was grilled on the subject herself. Appearing in a live TV debate on state channel France 2, Le Pen junior managed to evade the issue by arguing that there weren’t “only bad guys or good guys” in Syria. “I just hope Bashar al-Assad won’t be replaced by Islamist fundamentalists,” she concluded, firmly dodging the question.

But her 85-year-old father had no qualms in weighing in on the issue. “Bashar al-Assad is a government leader who is facing a rebellion which is both civil and military,” he declared. “I don’t find it abnormal that the Syrian state is defending itself.” He then went on to dismiss the deaths of 6,000 people killed in the conflict, weighing the casualty count against that of Allied operations during World War II. “Yes, there is shelling every minute, every two minutes [in Syria]… But within just 30 seconds in Tokyo, 100,000 civilians were killed. In Nagasaki, Hiroshima, 80,000 were killed. In Dresden, 200,000. The people who carried out these bombings on civilians should keep quiet about Mr Assad and his 6,000 deaths over six months.” Adding insult to injury, Le Pen also read out a poem by French Nazi sympathizer Robert Brasillach.

“Jean-Marie Le Pen’s comments may have upset the French electorate on the whole,” said Sylvain Crépon, a specialist of the French far right, in an interview with FRANCE 24. “But established FN supporters probably agree with what he had to say. Since the 1990s the FN has been defending Arab regimes, right from Saddam Hussein…She cannot cut ties with Assad and the Syrian regime because there is a very powerful radical movement within the FN that is pro-Arab purely because it is anti-Zionist,” Crépon said.

GERMANY | Film gives inside look at nazi music scene

Wednesday, 29 February 2012, 10:24 | Source: Reuters |

A new documentary is shining light on Germany’s nazi music scene and the role it plays in cultivating a violent far-right subculture.

The film Blut muss Fliessen (Blood Must Flow) looks at the nazi music scene in Germany, as well as in Austria, Italy and Hungary. The documentary, which takes its name from a song adopted by Nazi storm-troopers, features footage from neo-Nazi parties and concerts taken by an undercover reporter. It is a timely topic: Last week, German authorities slapped hate-crimes charges on a nazi musician behind the 2010 CD Adolf Hitler Lives. Singer Daniel Giese of the band Gigi the Brown City Musicians and the record’s producer were charged in connection with hate-filled lyrics claiming that no Jews died in Auschwitz and celebrating a spate of killings - known in Germany as the “kebab murders” – targeting small businessmen of Turkish origin. The killings were the focus of a national day of mourning on February 23, with a Berlin ceremony featuring an address by Chancellor Angela Merkel and a nationwide moment of silence. The murder spree, which took place between 2000 and 2007, claimed the lives of eight Turks, a Greek man and a policewoman. In November, German authorities discovered that the murders were carried out by members of an extreme right-wing group called the National Socialist Underground.

Many observers see a strong connection between nazi music and far-right violence in general. In its latest annual report, the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution called the far-right music scene an essential tool to bring in new recruits. “The authorities really have to keep an eye on that scene,” said Peter Ohlendorf, the filmmaker behind the documentary, which had its world premiere here last week at the Berlin international Film Festival. “This kind of music is what we call an entry drug.”

The film’s undercover video was provided by a German reporter who goes by the pseudonym Thomas Kuban. Using a camera hidden in his shirt buttonhole, Kuban infiltrated nazi gatherings and gave his footage to news media. In a few cases, arrests were made as a result. Much of the footage shows sweaty skinheads branded with swastika tattoos lounging around amid swirling smoke with sloshing beers. Skinheads are seen raising their arms in the banned Hitler salute and chanting, “Sharpen the long knives on the sidewalk, slide the knife into the Jewish body. Blood must flow ... We s--- on the freedom of this Jew republic.” At a nazi shop in Wismar, in the former East German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Kuban peruses CDs for sale by music groups with names such as Kristallnacht and Alcoholocaust. The music is far from harmless, both Kuban and Ohlendorf stressed following the film’s premiere in Berlin. Kuban came to the screening wearing his signature yellow blazer, blond wig and glasses - a necessary disguise, he said, given the death threats he receives. The nazi music scene cannot be dismissed as just a subculture, said Ulli Jensch of the Berlin-based Anti-fascist Press Archive. “Its protagonists … work in national and international networks,” Jensch said. “They nurture contacts with those who share their views, and they earn money - for themselves and the nazi movement.”

News about far-right concerts, most of which take place in what was formerly East Germany, often spreads via text messages. Kuban himself had to pass several checkpoints before actually receiving a ticket to a concert. At the first checkpoint he was given the once-over and sent to the next station. He pretended to be paranoid about being followed by cops. But according to the documentary, the authorities hardly ever seem to be much of a problem. At one party, Austrian police chat with nazis and leave before the illegal music begins.

In the former East German town of Mucka, in Saxony, a local politician from the extreme-right National Democratic Party is seen hobnobbing with partygoers. Later the club owner apologizes to disappointed skinheads that because of complaints about illegal music, they will have to switch to a benign form of entertainment. The next scene shows a conga line of nazis dancing to German folk-pop music. It’s a comic interlude in a sea of hate. “These are not birthday parties,” said historian Michael Kohlstruck of Berlin’s Center for Research on Anti-Semitism, who specializes in youth culture. “Terrorists come from these kinds of circles.” Kohlstruck said that such gatherings should be prevented from taking place. “There are people who cannot get out of this scene,” he said. “If there is no contact from the outside, they seal themselves off into their own world, where everything is blamed on foreigners and Jews.”

FRANCE | Le Pen suffers legal defeat in presidential bid

Wednesday, 22 February 2012, 19:53 | Source: AP |

French far right leader Marine Le Pen has lost a legal battle in her bid to run for president, with the Constitutional Court ruling that her backers’ names must be made public. This marks an indirect victory for conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is trying to sap Le Pen’s support with nationalist rhetoric in his struggle for a second term. A new survey released on Tuesday shows Sarkozy gaining ground against the poll favourite, Socialist Francois Hollande. The court decision upholds current electoral law and puts added pressure on Le Pen and her anti-immigrant party two months ahead of the ballot. Current rules say that anyone wishing to run for president must submit signatures of 500 mayors or local officials supporting the candidacy. The signatures are then made public.

Le Pen enjoys solid support in opinion polls but says she has had a hard time obtaining signatures of the public officials. Le Pen’s National Front says mayors worry that their own careers could be hurt if they support the Front’s candidates because of its extreme views, and argues the rule is unconstitutional. The Constitutional Court took up the matter, but ruled Tuesday that the public signatures are constitutional and aimed at increasing political transparency.

“This publicity does not, in and of itself, underplay the principle of pluralism of ideas,” the court ruled. It found that the rule does not violate principles of equality or secret balloting, as the National Front had argued. National Front Vice President Louis Alliot said the decision was “regrettable” and “lacked courage.” Several other politicians have also criticized the rule, saying it favours mainstream parties. Le Pen has three weeks left to finish gathering signatures before a March 16 deadline, and Le Pen said on BFM-TV Tuesday night that she has promises of 430 signatures so far. The first round of voting is April 22.Le Pen’s father, party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, predicted Tuesday that his daughter would obtain enough signatures in time.

Le Pen railed against the signature rule during his multiple runs at the presidency. Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has been convicted of racism and anti-Semitism, stunned France and much of Europe by making it into the runoff in the 2002 presidential elections. His daughter has sugarcoated his message and reached out to Jews, focusing anger instead at France’s millions of Muslims. She caused waves this week by claiming that all meat sold in the Paris region is halal, or butchered according to Islamic law — a claim Sarkozy said was grossly inaccurate during a campaign stop in France’s biggest wholesale food market Tuesday.

Sarkozy has been unpopular for most of his five-year term and is facing an electorate frustrated with economic slowdown and high unemployment. A new poll released Tuesday night showed Sarkozy with his best showing yet after announcing last week that he would run for a second term. The poll by CSA showed 28 percent of respondents would vote for Hollande in the first round and 27 percent for Sarkozy — a difference that would fall within the margin of error for a poll of this size, 1,014 people questioned by telephone on Monday. Le Pen had 17 percent. However, respondents still said they’d largely favour Hollande in a runoff with Sarkozy, by 56 percent to 44 percent.

GREECE | Far-right MPs’ move to leading party worries Greek Jews

Wednesday, 22 February 2012, 19:52 | Source: JTA |

Greek Jewish leaders are expressing concern over the move by two far-right politicians to the leading conservative party. Makis Voridis and Adonis Georgiadis resigned from the far-right Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) and will run as candidates of the New Democracy party in April's elections. New Democracy is leading in the polls. The parliamentarians, who have both expressed or associated themselves with insulting anti-Jewish views, stepped down from LAOS after backing a national austerity bill against their party’s vote.

The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece expressed Greek Jewry’s “concern and surprise” that Voridis and Georgiadis had joined the supposedly centre-right New Democrats. “We hope that the leadership of the New Democracy party, which is a leading Greek political party, will take all necessary measures so that such views remain at the margins of the Greek society, and will safeguard the equality of all citizens regardless of race or religion, as provided for by the Constitution,” the Central Board said in a statement. “Greek Jewry also believes that the same policy against racism and antisemitism, as endorsed by all democratic Greek and European parties, will continue.”

Voridis and Georgiadis served as ministers in the recent emergency government of Prime Minister Loukas Papadimos, who made clear that whoever did not support the austerity bill would have no place in the government. LAOS voted against the package of reforms that is taking aim at Greece’s severe economic problems. Voridis, 48, is a lawyer and former leader of the far-right Hellenic Front party who joined LAOS in 2005. Georgiadis, 40, is a publisher and author of books mainly related to ancient Greek history. Both were elected for the first time to parliament in the 2007 general election.

LAOS founder Giorgos Karatzaferis, a former bodybuilder, has made a number of antisemitic remarks on his television channel, Telecity. At the founding congress of his party in 2000, he said, “They say that to get ahead you have to be one of three things: a Jew, a homosexual or a communist. We are none of these. ... Vote for a parliament without Masons, without homosexuals, without those dependent on Zionism.”

SWITZERLAND | SVP in hot water over racist slogans

Wednesday, 22 February 2012, 19:51 | Source: the |

The Widen branch of the far-right Swiss People's Party (SVP) has struggled to explain why it published racist slogans on its website that initially came form from a satirical anti-SVP website. Initial reaction to the racist slogans was one of outrage. But then, causing great embarrassment to the party, it turned out that the slogans and images had actually been lifted from an anti-SVP satirical website,, a play on the popular online encyclopedia, Wikipedia.

Quite how or why these comments found their way onto the Widen website is a mystery. It is unclear whether the Widen party had appreciated the satirical nature of Stupidedia, which describes the SVP as a band of fools. “The SVP has a somewhat limited vocabulary”, the website says. “Words such as tolerance, human dignity, international agreements and helping those in need are unknown.” “I was mortally upset,” Andreas Glarus, an SVP politician told the on line news website 20 Minutes . “The images were outrageously stupid.” Glarus believes that those responsible were not thinking about what they were putting online and that they were totally naïve. He wants local party training to be given in order to prevent such an embarrassment happening again.

Items copied from the satirical website included terms such as “dirty Slavs” and “Turkish pigs”, which had originally been used to parody the racist nature of the party. The small print on the images derided the messages they purported to support. The images were later quickly removed from the SVP Widen website. “This just shows how the SVP really thinks - racist and xenophobic,” said Ivica Petrusic, Vice-President of the organisation, Secondos plus, which represents migrants’ rights in Switzerland. The President of the Federal Commission against Racism, Martine Brunschwig Graf, wants an explanation both from the local Widen branch as well as from the Swiss umbrella SVP organisation, 20 Minutes reported on Monday. “This is a perverse form of xenophobia, probably illegal and completely unacceptable,” she said.

The SVP has sparked controversy on a number of occasions, and is infamous for its campaign posters, which are considered racist and xenophobic by many.

BULGARIA | 1000 fascists march in Sofia

Sunday, 19 February 2012, 12:44 |

Around a thousand fascists joined the so-called Lukov March in Sofia on 12 February. The march, which is now staged annually, is held to honour the memory of General Hristo Lukov, a Bulgarian general and politician who led the fascist Union of Bulgarian National Legions (UBNL). A virulent antisemite and supporter of Hitler, Lukov was assassinated by Communist partisans in February 1943. The marchers also claim to commemorate Vasil Levski, Bulgaria’s undisputed national hero from the country’s struggle against the Ottoman Empire. The 12 February event was organised by the fascist Bulgarian National Union and provoked protests and criticism from a number of organizations, ranging from the European Network against Racism (ENAR) and the Bulgarian NGO HoRa ("People against Racism) to the youth organization of the Bulgarian Socialist Party. HoRa, which has accused the participants in the Lukov March of organising assaults on Roma people, LGBQT people, foreigners, and leftist activists, described the torchlit parade as shameful for Sofia, a European capital.

GERMANY | Spiegel looks at Nick Griffin’s German friends/Part 2

Sunday, 19 February 2012, 12:44 | Source: SPIEGEL | | Click here for original article

How the NPD Targets the Mainstream

In the past, Germany's far-right NPD party was associated with skinheads and violent thugs. In recent years, however, the party has been trying to appeal to mainstream voters by cultivating a respectable image and campaigning on populist issues. But the party needs its links to the neo-Nazi scene to maintain its political power.

The NPD, anxious to ensure that no one says the wrong things, is putting a great deal of emphasis on self-control at the moment. Because of the NSU's alleged killing spree uncovered in November and the public debate over what should be done about the NPD, the party is faced, once again, with the prospect of a possible ban. This makes it all the more important for the NPD to project an image of itself as a well-behaved and rational mainstream conservative party. Hence its self-portrayal as a "party that cares" about people in Germany -- provided they are ethnic Germans, of course.

In the past, the NPD used the term "National Socialism" as a provocation. But Apfel doesn't like the term anymore, characterizing it as being "burned by history." Instead, the party now prefers the slogan "respectable radicalism." It describes the attempt to camouflage (but not necessarily dispense with) the party's unpleasant associations, so that ordinary citizens can identify with it more closely. The party is putting on its mainstream façade for ordinary people by engaging in social grassroots activities, but always in the hope that the national awakening of its fellow Germans will eventually follow.

"Tutoring, children's sports, providing advice on Hartz IV (welfare benefits) – wherever we see an area where the government isn't doing enough, we move in," says Peter Marx. He speaks with the soft, singsong-like inflection of people native to the western state of Rhineland-Palatine, an accent he took with him when he moved to Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania a few years ago. Marx, the manager of the NPD's parliamentary group in the state, exploits the fact that the famous "blooming landscapes" that former Chancellor Helmut Kohl promised for eastern Germany never materialized in many places. If there were functioning civil-society structures in Western Pomeranian towns like Anklam or Ueckermünde, the right-wing extremists would be little more than an annoyance in the region. The fact that these structures are absent is what makes the party so dangerous.

The Right Clothing

Some 300 kilometers (190 miles) to the south, the Wartburgkreis Bote, a local newspaper, is on display in the pubs of Eisenach in the state of Thuringia. The paper deals with such hot-button topics as a wind-turbine project potentially spoiling the view from nearby Wartburg Castle, school closings, donations to the local animal shelter, the euro crisis and efforts to ban minarets. "This enables us to reach conservative groups we wouldn't have been able to reach in the past," says publisher Patrick Wieschke, a member of the NPD's national executive committee. The right-wing extremists captured 5 percent of the vote in elections to the Eisenach city council, putting Wieschke in one of the roughly 350 local political offices the party holds nationwide.

This attempt by the NPD to appeal to a broader public by painting itself as a normal conservative party even extends to the way party supporters dress. A document drafted by the party's national leaders, which addresses the appearance of members, is now making the rounds of the state organizations. "It's important to me that we don't come across as a fringe group," says Apfel. "Attending protests dressed in black tends to scare people away," he adds, pointing out that he would prefer to see "friendlier colors."

In an internal memo, Bernd Kümmel, an adviser to the NPD in Bremen, writes that casual outdoor clothing, of the sort that "hikers" might wear, is appropriate, because, after all, "clothing is a marketing instrument." And not just clothing, he adds. "We make ourselves vulnerable to attack and compromise our credibility if some of us show obesity or poor posture," Kümmel writes. "If possible, there should be no overweight or unathletic-looking elected representatives. Those who are, should make it a priority to work on their appearance." This doesn't bode well for party leader Apfel.

The Parliamentary Party

The most important stages on which the NPD performs its "respectable radicalism" show open once a month in Dresden and Schwerin, the respective capitals of the eastern states of Saxony and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. This is where the party holds seats in the state parliaments and exploits the respectability of the parliaments -- even though Apfel once derided the Dresden assembly as a " gleichgeschalteten Schwatzbude" (loosely translatable as "conformist talking shop"), deliberately choosing words that were also used by leading Nazis to attack the democratically elected parliament during the Weimar Republic.

At first glance, the NPD doesn't seem to have achieved very much in its work in the state parliaments. All it requires is a look at the bookshelves in Apfel's office. There are five shelves, of which two are completely empty and two are half-empty. Apfel doesn't seem to have a high opinion of the kind of specialized literature that normally fills parliamentarians' offices.

But it isn't quite that straightforward. In fact, the right-wing extremists are busy in the parliaments, exploiting speeches, motions, minor and major inquiries -- in other words, anything that attracts public attention. It doesn't really matter that the other factions are notorious for rejecting the NPD's motions, mainly out of principle. For the party, pushing the limits in a calculated fashion is the name of the game.

In Schwerin, the six NPD representatives accumulated 483 calls to order in a single legislative period, while the remaining 65 members received only 72 rebukes. Pastörs alone was ejected from the chamber 27 times. But being ordered off the floor also presents the party with an opportunity to request a review of the parliament's decision to do so, and there is nothing more gratifying to the right-wing extremists than to witness the state constitutional court ruling in their favor.

The NPD has established itself within the parliamentary system, at least in eastern Germany. In states of the former West Germany, like Schleswig-Holstein and Hesse, the party failed to even pass the 1 percent threshold in recent elections. Apfel has already written off 2012 and 2013, because the only elections scheduled for those years are in western states. Instead, he is pinning his hopes on successes in 2014 elections in the eastern states of Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg, as well as in the European election, in which the 5 percent threshold no longer applies.

In the 2009 election campaign, Apfel focused on such issues as the rural exodus in the east, the shortage of doctors and crime in the border region. This strategy helped the NPD get itself elected into state parliaments once again -- and to escape bankruptcy in the process.

Subsidisies from the Enemy

The NPD may consider the current political system to be rotten, but it clearly doesn't mind taking its money. From 1998 to 2009, the party collected about €10 million in government subsidies, which translates into 70 euro cents for each vote in a state parliamentary election where it captured more than 1 percent of the vote. It has also collected another 38 cents in subsidies for each euro in donations and membership dues. It is only possible for the party to wage its fight against foreigners and Jews, against democracy and pluralism, and against the German state because that very same state subsidizes its efforts.

Since 2005, about 40 percent of what Pastörs calls the "war chest" has come from government funds (see graphic). The subsidies to the party's parliamentary groups represent another source of funding: €1.2 million in Saxony this year and €600,000 in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, plus the members' expenses. This is a lot of money for a party that calls itself radical. The NPD, incidentally, has been involved in more contribution scandals than any other party. The administration of the Bundestag is currently demanding that the NPD repay €2.5 million it collected on the basis of false accounting statements.

One of the biggest recent political donations came from a retiree named Robert Weber, who tried to pay €140,500 in cash into an ATM in Thuringia in August 2009. Despite allegations of money laundering, the 84-year-old insisted that he wanted to donate his savings to the NPD. Soon afterwards, the money was deposited into the party's account.

In the past, the party often had a tendency to bend the truth when it came to its finances. In Thuringia, for example, the head of the state chapter, who for legal reasons can only be identified as Frank G., wrote receipts for nonexistent donations for years. The supposed donors were able to use the fake receipts to cheat on their taxes, while the NPD used the fake donations to fleece the government for even more money. It was an "exception," claimed the national party treasurer at the time, Erwin Kemna. The only problem was that Kemna himself turned out to be the next perpetrator.

Hole in the War Chest

On Feb. 7, 2008, the authorities arrested Kemna, the owner of a kitchen store in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. After combing through his records, they discovered that Kemna had inflated party revenues by €870,154.15, and that he had also moved more than €700,000 in party funds into his personal and business accounts. Kemna was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison. However, investigators are convinced that then-NPD leader Udo Voigt must have noticed something, which is why the Berlin public prosecutor's office is still investigating the case. Voigt calls the allegations "ridiculous."

Kemna was replaced by Stefan Köster, the NPD official with an office in the Thinghaus. Köster's appointment would turn out to be painful, both for him and, to an even greater extent, for the party. The party's 2007 financial statement was completed in a great hurry, and not until the early morning hours of Jan. 1, 2008. As a result of what an NPD memo called an "almost superhuman performance," Köster ended up with "bursitis in the right elbow." The party, for its part, would soon find itself facing its next disciplinary proceedings.
Because of an accounting error, Köster was unable to account for almost €900,000. As a result, the Bundestag administration suspended all payments to the NPD for a period of time. Just how severely this affected the party was revealed in a maudlin letter from its attorney, who had filed a complaint against the suspension of payments in a Berlin administrative court. Without the government funds, the attorney wrote, the NPD's "political existence would be threatened."

The hole in the party's assets is currently bigger than ever. According to the most recent 2010 financial statement, there is a shortfall of €1.068 million. Meanwhile, the government, that hated, despised and demonized entity, is supposed to fork over the cash -- and quickly, if possible.

Violence in Its Genes

But where exactly do the government's payments go? They go to a party that merely pretends to be upstanding and respectable. In fact, it's a party whose leadership is peppered with convicted thugs and bomb makers, and that aligns itself with hardcore fighters from the loose-knit, autonomous neo-Nazi groups known as Freie Kameradschaften ("free comradeships"). And although it claims to strictly renounce all violence, the darkly violent fantasies of top officials speak a different language.

Ever since its beginnings in the 1960s and 70s, the NPD has exhibited the "tactical relationship to violence" that, according to Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, remains one of its trademarks to this day. With a worldview shaped by conspiracy theories and doom-and-gloom scenarios, the NPD has violence in its genes. The party constantly sees the German people being threatened, embattled and embroiled in a defensive struggle to survive. In their view, there is an ongoing struggle against the pollution of its blood, contamination of its cultural heritage and enslavement by foreign powers. The NPD's self-image is shaped by the belief that its role is to lead the people in this alleged battle.

The NPD has sometimes sought to align itself with nationalists prepared to use violence, only to abruptly cut off ties to these groups and eventually return to embracing them. In the mid-1990s, after a number of these policy shifts, the party began sucking up everything it could along its right-hand fringe -- whether or not these people were prepared to use violence. The NPD's ranks had been depleted and it needed new members. Its new chairman, Udo Voigt, wasn't overly picky.

The NPD today describes the activities of the Zwickau terror cell, which is suspected of murdering at least 10 people in a 2000-2007 killing spree, as "despicable murders." But its claims to be appalled by these acts of violence are undermined by the party's track record. In the past, it showed a complete lack of inhibition over associating with the worst of the neo-Nazis, and of allowing anyone, even the most brutal street thugs, into the party. Take, for example, Peter Naumann, who had worked for the party in Dresden for a period of time before being sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison in 1988 for his involvement in a bomb attack. Or Thomas Sattelberg, one of the co-founders of the notorious Saxon Switzerland Skinheads (SSS), named after a hilly region in Saxony, which engaged in paramilitary exercises to train for hunting down foreigners. He too now works for the NPD legislators in the Saxony state parliament.

Hijacking the Party

And then there is Patrick Wieschke, who now publishes the Wartburgkreis Bote newspaper and has advanced into the NPD's national executive committee. He began his career with a group called the Thüringer Heimatschutz (THS), loosely translated as "Thuringian Homeland Protection," the same neo-Nazi network that once counted Uwe Böhnhardt, Uwe Mundlos and Beate Zschäpe, the trio of suspected NSU terrorists, as members. And like them, Wieschke also once had plans to commit acts of violence against foreigners. In August 2000, he hatched a plot to blow up a döner kebab stand in Eisenach, for which a court sentenced him to two years and nine months in prison.

Anyone who welcomes such people with open arms shouldn't be surprised to hear that presumed supporters of the NSU terrorists were or still are, NPD members. German prosecutors are now interested in André K., an NPD member and neo-Nazi from the eastern city of Jena. He is allegedly one of the people who helped the trio go underground in 1998, an accusation which K. denies. Carsten S., a former NPD district chairman in Jena and former deputy chairman of the party's youth organization, the Young National Democrats, in Thuringia, is in custody today. He was arrested two weeks ago on charges of having obtained a weapon for the right-wing terrorists. And then there is Ralf Wohlleben, a former NPD deputy chairman in Thuringia, who has been in custody since the end of November, because of his connections to the NSU.

For a long time, the NPD was too tame, well-behaved and self-important for such militants. But just as the party needed the Kameradschaften groups to organize election campaigns and at least send a few hundred supporters into the streets for protests, the militants could also benefit from the NPD. It had structures, a known name and money from public funds -- all good reasons to hijack the party.

In January 2009, for example, Maik Scheffler, the leader of a Kameradschaft from the town of Delitzsch in Saxony, told his group that the NPD had approached him and said that because it had a shortage of candidates, it wanted to open up its lists to activists from the neo-Nazi scene. "Decide for yourselves whether you want to take advantage of the NPD's manpower problems," he said. They did, as it turned out. The skinhead Scheffler, who had previous convictions for aggravated battery and illegal possession of a weapon, joined the NPD. Soon he became the district chairman for northern Saxony, and then the state deputy chairman and a close associate of Apfel.

In 2007, Scheffler formed the Free Network (Freies Netz), the most dangerous and best-networked force within the eastern Kameradschaften.

Wohlleben, the presumed NSU helper, turned up in Free Network chat rooms. In February 2009, when the militants had plans to attack a police station in Dresden, he wrote: "Attacking the police station will certainly meet with broad support in our community." Scheffler responded: "Without stabbing one of them to death? That's boring." Now that Scheffler has admitted that he did actually write these two sentences, NPD leader Apfel claims that Scheffler must have meant them "ironically."

Reaping the Whirlwind

And even though senior party officials officially renounce violence, they also regularly indulge in dark insinuations that things could also be completely different, if need be.

Many still remember the speech Pastörs gave in 2009, when he told his audience that the party would "oppose the Muslim threat," if necessary. He also said: "Work, fight and bleed if you have to. The slogan is attack." And then there was the threat he made, saying that when the NPD is in power, it will "impose a just punishment" on all those who are "now grinning at us so insolently." He continued: "Well then, dear ruling class, watch yourselves, because those who sow the wind reap the whirlwind. Let us be the whirlwind."

Apfel, the supposed NPD pacifist, is more careful, but this could merely be evidence of his tactical skills. And what about the fact that he plans to open his citizens' affairs office in a building owned by Yves Rahmel, a neo-Nazi in the eastern city of Chemnitz? Rahmel's record label, PC Records, which produced the album "Adolf Hitler lebt" ("Adolf Hitler Is Alive"), also published the song "Dönerkiller" in 2010, long before the Zwickau terrorist cell was discovered. (The series of killings of Turkish and Greek immigrants used to be referred to in the German press as the "döner murders," because some of the victims worked in döner kebab stands.) A sampling from the song's lyrics is telling: "He has killed brutally nine times already, but his thirst for killing hasn't been quenched yet." Apfel claims that Rahmel is nothing more than his landlord. "We just say hello and goodbye."

It's quite possible that this is true -- at least at the moment, in the aftermath of the NSU revelations, and ahead of a possible new attempt to ban the party. Now the National Democrats have to be careful what they say and, more importantly, do. That's why Martin Wiese, a Kameradschaft leader from Bavaria, hasn't been welcome at NPD events lately.

Balancing Act

But the party wasn't that squeamish last October, at the regional convention of the NPD in the Upper Palatinate region of Bavaria, where Wiese made a speech praising the national struggle for freedom taking place there. In 2005, a court concluded that Wiese had been the leader of a terrorist group that had planned to bring about a "bloody overthrow" of the system through "murder and manslaughter." He was sentenced to seven years in prison, and he served the entire term, because parole boards were not convinced that he was contrite about his involvement in the plot. In a letter written while he was in pre-trial detention, he wrote: "I will not rest until the final victory has been achieved. Heil Hitler."

Today Apfel characterizes Wiese's guest appearance with the NPD as "unfortunate." He distances himself from people like Wiese, as part of the image makeover under his leadership. "The most important thing is protecting the party, not the fate of individuals," Apfel pontificates.

At the same time, the new course forces the NPD to perform a balancing act that is already difficult enough. While the party has been shrinking for several years now, the independent neo-Nazi organizations, which refuse to allow anyone to tell them what to do, are growing. The more the party moves toward the center under Apfel, the more disappointed militants it loses to the independent groups. But without its street fighters, the party is hardly capable of holding up the flag and organizing its struggle anymore. For this reason alone, the NPD leadership must fear any effort to ban the party, because it forces it more than ever to keep a low profile and deny its own nature.

The Perplexed Republic

Should the NPD be banned? Can it be banned? The revelations about the NSU terror cell, which is believed to be responsible for killing nine immigrants and a police officer, have reignited the debate in Germany over banning the NPD. In the end, the government will have to do something, even if it only means taking a stand. But because it was triggered by the revelations of NSU acts of terror, the debate over banning the party is also a debate over the extent to which the NPD is prepared to use violence -- and as far as can be foreseen, that debate will have few consequences.

It is certainly true that the NPD, from its ideology to its aesthetic, is all about its tough-guy image. But actively supporting the NSU group? "For reasons of self-preservation alone, our activists wouldn't be so stupid as to seriously consider something like that," says Apfel. In other words, the party wouldn't provide the government with that kind of ammunition, quite apart from the fact that the NPD claims to oppose violence anyway.

Of course, there are the well-known connections to earlier and current party officials. There is no question that some eastern German neo-Nazis who would go on to join the NPD, and thereby achieve a veneer of respectability, came from the same scene as others who joined militant groups or went underground. Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, a member of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), isn't the only one who talks about "ideological sludge."

But this still doesn't mean that the party and its leadership knew about or even supported the murderous plans of the neo-Nazis. So far the results of the NSU investigation have produced little evidence that this was the case. There were no money transfers from the NPD to help support the NSU killers while they were in hiding, and there are no emails, memos or even meeting minutes from the NPD that could incriminate the party. When André K. traveled to Berlin in 1998, shortly before the trio went into hiding, to ask Frank Schwerdt, the NPD's deputy national chairman, to help the three NSU militants, he was actually clearly rebuffed. "I didn't want to do it and I couldn't do it," says Schwerdt. Perhaps this is merely a self-serving declaration, but even Interior Minister Friedrich concedes: "I am not aware of a direct connection between the NSU and the NPD."

'The System Is the Mistake'

So what else can be done? At this point, only the painstaking work of putting together the pieces of a puzzle, from bits of conversation to fragments of chat room remarks by overly outspoken NPD members -- in other words, finding evidence that the party as a whole doesn't take its renunciation of violence that seriously. Friedrich calls this "making progress through individual pieces of evidence." But despite all the contacts to violence-prone Kameradschaften and the occasional darkly whispered threats coming from NPD officials, it remains questionable whether the subject of violence will provide the right approach for banning the party.

The attempt to prove that the party promotes an aggressive and combative stance toward democracy, with the overthrow of the system as its ultimate goal, is more promising. It is certainly noticeable how Apfel, sounding like a model citizen, has recently emphasized that the NPD derives its legitimacy from the liberal democratic constitutional order.

A statement Apfel made in 1998 is probably closer to the truth. It played a role in the first attempt to ban the party, in 2001, and today Apfel describes it as a muddled attempt that was "ambiguous" and "rash." "We are proud of the fact that we are mentioned every year in reports by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution," he said, referring to the domestic intelligence agency, "and that we are described in those reports as hostile, anti-constitutional and against this system. Indeed, we are anti-constitutional."

People on the Inside

Is that really an ambiguous statement? The same applies to words spoken by Apfel in the state parliament in 2008, when he said: "The system has no mistakes; the system is the mistake." He now claims that these words were merely directed against the "system in this form of degeneracy," and that he wasn't talking about the constitution.

During NPD protests, party supporters routinely chanted: "The system is called the BRD (ed's note: the postwar Federal Republic of Germany ), and it's going to go under tomorrow." The message is unmistakable. And even now, in early 2012, a member of the NPD's national executive committee, Patrick Wieschke, says: "My goals are the same as they were 10 years ago: I want to overcome representative democracy. But I've understood that street fighting isn't the right tool for that."

A combination of all of these pieces of evidence would probably be enough to persuade the Federal Constitutional Court -- the only body that can ban a political party -- that the NPD is an anti-constitutional party. But the more important question is a different one, the same question that was asked nine years ago, when the Karlsruhe-based court rejected the first attempt to ban the party. At the time, the court's crucial argument was that it was not possible to distinguish between what had really been done by the party and what might have been instigated by informants working for the intelligence agency.

When Interior Minister Friedrich discusses a second attempt, it is as a doubting politician who knows exactly what this means. About 130 informants provide internal information from within the party, and more than a dozen of them are positioned within the party leadership. The federal and state governments would have to withdraw the majority of these informants (who work for both the federal-level Office for the Protection of the Constitution and its state-level counterparts), especially all party officials and leading activists. In internal discussions, Friedrich has made it clear that he would be willing to withdraw the informants in high-placed positions, but not all informants.

Danger of Stumbling

But that wouldn't be all. It's possible that the intelligence agencies could be forced to release the names of their informants, both to the judges on the Constitutional Court and to the NPD. This, in turn, is seen as impossible, because every informant is given a guarantee that he will not be exposed under any circumstances.

And as if this weren't difficult enough, because evidence cannot come from or be significantly influenced by informants, the evidence-gathering process could probably begin only after all key sources had been deactivated. But if that happened, who would smuggle the incriminating material out of the party? In its fight against the NPD, the state has become so tangled up that it is very likely that it would stumble during any proceedings to ban the party.

This explains the political drama that is unfolding. There is hardly an interior minister who is arguing publicly against an NPD ban. In truth, however, there is considerable skepticism. The wording on which the federal and state interior ministers agreed in December was notable for its subtext. The ministers stated that they supported a "successful proceeding to ban the party." In plain language, however, this meant that, unless it could be guaranteed that the attempt would be "successful," it would be best to leave well enough alone. Since then, the officials have become even more reluctant to move against the NPD. "We cannot and will not take any risks in petitioning for a ban," Friedrich warns.

In Saxony-Anhalt and Berlin, a task force is now developing a list of criteria on what needs to be clarified before a petition is submitted. In the document's half a dozen pages, the authors ask: What happens to the informants? Would their names be revealed? What kinds of evidence can be obtained? "These jointly developed criteria for a successful petition to ban the party must be adhered to," says Friedrich.

Risks of Failure

A meeting of state governors is scheduled for the end of March. It is quite possible that the meeting will result in a top-down directive, with the governors agreeing to support a petition to ban the NPD, even though a majority of their interior ministers are opposed. "We should all act in concert and take the necessary steps to launch a successful proceeding to ban the NPD as quickly as possible," says Bavarian Governor Horst Seehofer, leader of the conservative Christian Social Union. Kurt Beck, the Social Democratic governor of the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate, agrees: "As democrats, we must all stick together and act in concert." His fellow Social Democrat, Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, is calling upon the doubters to "show more courage across party lines. If there are legal hurdles because of informants at the leadership level of the NPD, these hurdles will simply have to be eliminated."

Behind the scenes, Ronald Pofalla, Merkel's chief of staff at the German Chancellery, is expediting the effort to ban the NPD. In internal meetings, he requests new evidence and campaigns for cross-party unity. Interior Minister Friedrich says that he would support the chancellor, but he also warns: "Everyone must also be aware of the risks of failure, and that we will then have to deal with the consequences of failure together."

Of course the NPD should be banned. It is intolerable and, for a country with Germany's past, unacceptable. But in the end, as Apfel says triumphantly, "our NPD could emerge from a possible ban attempt even stronger."

Strengthening the NPD? Now that is something that should be banned.

GREECE | Golden Dawn nazis target immigrants

Sunday, 19 February 2012, 12:43 | Source: France 24 |

Far-right groups in Athens are patrolling certain neighbourhoods and beating up immigrants they accuse of taking work away from Greeks. Police have so far been reluctant to pursue the attackers.

Reza Jholam is a 16-year-old from Afghanistan living in Athens. In October, he was walking home alone when he had the misfortune of crossing paths with a far-right group called “Chryssi Avyi” (“Golden Dawn”) terrorising certain neighbourhoods in the Greek capital. Their target: immigrants. “There were twelve of them. First, someone threw a bottle of water at my back, so I started running. But I couldn’t get away,” Reza said. “They grabbed me and hit me in the head with a bat. When I was on the ground, they continued to hit me until I was no longer moving.” Reza arrived in Greece last summer after passing through Iran and Turkey. Once in Athens, he was helped by the Afghan Community of Greece, an association that offers immigrants Greek classes and workshops on Greek culture, laws, and customs. Now, the organisation also informs new arrivals of the risk of racist attacks. “We give them a map of neighbourhoods in Athens where it’s best to avoid walking alone,” explained the association’s president, Yunus Mohammadi.

Yunus, too, has had run-ins with far-right groups in Greece. A year ago, several men broke into his office, ransacked it and beat him. “Nothing too serious,” he said, touching his forehead. Last December, the vice president of the Afghan Community of Greece, Safar Haydary, was also beaten by extremists. “This type of violence has become a very common phenomenon here, especially since the beginning of the crisis,” Yunus said. “Some people accuse us of taking jobs from Greeks and hold us responsible for the security problems here.”

Yet another attack on February 16 hospitalised three Bangladeshi immigrants. “It’s getting worse and worse,” Yunus said. “The most worrying is that it’s spreading throughout the whole city and even around the country. A few days ago, there was a report of a similar attack on one of the Greek islands.” Eva Cossé, a reasearcher at Human Rights Watch, condemns the recent pattern of abuse of immigrants in Greece. “These attacks mainly target people of colour; few of the victims have been immigrants from Eastern Europe,” Ms Cossé explained. “It’s an extremely upsetting phenomenon, especially since the authorities are hesitant to admit there’s a problem. Indeed, the police seem to be in no rush to arrest the assailants.” In the police station near the neighbourhood of Omonia, where many of the immigrants live and many of the attacks have occurred, officers have said they are afraid that the far-right groups will retaliate if pursued.

Until recently, community organisations had managed to protect immigrants from right-wing groups. “People here are angry, they want to fight against these fascists,” Yunus said. “But we need to avoid that, because it’s exactly what those who attack us want. That’s exactly what they’re waiting for to step up the violence.” The situation is so tense that it seems on the verge of exploding at any moment. In a report on the recent attack on immigrants, Ms Cossé warns that "police and lawyers will very soon have to do more than just record testimonies from victims" and that "aggressors will only stop when the police react in a swift and efficient manner and carry out serious investigations.”

“The problem is not only the lack of action on the part of Greek authorities. It’s much bigger,” Yunus noted. “It’s a problem of how immigrants are received in Europe.” According to Human Rights Watch, 56,000 immigrants arrive each year in Greece. The country is the main entry point by land for illegal immigrants in Europe, where, via the Greece-Turkey border, nine out of ten illegal immigrants enter the European Union, according to the UN. “Apart from these abominable and overpopulated centres [which were severely criticised in a UN report from October 2011], nothing is done to welcome the immigrants, to explain to them how the country works,” Yunus said. “So we take care of them, on our modest scale.”

When Reza went to the police station, his face bloodied, he was told that nothing could be done because his visa had expired four days earlier. Nevertheless, an ambulance was called, although the doctors at the hospital did not clean or bandage his wounds. Reza had only been in Greece for three months. Today, Reza has recovered, with only a few scars on his forehead. But he dreams of one thing only: leaving Greece as soon as possible. “I want to go to Norway, but the trip is expensive," he said. "You have to pay the border escort and other people. I’m waiting to save up enough money.” In the meantime, Reza no longer goes out at night alone.

FRANCE | Le Pen tries revive campaign

Sunday, 19 February 2012, 12:41 | Source: Reuters |

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen is trying to revive her flagging presidential campaign, saying she is the only genuine opposition to the established parties whose policies would lead France into a Greek-style tragedy. Le Pen, who replaced her father as head of the National Front last year, has sought to broaden the appeal of the party beyond its traditional anti-immigrant constituency to attract a younger generation of voters.

She ranks third in opinion polls with just two months to go before the first round of the election on April 22. At one point in January she was just a couple of points behind conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy, but has fallen back in recent weeks. "The campaign has truly started," Le Pen told reporters at the start of the National Front's annual congress in the northern city of Lille. "We must kick out those parties that have brought us to our knees. I am the only opposition to the UMPS (Sarkozy's UMP and Francois Hollande's Socialist Party). Those are candidates of the (Greek) troika and we cannot turn to them."

Le Pen announced a raft of policies in January to balance France's books, including taxing imports, tapping the central bank for cheap loans instead of debt markets and giving French citizens priority over foreigners for jobs. Her anti-euro and protectionist stance has struck a chord, especially among working class voters disillusioned by economic hardship since the start of the global financial crisis. But most analysts deem her economic program as not credible.

Le Pen criticized the troika - the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the European Central Bank - which has demanded Greece impose austerity measures in return for bailout funds. "The troika unites the European Commission, the Central Bank and the IMF against the people," she said. "In the name of the single currency it is throwing the Greeks onto the streets. Do you think that it will forget Paris? No, it's on its path."

A BVA poll Friday showed Sarkozy had an 11 point lead over Le Pen in the first round of the election, although Hollande would still comfortably beat the incumbent in the May 6 runoff. Sarkozy announced officially Wednesday that he would run for a second term against Hollande and Le Pen, who launched their campaigns several months ago. He pledged to "give the public its voice back" via plebiscites, starting with one on a proposal to make the unemployed retrain and actively seek jobs.

Ruling by referendum is one of the core ideas the National Front has proposed for almost 25 years and analysts say Sarkozy must appeal to far-right voters as he did in 2007 when he ran on a strong security and immigration platform. "The president of the rich, the small president of big firms ... and today the president of the troika wants to become the president of the people through referendums that he has always rejected and despised," Le Pen said.

Since taking over from her father, the 43-year-old former lawyer has tried to turn the National Front into a more mainstream opposition creating a strict code of conduct, removing extremist elements from her party and playing a more populist card which she says is neither left nor right, but "patriotic." Banners at the congress showed her focus over the two days would still play to the party's traditional strengths of immigration and security, while attacking Sarkozy's record on public debt and unemployment.

GERMANY | Spiegel looks at Nick Griffin’s German friends/Part 1

Sunday, 19 February 2012, 12:40 | Source: SPIEGEL | | Click here for original article

Prohibition Debate: The Far-Right Threat to Germany's Democracy

The leaders of Germany's far-right NPD seek to project the party as mainstream and reasonable. In truth, however, the party is a melting pot for racists, Hitler worshippers and enemies of democracy. There are plenty of reasons to ban the party. But would it make the NPD more dangerous than ever? By SPIEGEL Staff

Holger Apfel meets with SPIEGEL in his office in the eastern German city of Dresden, with a view of the Semper Opera House. For this meeting, where he will discuss his right-wing extremist views, he is wearing a gray, midrange suit by Mishumo and socks by Tommy Hilfiger. He appears to have a comfortable body mass index in the region of 30, and his stomach is pressing against the buttons of his blue business shirt. He is soft-spoken and has a slight lisp.

Apfel, who has been the new chairman of the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) since November, says that his party finally wants to appeal to ordinary citizens, and to address their concerns, fears and hardships. The NPD, he says, is a party that comes from the center of the population and is for the center of the population.

But in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, a very different face of the party is on display -- one that reveals Apfel's rhetoric for the charade it is.

The NPD's office there is on an arterial road in the town of Grevesmühlen. The local branch of the party has its headquarters on a commercial strip occupied by the likes of the local construction yard, a carpet store and a Mercedes dealership. The black, white and red flag of the German Reich flying above the property identifies the NPD office, which is surrounded by a 2-meter (6.5 feet) fence topped with barbed wire. Behind the fence is a watchtower, complete with floodlights, next to a building with bars on the windows.

The Germanic Elhaz rune, the symbol of the Third Reich's "Lebensborn" program, which supported the production of racially pure Aryan children, hangs above the entrance.

Welcome to a building called the "Thinghaus" in Grevesmühlen, the local headquarters of the NPD. (The name is inspired by the old Germanic word for a governing assembly, "thing.") Instead of being located in the midst of the populace, the building is in fact where the National Democrats are still to be found today: on the periphery -- on the periphery of the town, the periphery of society and the periphery of public beliefs.

Most of all, the NPD is also on the periphery of legality.

Guarantee of Tolerance

The interior ministers of Germany's federal and state governments are in the process of reexamining whether they can -- and should -- ban the NPD. Since authorities uncovered the Zwickau terrorist cell and its supporters, who were apparently organized in a group calling itself the "National Socialist Underground" (NSU), the ministers have been asking themselves the kinds of questions that are critical to a possible attempt to ban the party. How much potential for violence does the NPD hold? Does it intend to violently abolish the democratic system? Can it be proved to be similar in nature to National Socialism? And perhaps most importantly, would the party be more dangerous if it were banned?

The answers to these questions depends on the statements made by the NPD and how they are interpreted, as well as the actions of the NPD and how much weight they are given. In other words, the answers ultimately depend on the details.

First, however, a fundamental principle needs to be considered, namely that a party should not be banned merely because it is deeply critical of the prevailing form of government. This is the historic lesson Germany learned from the years of the Nazi reign of terror, when Hitler united society under the swastika and had parties like the Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party banned.

The German constitution's response to this despotism is a guaranteed tolerance, which also applies in the political combat zone. Bans should be democracy's last line of defense, nothing less and nothing more. In the case of a political party, another determining factor in considering a ban is whether the party can be accused of having an "actively combative, aggressive posture against the prevailing system." These are the words of the Federal Constitutional Court in the southwestern city of Karlsruhe, the only body in Germany that can impose a ban, and that only with a two-thirds majority.

Paradoxically, the NPD's neo-Nazis are now the main beneficiaries of this anti-Nazi clause in the German constitution. That's why the process of examining a possible ban raises questions that extend beyond the current discussion, such as: How much freedom against the enemies of freedom can a democracy afford, and how does it want to afford? And, 67 years after the end of World War II, is it an expression of the weakness or strength of German democracy if it takes the case to the Federal Constitutional Court, at the risk of failing there and thus making the right-wing extremists even stronger?

The Ugly Face of the NPD

These questions will accompany the interior ministers when they present their summary of the facts, presumably in March. They are searching for evidence that the NPD wants to overthrow the government, using violence, if necessary, or that it is too closely tied to neo-Nazis who will stop at nothing. There are many indications that those seeking to protect the constitution will not find the information they need at the Dresden offices of NPD members of the state parliament, where the party shows its tame face, but rather in places like the Thinghaus in Grevesmühlen.

In the spring of 2010, shortly after the building had opened its doors, a party member enthusiastically referred to it as a "national free space" (a phrase used by neo-Nazis to describe what they see as their territory) on a website registered to the Thinghaus address. The domain owner is David Petereit, an NPD member of the state parliament and a former member of a neo-Nazi group called the Mecklenburgische Aktionsfront, which was banned in 2009.

Neo-Nazi rock bands like Stahlgewitter, known to the authorities for its album "Auftrag Deutsches Reich" (German Reich Mission), perform at the Thinghaus on weekends. An appearance by a former Ku Klux Klan leader was only cancelled because German authorities put the American agitator on a plane back to the United States the day before.

The Nazi fortress in Grevesmühlen belongs to Sven Krüger, a right-wing extremist who is currently serving a four-year prison term for dealing in stolen goods and possession of a weapon without a permit. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany's domestic intelligence agency, believes that Krüger is the local head of the "Hammerskin Nation" in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, an American extremist group that is prepared to use violence and believes in the ultimate victory of the Nordic master race.

And one of the tenants here, in this bunker-like building surrounded by a tall fence, is Udo Pastörs, the second-in-command in the NPD national leadership and the party's leader in the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state parliament. The "citizens' office" that Pastörs shares with Stefan Köster, the NPD regional chairman for northeastern Germany, is located in the Thinghaus. Neither of the two politicians seems troubled by the links to the neo-Nazi and skinhead scene.

And why should they be? It is precisely their ties to neo-Nazis and other far-right groups that make the NPD as strong as it is.

Associated with Skinheads

It is arguably true that the ultra-extremists of the so-called Freie Kameradschaften ("free comradeships") -- small, loose-knit groups of right-wing extremists who are not officially organized as associations or political parties -- are more uninhibited in their expressions of hate and more prepared to use violence than the NPD. But without the NPD they would be nothing but local splinter groups. Only the NPD brings together the right-wing extremists, guarantees them nationwide notoriety and, at least in eastern Germany, a significant role as a regional party.

Conversely, the NPD wants to be associated with the street skinheads and with their visceral strength, which repeatedly manifests itself as raw violence. No one, least of all the leaders of the NPD, should be surprised that some of the presumed helpers of the Zwickau terrorist cell were, or still are, members of the party. After all, a hatred of the democratic German state is not just a characteristic of autonomous neo-Nazi groups, but also of the NPD. The desire to combat the state is the party's raison d'être. And the NPD's tactics involve pushing the boundaries of the legal as far as they can go -- even if the party has expressly distanced itself from the murders allegedly commited by the NSU.

So how far does the NPD actually go, and how deeply does it venture into the forbidden zone? Today, sources within the party portray it as a group that:

In the end, there is only one goal for the NPD: to overthrow the system, democracy and pluralism. This conclusion supports the notion that the NPD could in fact be banned. But whether such a ban would be a good idea is another question altogether.

At the moment, the NPD seems to be its own worst enemy. The party's membership is down from 7,200 four years ago to just 5,900 today. According to party leader Apfel, however, that number should also include another 200 to 300 nominal members, people who haven't been paying their €12 ($16) in monthly dues. One in 10 NPD members is unemployed, a higher number than with any other party.

"Their social milieu seems fully exploited," concludes a new study by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which is associated with the conservative Christian Democratic Union. Even Apfel estimates that the hard core -- activists who take to the streets for the NPD, get involved in election campaigns and run for office in city councils, local administrative councils and state parliaments -- consists of no more than 3,000 members.

One would think that Germany, a country with a population of 82 million, could tolerate a right-wing extremist group with no more than 3,000 core members, especially when this party has a tendency to expose itself to ridicule. Take, for example, Apfel's campaign to rescue the German language from Anglicisms and his habit of referring to what 82 million other Germans know as the Internet as the "Weltnetz" ("world net"). In fact, this party comes across as a bad joke, and it might be enough to simply avoid repeating that joke.

Political Force

On the other hand, it is the most important melting pot for xenophobes, anti-Semites and America-haters, and for the revisionists and revanchists who deny the Holocaust and admire Hitler. It is the only political arm of the ultra right, now that the German Republican Party and the German People's Union (DVU) have lost all significance.

And there are parts of Germany where the NPD is indeed a political force. They are not, however, in the west, where the NPD has less than 500 members in a state like Baden-Württemberg in the southwest, with its population of 11 million. Neither does it have any seats in the national parliament, the Bundestag, having consistently failed to overcome the 5 percent hurdle in general elections.

But in the east, the NPD holds seats in the parliaments of two states, Saxony and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, and it only narrowly failed to secure seats in the state parliaments of Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt. In the east, the NPD appeals largely to young men. The average age of party members is lower than that of any other party in the Bundestag. In a survey taken during the 2011 Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state election, one in five respondents said that the NPD is a "party like any other."

Seen in this light, 3,000 can also be an intolerable number for a country of 82 million -- especially when the NPD shows its evil face, its intolerable side.

The Party of the Swastika

Technically speaking, Holger Apfel is now the head of two parties. One is the middle-class NPD, archconservative but socially acceptable -- or at least that's the way it wants to see itself. The second is the NPD that embodies the bogey of the middle classes, with its skinhead neo-Nazis and black-clad street fighters -- the outlaw faction. These are the two wings of the NPD, and this is the party's constant contradiction.

They are actually so far apart that they ought to be incompatible, but what unites them is their contempt for the German state. At the same time, neither wing could be effective without the other. A split would cut the party in half.

This means that Apfel has to be careful about what he says, at the risk of being seen as too soft by some and too extreme by others. "Leave your tape recorder switched off," he says. He doesn't want there to be any evidence that he said something in the interview that might be construed as too soft or too extreme. Hence, a discussion with Apfel about the Nazi period goes something like this:

Question: What is your assessment of the Holocaust?

Apfel: A crime.

Question: A person who orders a crime is a criminal. Do you see Adolf Hitler as a criminal?

Apfel: You won't get me to respond to that.

Question: Why not?

Apfel: Because.

Apfel's "because" reflects one of the party's behavioral guidelines, which directs members to be evasive when asked about the Nazi era. "I won't get into any further historical debates," Apfel adds.

Venerating the Third Reich

Last June, Apfel's deputy Karl Richter wrote, in an internal research paper, that if necessary the party ought to "part ways with the incorrigible symbol and remembrance fanatics." According to Richter, these people simply no longer fit into a "contemporary sales strategy."

Richter also wrote that all the "commemorative and memorial events," be it for Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess or the bombing of German cities in World War II, are also counterproductive, and that a memorial march held once a year ought to be enough.

And according to Richter, anyone who has other "ideological roots and role models" should stick to the motto: "Think about it, but never show it."

Udo Voigt, the party's leading candidate in the Berlin parliamentary election, once pontificated that Hitler was "unquestionably" a "great German statesman," the July 20 plot to assassinate Hitler was "insidious" and that "a unique European lifestyle was subjugated and condemned" in the postwar Nuremberg trials. Pastörs, the NPD leader in the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state parliament, also has a propensity to publicly venerate his Nazi idols. The dashing politician, who is in his late 50s and cultivates an imperious and pseudo-heroic style of speaking, as if he has watched Leni Riefenstahl's "Triumph of the Will" one too many times, called Hitler's deputy Hess an "absolute idealist, comparable with Gandhi." It's an unsual comparison, to say the least.

The number "88," code for "Heil Hitler" ("H" being the eighth letter of the alphabet), with which the prominent NPD politician Thomas Wulff is said to have occasionally signed his emails, strikes closer to home. So does the T-shirt that Stephan Jandzinsky-Joecke, a candidate for the state parliament, was wearing when reporters with the anti-fascist newspaper Blick nach Rechts visited the Thinghaus in August. Not only was the T-shirt brown, the symbolic color of neo-Nazis, but it also had a signature printed on it -- that of Adolf Hitler.

And all of this is supposed to change under Apfel's leadership? On Fridays from 1 to 6 p.m., anyone can go to the Thinghaus to find out just how radically true to Nazi tradition the new, supposedly respectable NPD, still is today. That's when members of parliament Köster and Pastörs hold their office hours for citizens.

To reach their offices, one passes by a bulletin board with two posters in the middle. One reads "Freedom for Erich Priebke," and the other reads "Herbert Schweiger -- Unforgotten." Priebke, a former member of the SS, is serving a life sentence in Italy as a war criminal. Schweiger, who died in 2011, was part of Hitler's personal bodyguard unit, the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler. Finally, in front of the politicians' office, there is a war painting that portrays the power and glory of German wars of aggression. The World War II work is called "Panzer im Sturm" ("Tanks Attacking").

The Party of Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia

When Barbara Dabrowska, a journalist from Germany's Vice magazine, recently discovered a barbecue grill in front of the Thinghaus that had the words "Happy Holocaust" stamped into it in Gothic script, Köster had the presumption to say that perhaps someone was "poking a little fun at political repression in this country." It's the sort of remark only the NPD would find amusing.

In truth, anti-Semitism is one element of the enduring veneration of the Nazi era in NPD circles. Not even this legacy of the Third Reich's years of dictatorship and murder is off-limits to NPD politicians. In the Berlin state election campaign, for example, leading candidate Udo Voigt used a campaign poster that showed him on a motorcycle, next to the slogan: "Step on the Gas." Mainstream politicians denounced the poster, which was also displayed in front of the Jewish Museum in the Kreuzberg neighborhood, as an open allusion to the Nazi death chambers.

"The poster was unnecessary," says Apfel, to his credit. Nevertheless, he is still proud of the fact that, speaking in the state parliament, he once referred to the Allied bombing of Dresden in 1945 as a "bomb Holocaust."

Even one of the seemingly moderate members of Apfel's camp, national press spokesman Frank Franz, betrayed his true sentiments when, in 2006, in a notorious attack on the Central Council of Jews in Germany and its then president Charlotte Knobloch, he said: "Ms. Knobloch and her friends are guests in Germany." In other words, he was saying that, in the eyes of the NPD, Judaism is not a religion but a nationality -- and a foreign one, at that. And the NPD, from Apfel to Pastörs, is largely of the same opinion when it comes to dealing with foreigners, namely that they should be thrown out of Germany.

'Arrogant Welfare Negroes'

Xenophobia is seen as a trademark of the NPD, and on this issue the party is in complete agreement with its voters. This sentiment was all too obvious in the traditional Ash Wednesday address Pastörs gave in the southwestern city of Saarbrücken in 2009, when he rambled on about the "extremely dangerous sperm cannons" that the "Mussulman" man always carries with him and with which he threatens the pure German people. One should resist that threat, he said, "if necessary with the hand" Although a court convicted Pastörs of inciting racism, the verdict is not yet legally binding.

For the racist NPD, foreigners are "social freeloaders," according to the NPD's website. Apfel talks about "arrogant welfare negroes," "marauding bands of gypsies" and, just to make sure all groups are covered, "job stealers." The NPD wants to send them all home. But because young Germans apparently no longer know how to force people into trains and send them out of the country, the NPD placed an online computer game called "Faust räumt auf" ("Faust Cleans Up") on its website during the state election campaign in the city-state of Bremen. The main character in the game is Bremen NPD candidate Matthias Faust, and the objective is to help him send criminal foreigners "back home" on the train as skillfully as possible -- the train being a presumably deliberate reference to the deportation of the Jews by rail during the Holocaust.

This is where the lines become blurred between a computer game and young men, with or without party membership cards, hunting down, accosting and beating up foreigners, sometimes not stopping until their victims are dead. Even if the NPD doesn't go so far as to call for acts of violence against foreigners, in promoting its ideology it identifies targets for violent right-wing extremists. And it does so with so little inhibition that physical attacks by neo-Nazi thugs come across as a natural extension of the party's verbal attacks. For the NPD, the most important thing is that the right people are targeted, the people known in party jargon as "Kanaken," a derogatory term for foreigners.

For the NPD, it is out of the question that immigrants and their families could ever become part of Germany, and every attempt at integration is nothing but "genocide." Only a "minimal proportion" should be allowed to stay, to be determined on the basis of a very precise, case-by-case examination process, says Apfel. Would that include, say, the Green Party's intelligent and eloquent co-chair, Cem Özdemir, who is of Turkish descent? After all, he was born in Germany and undoubtedly speaks better German than an estimated 98 percent of NPD members. After hemming and hawing for a while, Apfel finally admits: "No one is saying we would put someone like that on a plane." But it clearly takes him some effort to say it.


FRANCE | Le Pen sentence for WWII remarks upheld

Sunday, 19 February 2012, 12:36 | Source: AFP |

A French court on has upheld a three-month suspended jail sentence against former far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen for calling the Nazi occupation of France “not especially inhumane.” The appeals court in Paris confirmed the sentence, which also included a 10,000 euro (£8,000) fine, imposed in 2008 after Le Pen was found guilty of denying a crime against humanity. Le Pen, who had made the remarks in an interview with a far-right magazine in 2005, was not present for the court ruling.

Le Pen had told Rivarol magazine that “in France, at least, the German occupation was not especially inhumane, even if there were a number of excesses - inevitable in a country of 550,000 square kilometres.” The far-right leader handed over the reins of his National Front (FN) party to his daughter Marine last year and she is currently polling in third place, with around 20 per cent, ahead of a presidential election in April. Le Pen, who founded the FN in 1972, had been convicted of racism or anti-Semitism on a number of previous occasions. In 1987 he described the Nazi gas chambers as a "detail of history."

With the help of the Vichy government during World War II, the German authorities deported more than 70,000 French Jews to death camps, and thousands of French civilians died in reprisals by the German army. In 2002 Le Pen shocked observers by making it through to the second round of France's presidential election.

FRANCE | Le Pen’s economic policy not credible

Friday, 17 February 2012, 10:28 | Source: Reuters |

France's far-right is pushing a nationalistic economic platform for April’s presidential elections, but 70 percent of voters believe its financial programme lacks credibility, including its plan to leave the euro, a poll published on Saturday showed.

Marine Le Pen, who replaced her father as head of the National Front last year, has sought to broaden the appeal of the party beyond its traditional anti-immigrant constituency to attract a younger generation of voters. She ranks third in opinion polls with just under three months to go before the first round of the contest on April 22, and at one point in January, was just a couple of points behind conservative incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy.

According to a CSA poll for M6 television, which questioned 1,008 adults, 69 percent of people found the National Front's economic policies not credible with less than two in eight people considering them favourably. “Seven people in 10 interviewed want France to keep the euro with just a quarter wanting a return to the franc,” CSA said. “This explains in part the difficulties the National Front candidate has in convincing people about her economic plan.”

Le Pen announced a raft of policies in mid-January to balance France’s books including taxing imports, tapping the central bank for cheap loans instead of debt markets and giving French citizens priority over foreigners for jobs. Her anti-euro and protectionist stance has struck a chord, especially among working class voters disillusioned by economic hardship since the start of the global financial crisis. In a preview of an interview to be aired Sunday on M6, Le Pen appeared to downplay her plans to exit the euro saying she did not want to leave the bloc too quickly or cause panic. “I don't want us to find ourselves overnight facing the collapse of the euro,” she said. “It's for that reason that my project ... will prepare for a return to national currencies in six to eight months.”

Since Le Pen unveiled her plan, both Sarkozy and Socialist front runner Francois Hollande have outlined economic proposals and appear to be extending their lead over her. Fourth-placed centrist Francois Bayrou is showing signs of narrowing the gap. A daily IFOP poll for Paris Match magazine on Friday put Hollande firmly ahead in the first round with 29.5 percent of voter intentions, followed by Sarkozy on 24.5 percent, Le Pen on 19 percent and Bayrou on 12.5 percent. According to the Institut Montaigne think tank, France would stand to lose up to a million jobs and up to a fifth of its economic wealth if it abandoned the euro. Gross domestic product would shrink by anywhere between 6 and 19 percent over a decade.

When asked if she would still lead France out of the euro zone without the agreement of European partners, Le Pen appeared to open the door to a change in policy. “No (France would not leave), but I think they will agree,” she said. “People have had enough of these bailout plans.” Le Pen has said France would raise almost 87 billion euros (£72 billion) by leaving the euro although she refused to explain how.

Despite strong public support, the former lawyer is also facing a battle to win the backing of 500 elected local officials, such as mayors, before the end of February in order to run.Her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, barely squeezed through in 2007, and Marine Le Pen said this week she was still 150 signatures short.

EUROPEAN UNION | Creation of new far-right group sparks outrage

Thursday, 16 February 2012, 17:07 | Source: The Parliament |

A furious row has flared after it emerged that approval has been granted to the formation of an alliance of seven European extreme right wing political parties. These include the British National Party (BNP), which had two MEPs elected in the last European elections, the French Front National and Hungary’s Jobbik.

The new pan-European grouping, called the “Alliance of European Nationalist Movements”, will qualify for a reported €289,266 (£240,000) of EU taxpayers’ money. The AENM may also qualify for more European money next year. News of the new group emerged on 16 February at the parliament’s plenary in Strasbourg. Formal approval for the new group was given at a meeting on Monday by parliament's bureau, which comprises the assembly's president and vice presidents.

Reaction to the news was swift, with UK Socialists and Democrats Group member Claude Moraes, calling for a ‘boycott’ of the new group. He said, “It's a shameful week for democracy in Europe. Let's hope this also will be a rallying cry for anti-fascists throughout the EU to work harder together to stop the pan-European far right.” He said, “There are pan-European alliances of political parties from the centre right Christian Democrats through to the Greens, including the Party of European Socialists which includes the British Labour Party as a member, and we all respect one another's differences and work together. “I hope that none of the other parties work with this alliance of racists and neo-fascists.“

Two BNP MEPs were elected at the last European elections in 2009 and they are now in a close alliance with the Front National in France, who may achieve success in the French presidential elections in the summer, and Jobbik which has been a government coalition partner in Hungary.

“There are very strict rules about how this political funding can be spent. These include respect for democracy and human rights. We will keep a very close eye to make sure this new grouping stick to the rules.

“This is why we believe this decision is wrong, and we will closely monitor how this neo-fascist grouping spends their money,” Moraes said.

The BNP failed to form an alliance of far right MEPs in parliament, but it was decided by the institution that this did not preclude them from forming a pan-European political party.

Further comment came from Edward McMillan-Scott, a vice president of parliament, who said the establishment of the new group gave “cause for real concern”. The UK Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe MEP added, ‘I have been tracking the rise of the far right for a few years and in the last European elections we saw the rise of far right parties in ten of member states. “The formation of this new group is further proof that these groups have been collaborating since that time and will present a joint platform at the next elections in 2014.”

DENMARK | Danish Defence League organises for European rally

Thursday, 16 February 2012, 17:01 | With thanks to |

The right-wing extremist Danish Defence League (DDL) is going ahead with plans to stage an international racist demonstration in Aarhus, Denmark’s second biggest city. Islamophobic so-called “Defence Leagues” from all over Europe are expected to attend, among them the violent English Defence League (EDL).

The DDL is one of the newest organisations on the extreme right in Denmark, having been founded in the autumn of 2010 but not hitting the streets until a year later after an internal leadership conflict. On 11 September last year, the DDL staged its first demonstration – with a miserable turnout of about 20 participants – in front of the US Embassy in Copenhagen to commemorate the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Three months later, the same mob marched in Herning, about 80 km west of Aarhus, to protest against the rape of a 10-year-old local girl; a case in which the suspected rapist was of Somalian origin.

The DDL is trying to squeeze into the gap between the right-wing populist Danish People Party and the militant nazi scene but is a small group and, if the DDL fails to exclude nazis, it will not be long before it is marked as a fascist group instead of “just” an anti-Islamist group. At the start of February, the DDL’s organiser and mouthpiece, Kasper Mortensen, was arrested for malicious assault on a nightclub bouncer and is being held in police custody. In his absence, the organisation of the Aarhus event has been taken over by Danmarks Nationale Front nazi Philip Trauelsen from Copenhagen.

THE NETHERLANDS | Eastern EU nations condemn Wilders’ website

Thursday, 16 February 2012, 10:41 | Source: AP |

Ambassadors from 10 EU countries have asked the Netherlands to repudiate a website that urges people to lodge complaints about central and eastern Europeans. The site launched last week by Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV), which backs the Dutch minority government, calls on citizens to report “central and east Europeans ... for general nuisance, pollution and labor market displacement.”

An open letter signed by diplomats from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia asked the Dutch to “distance themselves from this deplorable initiative,” which they say is “clearly discriminatory.” The diplomats said the website would not help solve some of the issues caused by migration of citizens from eastern EU countries. “Rather, it encourages negative perception of a particular group of EU citizens working in the Netherlands,” the open letter said. “The statistics clearly show that our fellow citizens contribute significantly to the growth of the Dutch economy and the Dutch budget. The truth also is that our citizens do not take jobs from the Dutch nationals.” Hungary’s foreign ministry said the 10 diplomats will meet Friday with Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal.

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding and EU Digital Affairs Commissioner Neelie Kroes, who is Dutch, have criticised the website. In comments posted on Twitter, Kroes mocked the PVV’s initiative. “Ridiculous to think that denouncing others on a website will make Netherlands or EU a better place,” Kroes said. “What next? Your wife annoys you? Forget Valentine's Day, log on and denounce her!”

Wilders’ party is the third largest in the Netherlands and agreed to back the minority right-wing coalition government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte in return for concessions such as a crackdown on immigration. In recent months, the Freedom Party has been losing ground in the polls. Rutte has refused to condemn the website, saying he does not want to react to everything Wilders says and does. Speaking to reporters in the Dutch Parliament, Wilders brushed off the commotion and said the site had already had more than 41,000 reactions. “It's a fantastic website,” he said. “That half of the world, from European Commissioners to ambassadors, is getting involved doesn't interest me at all.”

USA | “Good ol’ boys” militia willing to “go to war”

Tuesday, 14 February 2012, 16:47 | Source: CBS |

Seven members of a Midwest militia group accused of plotting to overthrow the US government have appeared in Federal Court in Detroit for the start of their trial, in which jurors
will decide whether federal authorities prevented an attack by homegrown extremists or simply made too much of the boasts of weekend warriors who had pledged to “take our nation back.” The jury was picked on 13 February, and opening statements were heard in the trial of the militia members, known as Hutaree, who are charged with conspiring to commit sedition, or rebellion, as well as weapon crimes. In his opening statement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Graveline showed jurors a video clip in which the group’s leader, David Stone, declares “welcome to the revolution.”

Stone’s attorney, William Swor, told jurors there was no plan to attack the government, and that Stone – raised in a religious household – was instead preparing to fight the “anti-Christ.” WWJ Radio in Detroit, has reported that Stone was heard on a recording made by an undercover agent in a car, talking about the new world order, allegedly rehearsing a speech. Stone was heard saying the militia needed to “start huntin’” police soon. The question facing now jurors, said WWJ's Sandra McNeill, is: Were the accused attempting to incite a revolution, or was it just talk? The defendants are accused of conspiring to someday ambush and kill a police officer, then attack the funeral procession with explosives and trigger a broader revolt against the U.S. government.

Defence attorneys say the group engaged in speech that was “stupid” and “hateful,” but nothing criminal. The members were arrested in FBI raids in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana in March 2010.
Since their capture, only one of nine people charged has struck a plea deal, an unusually low number in a case with so many defendants. Their attorneys have maintained a consistent stance: The anti-government talk was simply colourful but aimless bluster akin to frustrated pals drowning sorrows around a campfire.

“I’m going to fight it tooth and nail,” David Stone's wife and co-defendant, Tina Mae Stone, said during a break in jury selection last week. “It was just a bunch of good ol’ boys out to have fun. We did survival stuff. I did it mostly to spend time with my husband. People tell me, ‘good luck.’ I don't need luck. I've got God on my side.” The government, however, has more than 100 hours of audio and video evidence, describes the Hutaree, which the militia claimed means “Christian warriors,” as an anti-government group committed to fighting authorities who belong to a so-called “New World Order.” Agents also seized machine guns, unregistered rifles, ammunition and parts for improvised explosive devices.

CZECH REPUBLIC | Fifteen women accused of backing nazis

Tuesday, 14 February 2012, 16:47 | Sources: ČTK and |

The Czech police have accused 15 women of supporting the Resistance Women Unit (RWU), a group considered a women´s branch of the Czech nazi movement, National Resistance, Pavel Hantak, spokesman for the police unit fighting organised crime (UOOZ), has told the media. The women, aged from 21 to 32, face up to eight years in prison for promoting and supporting a movement leading to suppression of human rights and freedoms, Hantak said. None of the suspects have been taken into custody. Most of the women are suspected of organising far-right events, producing and distributing leaflets and posting internet texts promoting the RWU.

Hantak said Czech detectives have pursued the case since September 2009 and that it is connected with a police raid in 2009 when 18 far-right supporters were charged. He said some of the radicals had ties to the so-called White Justice group. The case is being coordinated by the state prosecution service in the northern city of Děčín, an area of high racial tension where there were clashes with and demonstrations against the Roma minority in the summer of 2011.

Earlier this month, police arrested and charged Michaela Dupová, a member of the Workers’ Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti – DSSS) and a former leader of the RWU, for wearing tattoos of banned extremist symbols. She, too, now faces up to three years in prison for promoting and supporting a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms.

The RWU was created in 2007 and harks backs to similar organisations in Nazi Germany that stressed the purity of the so-called Aryan race, according to the police unit. Speeches at a May Day RWU rally in 2008 attacked immigrants and refugees, whom speakers claimed to be claiming social benefits; described the then government as a corrupt cesspit and berated multiculturalism and moves to liberalise drugs laws.

FRANCE | Waffen SS volunteer and Front National (FN) pioneer Castrillo dies, 89

Tuesday, 14 February 2012, 16:45 | From Jean-Yves Camus in Paris |

Born in 1922, the son of a Spanish entrepreneur who supported the fascist Phalange, Castrillo joined Jacques Doriot’s Parti Populaire Français at its inception in 1936. During the war, he belonged to the pro-Pétain youth movement, Chantiers de la Jeunesse, then at the end of 1942, joined the Nazi Schutzkommando der Organisation Todt, serving in Norway and then in Memel until the end of 1943. After a brief return to France, he joined the Waffen SS Division Charlemagne in 1944 and fought until 1945 on the Baltic coast. In 1946, he was sentenced to 4 years in jail. Castrillo was one of the former Nazi collaborators (most of them former Waffen SS men) who, in 1967, founded the monthly newspaper Militant. His last article was published in the autumn 2011 issue. Militant was the internal bulletin of the Front National in the 1970s, representing the fascist, Holocaust-denying and racialist wing of the party led by François Duprat. In 1981, however, the Militant crew fell-out with the “modernist” wing of FN and left the party. Castrillo launched the Parti Nationaliste Français, which is still active. He was also a regular speaker at the annual commemoration of Robert Brasillach, the fascist novelist executed in 1945. Castrillo was one of the very few survivors of the pre-War extreme-right who were later members of the FN. He is survived by François Brigneau, 92, a former Milice member who became a vice-president of the FN and by Jean Madiran, aged 91, a former Action française intellectual who, in the 1980s, founded the Catholic traditionalist daily paper Présent, supporting the FN until 1998.

GERMANY | Dresden stands up to nazi march

Tuesday, 14 February 2012, 13:34 | Source: |

For years, nazis have marched on the anniversary of the Allied 1945 Dresden air raid. In 2011, tension with counter-demonstrators escalated into clashes. But this year, the city seemed to have learned from past mistakes.

Last year, more than 6,000 right-wing demonstrators were in the city. The gloomy spectacle with torches and drums escalated into brutal violence when the nazis clashed with counter-demonstrators and police forces were caught between the front lines. This year, the day remained largely peaceful. According to police, around 1,600 right-wing extremists attended the march. Three times the number of police officers, along with several thousand counter demonstrators, kept them in check.

“We won't tolerate the abuse of the memory of this event,” Mayor Dirk Hilbert told the official commemoration, held in the afternoon. The event took place at one of the city’s cemeteries, where the remains of more than 20,000 of the bombing victims are buried. Hundreds of white flowers were laid out in remembrance. Among those in attendance were Saxony State premier Stanislaw Tillich, as well as US Consul General Mark Powell and representatives of the British embassy. It was bombers from those two countries that on February 13 and 14, 1945 led the attacks against the city, destroying the baroque “Florence of the Elbe” and killing more than 20,000 people. Candles were lit to remember the victims. At the same time as the ceremony at the cemetery, an impressive demonstration was under way in Dresden’s historic centre. As in past years, more than 10,000 people came together to form a human chain in protest at the nazi march.

GERMANY | NSU probe goes on

Tuesday, 14 February 2012, 13:32 |

German police have requested help from law enforcement agencies in the USA in their probe into National Socialist Underground (NSU) murder gang. The Germans are hoping their US counterparts can deliver Internet data linking Beate Zschäpe, a gang member currently being held after surrendering to police, to the 10 murders the NSU committed. Of particular interest is a YouTube account belonging to Zschäpe in which she used the username “Liese1111” and from which investigators want to know what she viewed and uploaded. The Zwickau-based NSU was uncovered when terrorists Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt were found dead in an apparent murder-suicide after a bungled bank robbery. Zschäpe turned herself in to police a few days later. In addition to the murders of nine immigrant shop owners and a policewoman, the group was also behind 14 bank robberies and two attacks involving explosives.

In a separate development, Swiss police at Zürich airport have arrested a man with suspected links to a Czech-made pistol that later became one of the murder weapons used by the NSU. Authorities say the man is being investigated on suspicion of supporting a criminal organisation. Detectives found a 7.65 mm calibre Browning in the caravan that Böhnhardt and Mundlos set on fire before taking their own lives last November. In all, the NSU had about 20 weapons, one being a ČZ 83 pistol of the same calibre with a silencer. Detectives said the gun came from a Swiss shop and believe that Swiss ultra-right extremists probably helped the NSU to acquire it.

Sunday’s edition of the mass tabloid Bild am Sonntag reported that detectives erased data acquired through earlier wiretapping of the alleged NSU supporters. The head of the German Federal Bureau of Investigation, Jörg Ziercke, denies the charges, however, saying the detectives erased copies of the recordings, not the originals. However, German politicians led by German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich are demanding an investigation of the matter

HUNGARY | Jobbik Jew-baiter rapped

Tuesday, 14 February 2012, 13:30 | Source: Jewish Chronicle |

The Hungarian government and Jewish community have condemned shocking statements made by a representative of the fascist Jobbik party. In an interview with the Jewish Chronicle in February, Jobbik MP Marton Gyongyosi, the party’s foreign affairs spokesman, refused to acknowledge the official figures for the number of Jews murdered in the Hungarian Holocaust, saying: “It has become a fantastic business to jiggle around with the numbers.” He also claimed that Jews were colonising the country and said it was “a natural reaction for people to feel that Jews are not welcome here”. Gyongyosi then added that Israel operated a “Nazi system” and appeared to support Iran in its oft-stated aim of destroying Israel. The Hungarian Foreign Ministry issued a statement declaring: “We strongly condemn the position of Jobbik on the Holocaust, on the internal political situation in Israel and on the political relations of the Middle East.” In a further development, Hungarian Socialist Party leader Attila Mesterhazy said the government and the Speaker of Parliament should investigate Gyongyosi over a possible breach of the law, Holocaust denial being illegal in Hungary. The Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation is also looking into possibility of taking legal action against Gyongyosi.

THE NETHERLANDS | Wilders’ website causes uproar

Tuesday, 14 February 2012, 13:29 |

Geert Wilders’ far-right Freedom Party (PVV), a key ally of the centre-right Dutch coalition government, opened a website in February to collect complaints about people from Central and Eastern Europe residing in the Netherlands. One of the questions posed to surfers is “Did you lose your job to a Pole, a Bulgarian, a Romanian, or any other Central or Eastern European? We would like to hear about it.” The arrival of cheaper labour from eastern Europe to the Western labour market after EU enlargement in 2004 has prompted loud scaremongering campaigns in several countries, exemplified by the “Polish plumber” of urban myth perceived as taking jobs from native Western Europeans. The anti-immigrant populist PVV claims that between 200,000 and 350,000 people from the east European EU states are living in the Netherlands. The “massive arrival of Poles in particular”, it complains, “is the cause of many problems, such as nuisance, pollution… and a squeeze on the labour market.” The Polish embassy in The Hague has voiced its anger at the PVV’s stunt, which it has branded “discriminatory”. “Such a hotline will foster a wrong image," Janusz Wolosz, spokesperson of the embassy, told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS. He added that the embassy is looking into the legality of the website, which may be in breach of the Dutch anti-discrimination laws. Henk Kamp, Dutch social affairs minister, however, refused to distance himself from the PVV and claimed “Certainly, it is a well-known fact that in some districts of big cities, there are problems of overpopulation, shelter, or crime.”

CZECH REPUBLIC | School spawns fascists

Tuesday, 14 February 2012, 13:28 |

Jiří Volprecht, the head of the police in Most, says the local Technical High School is a breeding ground for right-wing extremism. Volprecht said graduates of the school and current pupils regularly participate in events held by nationalist groups. Last year, a mass brawl occurred between Czech and Romani students at the school and many smaller incidents with a right-wing extremist background have occurred there. The hardcore of the Czech fascist movement is said to consist of 200 people nationwide who meet at events organised by the ultra-right Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti – DSSS). Police believe that many of these activists extremists attended the school.

SLOVAKIA | Slovak nationalists incite anti-Roma hatred

Wednesday, 8 February 2012, 12:19 |

The ultra-right nationalist Slovak National Party (Slovenská národní strana - SNS) is again using anti-Romani slogans on advertising hoardings in its campaign for the country’s parliamentary elections in March. The opposition party, which has been hovering around the threshold required to be elected in public opinion polls, deployed similar tactics in the run up to the 2010 elections. “How long are we going to lose on the gypsies? Let's change it!” the SNS shrieks on one of its billboards, which juxtaposes a photo of Romani people outside an apartment building with a clean-cut image of party boss Ján Slota. On another billboard, the SNS warns voters that another political party has included a Romani man on its candidate list. The SNS played the same anti-Romani card two years ago. At that time, billboards with the party’s logo depicted a half-dressed, obese Romani man and carried the slogan “Let’s not feed those who don't want to work”. After charges that the SNS was conducting a racist campaign, the party had to paper over the billboards.

The SNS is again facing criticism from NGOs over its current campaign and defends itself by saying it is merely pointing out the need to address Romani people’s bad social situation. Many Romani people live in settlements where hygienic conditions are unsuitable and there is no electricity or other form of energy. Several hundred thousand Romani people are estimated to live in Slovakia. In the past, international organizations have warned that Romani people are discriminated against in Slovakia and that the situation is deteriorating. Now, the Slovak Parliament, at the suggestion of the opposition, has halted discussion of a controversial bill drafted by MPs aligned with the coalition government that would have slashed state benefits to parents caring for small children by one-half should the parents have been unemployed for a long time. The authors of the bill made no secret of the fact that their initiative was also aimed at Romani people who do not seek work and rely completely on state welfare. The lower house is to discuss a similar bill which would make it possible to reduce the state’s contribution to parents from the moment a child is born.

In addition to its anti-Romani campaign, the nationalist SNS is also using slogans blasting neighbouring Hungary, a country that is itself led by nationalist conservatives. “We’ve been defending Slovak land for 140 years. Orbán’s boat is sinking,” is the SNS message, which picks out Hungary’s economic problems under the leadership of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Prior to the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918, Slovakia was part of Hungary. SNS head Slota, who is known for his anti-Hungarian invective, has repeatedly claimed in the past that Budapest has not abandoned the idea of reviving “Greater Hungary”. He also claims that in the south of Slovakia, many members of the Hungarian minority live, there is a risk that the region will declare autonomy.

ITALY | Northern League and the rise of violence in Europe: What next?

Wednesday, 8 February 2012, 12:19 | Source: |

The financial crisis could provide fertile ground for xenophobic, separatist and extreme-right narratives such as the dogma of Italian Northern League, writes Giuseppe Lenzo from Durham University in Britain.

"Today it is opposing the austerity measures promoted by Mario Monti’s government, accusing him of stealing money out of Italians’ pockets. However, yesterday it acted as protagonist as a key ally of Berlusconi’s coalition which was about to bring the country into the mire, with an alarmingly high public debt and peaking interest rates on ten-year sovereign bonds (over 7%) and increasing spread against the German state’s bund.

That is the Northern League, one of the most rooted Italian parties (especially in the North East), born in the nineties with the clear objective of separation from the rest of the peninsula. One of the most famous slogans used by its leaders is “Roma ladrona” (“Big robber Rome”), blamed of retaining the whole taxation due by Northerners to the central government without receiving appropriate redistribution or even wasting resources for sterile expenses in the South. Nevertheless, providing an account of the national debates over bad administration and clientism in the South against better policy-making in Northern Italy is beyond the scope of this article.

The alarming side of the rise of the “greens” [ Green the colour favoured by the Northern League for its symbols] is thewithin the Italian political system is instead its unquestioned appeal to many working class people who feel penalised by a ‘lazy’ South producing only debt, as well as by an increasing number of immigrants who are accusing of invading their country to find a job. Regions such as Sicily, Campania and Apulia are depicted as burdens for Italy’s productivity, with a high level of tax evasion and penetration of organised crime and whose people take advantage of Northerners comply with their fiscal duties and fund the State’s investments.

Among the other things, the whole concepts of regionalism contributed to a great extent to fervid confrontations over the Unification of Italy, seen as a catastrophe. In reality, regional disputes over interpretation of historical events and local peculiarities are still very common in the Belpaese, which unfortunately appears much divided even after 150 years of formal amalgamation. The fact that the former Prime Minister Berlusconi did not intervene publicly to stigmatise Bossi’s (Northern League’s leader) statement “I clean my arse up with the tricolor flag ” says a lot on the deep-seated divisions over the Italian identity.

Most critics argue that the Northern League’s supporters propagate a sterile populism made of aggressive slogans and vulgar language, yet in the last years this party has experienced a significant mount in voting support, reaching around 15% in some areas in 2008 elections. Since its first participation in Berlusconi’s government in 1994, Bossi’s party has never seen its major proposal – federalism – implemented, instead it has steadily become part of the centralised administration which it had disapproved vehemently in the early 1990s.

The Northern League has found consensus among many citizens because its exponents blended issues of regionalism as an aged winning strategy in Italian politics – a similar political experiment led the MPA (Movement for Autonomy) to win Presidency of Sicily Region in 2008 – with extremely xenophobic positions and overt racism. Being incapable of tackling the economic challenges affecting the North, as it has been the case with the whole country, with increasing unemployment and diminished opportunities for youngsters, the leaders of the Northern League diverted attention to concerns of wild immigration and loose barriers, especially after many Eastern European countries joined the EU in 2004. This situation has led to much uncertainty among people over the actual causes of the crisis Europe is undergoing, but the old “those foreigners stealing our jobs” slogans generate still empathy in many citizens who would not consider low-salary, labour-intensive jobs that Bulgarian or Polish people would instead accept.

Today every political party is supporting Monti’s government of technicians as the moment for austerity reforms and difficult decisions has come thus most political leaders can provide an external support without being criticised as unpopular by the public opinion. The plan of the main political groups (Party of Freedom and Democratic Party) is unambiguous: since a considerable disaffection and explicit attacks on political leadership have emerged over the last months, the decision to let technicians do the “dirty job” would mean taking breath and gain experience so as to get ready for next elections in 2013 when Monti will have to leave his post as Prime Minister.

In this case, the Northern League’s strategy may seem to have a good rationale in considering the upcoming vote, by accusing the government of rising taxation and postponing retirement age. However, most Italians are bravely accepting responsibly those urgent measures since they are aware of the high debt provoked by decades of bad administration and lack of fiscal discipline. Hence, this strategy could backfire on Bossi’s strategy in the long run. This view can be strengthened in case Monti succeeds in dealing with the spread, thus increasing the confidence of American rating agencies and investors to pour fresh money into Italy’s cash desk.

In this respect, the next weeks will probably be crucial as the EU Member States will decide how to produce growth, because years of austerity and spending cuts only will not be enough to save the European countries from depression.

Nonetheless, putting aside the political discourses brought about by the Northern League in Italy, it remains to be seen to what extent issues of immigration, regionalism and xenophobia would turn into broader considerations on the role of the European Union as an aggregating organisation which, by tidying not only economies but also cultures, risks to pave the way to a degenerating future in terms of social cohesion.

In other words, it is not only the economic interdependence affecting the stability of the Union, but also the lack of communication and common understanding between Europe’s sections of society which may trigger further rows.

If the Northern League represents intolerance, other political organisations across the old continent – such as Le Pen’s Front National in France, the Nigel Farage’s UKIP in the Kingdom, Geert Wilders’ Party of Freedom in the Netherlands, the True Finns in Finland – are spreading fanatic right-wing narratives focusing on the rejection of “the other”. In times of economic and social crisis, these divergences have the potential to lead to forms of ‘balkanisation’ in the territories represented by the most liberal, open and rights-guardian organisation worldwide. In contrast, around a decade ago a similar case, after the ethno-populist claims made by the nationalist leader Jörg Haider in Austria, was followed by wide condemnation and EU-led sanctions imposed on the Austrian state .

Most agree on the fact that those considerations are appropriately defining the current European society, and given this moment of unstoppable austerity and low (if no) growth for many European countries, it seems legitimate to wonder to what extent those ‘separatist’ issues will interact in next European elections in 2013. Evidence seems to suggest that a drop in citizens’ participation and climbing abstention will be deeper.

As the Utøya tragedy shows, one of the most demanding challenges in the future for the EU is internal terrorism and social degradation, since hostile tendencies of anti-Marxism, anti-Islamism, anti-multiculturalism are likely to emerge more and more, representing a fundamental threats for the entire Union. Among the other things, this politics of the enemy and intolerance against “the other” (this being very difficult to classify nowadays into an ethnic, cultural or national model) has generated in Italy the creation of so-called “ronde “, namely spontaneous organisations of citizens’ vigilante groups patrolling quarters overnight to look for and punish possible aggressions and thefts committed by foreigners .

As for the EU and its citizens, it is time to wonder how to stop such episodes of separatism, anti-EU demonstrations and violence among frustrated and angry people. Although good economy and healthy balances of payment are key factors in providing nations with stability, it seems also legitimate to cast doubt over social cohesion in a Union which appears more violent, more divided, definitely on the wrong track.

Finally: if political parties are the representation of people, and right-wing intolerant political groups are on the rise, what comes next?

LATVIA | Stop the SS commemoration in Riga, on 16 March!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012, 17:58 | | Click here for original article

Waffen SS veterans in Latvia
Waffen SS veterans in Latvia

Tell Latvia: Stop revising history!

Since 1998, Latvian SS veterans and their supporters have staged annual marches on 16th March Riga to commemorate and herald these members of Hitler’s murderous hordes as “war heroes”. The numbers marching have increased over the years and are noweven condoned by Latvian officials and politicians including the friends of David Cameron’s Conservative Party in the For Fatherland and Freedom party.

On 16 March last year, more than 2,500 people paid tribute to Latvians who fought on the side of Nazi Germany in Waffen SS detachments during World War II but the Latvian Prime Minister told the media that he did not think 16 March had ,“a special significance” and claimed that so-called “Legionnaires’ Day” is used by radicals on both sides, “to confront each other”.

The petition against the 16 March event believes, on the contrary, that Latvia, the international community, the UK government, the European Union and NATO should condemn this disgusting Nazi spectacle in the clearest terms to ensure that Waffen SS criminals are not awarded “hero” status.

HOPE not hate urges all its supporters to sign it.

BELGIUM | Dewinter uses daughter in anti-Islam stunt

Monday, 6 February 2012, 13:52 |

Belgian right-wing extremist Filip Dewinter, the leader of the far-right Vlaams Belang, has used his 19-year-old daughter in a sick anti-Islam provocation. Dewinter’s so-called “Women Against Islamisation” campaign features a poster with his daughter, An-Sofie, clad in a burka and a bikini. The burka covers Ms Dewinter’s head, face and back while the words “Freedom or Islam?” are written on a red bar across her breasts. Further down, a black panel with the words “You choose!” is plastered across teenager’s crotch. The Vlaams Belang claims it wants to convince women to stand up to Islam.

HUNGARY | Far right says Jews not welcome

Monday, 6 February 2012, 13:39 | Source: Jewish Chronicle |

The foreign affairs spokesman of Jobbik, the ultra-nationalist party poised to play a leading role in Hungarian politics, has openly questioned the Holocaust and claimed that Jews are colonising the country. In a shocking interview with the JC, Marton Gyongyosi also said that Israel's treatment of the Palestinians amounted to a "Nazi system". Based on this assessment, he questioned whether Jews "have the right to talk about what happened during the Second World War". Terrifyingly for Hungary's 150,000-strong Jewish community, Jobbik, which currently holds 47 parliamentary seats, is set to capitalise on the country's current economic and political woes. Hungary is facing economic meltdown, with unemployment at 10.6 per cent and an IMF bailout increasingly likely. A senior civil servant in the Hungarian Foreign Ministry warned about the party, also notorious for its homophobia and anti-gypsy stance: "We are very, very worried. The prime minister could easily fail in the coming months, taking the ruling party down with him, and Jobbik is well-placed to become the largest party in Parliament in an election."

In 2007, Jobbik's president, Gabor Vona, founded the Magyar Garda, a now-banned civil defence force which uses the same insignia as the Arrow Cross, the Hungarian fascist movement that helped the Nazis murder many of the country's Jews. Far from seeking to whitewash his party's reputation ahead of a possible role in government, Mr Gyongyosi, a fluent English speaker, questioned whether 400,000 Jews really were killed or deported from Hungary during the Second World War. "It has become a fantastic business to jiggle around with the numbers," he said. Despite Hungary's economic problems, Jobbik is against foreign investment and sees Israeli business as a threatening force inside the country. Referring to a speech made by Shimon Peres in 2007 in which the Israeli President celebrated the success of Israeli businessmen around the world, including Hungary, Mr Gyongyosi said: "Jews are looking to build outside of Israel. There is a kind of expansionism in their behaviour. If Peres is supporting colonisation, it is a natural reaction for people to feel that Jews are not welcome here."

In a court case filed last year in Chicago, a group of Holocaust survivors and descendants of victims are suing the Hungarian state railway company for its role in transporting Jews to Auschwitz. The subject provoked fury in Mr Gyongyosi, who said: "This money-searching is playing with fire in Hungary." When it was suggested that Hungary should face up to and apologise for its role in the Holocaust, Mr Gyongyosi said: "Me, should I say sorry for this when 70 years later, I am still reminded on the hour, every hour about it? Let's get over it, for Christ's sake. I find this question outrageous." Meanwhile, Jobbik is actively developing a relationship with Iran. In January last year, Mr Vona took the Iranian ambassador to the Hungarian town of Tiszavasvari, which Mr Vona called "the capital of our movement". And in October, Jobbik hosted a large Iranian delegation to Hungary, at which Mr Vona declared: "For Iran, Hungary is the gate to the West." Mr Gyongyosi appeared to support Iran in its oft-stated aim to wipe Israel off the map. He said: "I always support the position of a threatened country.

"Iran is in the centre of a Middle East axis that Israel and the US want to subjugate and keep under their control. Iran is an extremely peaceful country and never started a war, unlike Israel which has declared wars on anything and everybody around it." Israel, says Mr Gyongyosi, was founded by "terrorists" and today runs a "Nazi system, based on racial hatred. Look at Lieberman, he's no different to Goebbels. He is a pure Nazi." And Israel's policies in the West Bank and Gaza, which, according to Mr Gyongyosi, amount to shooting women and children and building an "apartheid wall", mean that "the Jews don't have the right to talk about what happened in the Second World War." Zoltan Balog, Hungary's Minister of State for Social Inclusion, said: "Jobbik play a dangerous game. They are making use of old paranoia at a time of economic crisis."

RUSSIA | Anti-racist beaten up on the eve of demonstration

Monday, 6 February 2012, 13:39 |

The Human Rights First organisation has called on the Russian government to investigate a violent assault on anti-racist activist Philip Kostenko who works at the “Memorial” Anti-Discrimination Centre in Saint Petersburg.

On 3 February, Kostenko was attacked by two men who followed him through a park, where they felled him and beat him. One of the attackers called him by name before the assault. Kostenko was later hospitalised. “We call on the authorities in Saint Petersburg to thoroughly investigate this case, including the extent to which it was in retaliation for his activism. They should also hold the perpetrators accountable.

The fact that this incident took place one day before the scheduled opposition demonstrations across Russia suggests that the attackers may have wanted to prevent Kostenko’s participation in 4 February protest actions,” commented Human Rights First’s Paul LeGendre. Kostenko has previously been subjected to intimidation and monitoring by the authorities – including the police unit responsible for combating extremism and hate crime – for his legitimate opposition and his human rights activities. In mid-December 2011, he was targeted by police during non-violent post-parliamentary election protests, arrested, and given the maximum 15-day sentence for public disorder.

On December 22, his sentence was extended by another 15 days at a hearing heavily influenced by a representative from the police’s anti-extremism unit. The judge in that hearing refused to allow Kostenko to defend himself before extending the sentence.

POLAND | Anti-racism scheme scores success

Monday, 6 February 2012, 13:38 | Source: UEFA |

An anti-racism programme for schools and other educational institutions run by FARE's Polish partner Never Again and forming part of the Respect initiative has been embraced in Poland.

The anti-racism educational programme in Poland for this summer’s UEFA EURO 2012 final round, run by the Never Again association, continues to have a positive impact. A successful one-year pilot programme in Warsaw, including specialist training for Never Again activists, has just been completed, and educational institutions throughout Poland – schools, universities and community centres – have responded in their numbers to an offer to join the scheme. The training curriculum has been prepared specifically for the Respect Diversity projectwhich forms part of UEFA’s four-pronged Respect initiative launched ahead of UEFA EURO 2012. The curriculum is addressed at teachers and sports coaches from all types of schools and educational institutions across the co-host country. The central part of the scheme includes workshops for teachers and coaches, as well as conferences to equip and support activities in the classroom to explore racism and diversity through football. All of the training participants receive educational material on the prevention of discrimination, racism and xenophobia in sport.

The materials also contain advice on how to conduct anti-discrimination activities at schools and other educational bodies. The workshops focus on issues such as manifestations of racism and neo-fascism in sport and prohibited racist symbolism in Polish stadiums. The training programme is enhanced by a special exhibition about the multicultural aspects of Polish football, which was designed by UEFA's partner in the campaign to eliminate racism and intolerance from the game, the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network, and its associated organisation in Poland, Never Again, to promote tolerance before UEFA EURO 2012. Training is conducted by specially trained representatives from Never Again. The training sessions are free of charge. The objectives are to use the power of football in the classroom to increase teachers’ understanding of anti-racist education, and to support pedagogical approaches in this area. Another aim is to make available educational materials for teachers to use in classrooms; and to reach out to pupils in the classroom with anti-discriminatory ideas and culture.

It is hoped the scheme will benefit participating schools, teachers and pupils by nurturing a greater grasp of tolerance and by teaching youngsters about anti-discrimination. In addition, schools should be encouraged to be more open and anti-discriminatory in their attitudes.

HUNGARY | “We are not democrats” - Vona

Monday, 6 February 2012, 13:37 |

Gábor Vona
Gábor Vona

Gábor Vona, the leader of Hungary’s fascist Jobbik party, has publicly admitted his party is not democratic. “We are not communists, we not fascists, we are not national socialists but we are not democrats either,” he told a party gathering, attended by several thousand members, on 5 February. The economic crisis is a crisis of liberal democracy, he said, that “would lead to armed conflict within two decades” and Jobbik must increase Hungarian society’s ability to defend, organise and support itself. The right-wing extremist boss also told the assembled mob that Jobbik’s ideas were now dominant on the right in Hungary, and that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party was “raising the tree planted by Jobbik”. Hungary’s future lies not in the European Union – withdrawal from which should be the subject of a referendum – but in forging closer ties with the east, Vona said, citing Russia and Turkey. Last week, he told TV viewers that his party wants “constitutional rule based on the doctrine of the Holy Crown”. Jobbik won 17% of the vote in 2010 general elections, with the formerly ruling Socialists only narrowly beating them to the position of largest opposition party.

GERMANY | Socks provided clue in terror gang case

Monday, 6 February 2012, 13:35 |

Police probing the Zwickau-based National Socialist Underground (NSU) terror cell have identified one of the group’s members, Beate Zschäpe, as the person who blew up the flat she shared with two other suspects by analysing her socks, a new report has disclosed. Examining chemical traces left on Zschäpe’s socks, a Saxony state police forensic found hints of what was most likely petrol. Experts also found traces of fuel in the debris of the apartment, including on carpets, seat cushions and wood flooring. Zschäpe's socks were confiscated on November 8, after she turned herself in to police. Zschäpe blew up the flat four days earlier to destroy evidence of the group’s crimes, after her fellow gang members, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, were caught after robbing a bank. One of them shot the other dead before killing himself. The gang killed nine immigrant shopkeepers and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007. Police found evidence linking the trio to the murders, as well as a DVD of a video boasting about the killings, in the rubble at the flat. They also discovered an address book which contained an “enemy list” that included the names of high-ranking investigators, as well as people opposing the nazi National Democratic Party.

HUNGARY | Fascist icon dies

Monday, 6 February 2012, 13:33 | Source: AP |

Istvan Csurka, a Hungarian anti-Soviet dissident playwright and later far-right nationalist politician who was criticised at home and abroad for his antisemitic articles, has died aged 77.

Often compared to France’s xenophobic National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, Csurka opposed Hungary’s membership in NATO and the European Union, but his political activities dwindled after a stinging defeat in the 2006 elections. Still, he kept writing vitriolic articles in his Magyar Forum publications. Just weeks ago, he spoke at a rally in the southern city of Szeged in defense of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government, which has been severely criticised by the European Union for laws curtailing civil liberties and upsetting the democratic system of checks and balances. Csurka also hit the headlines late last year when his nomination – later withdrawn – as artistic director of a Budapest theatre was criticised in Hungary and abroad by theatre professionals and Jewish groups.

Last week, a letter from Csurka was read to the staff of the New Theatre in Budapest by Gyorgy Dorner, who recently took over as director, in which he asked members of the theatre to work together in harmony despite their political differences. One of Csurka’s last works, The Sixth Coffin, a play about Trianon, the post-World War I treaty which forced Hungary to give up two-thirds of its territories and half its population, is planned to be staged at the theatre later in 2012.

Born in Budapest on March 27, 1934, Csurka wrote more than 20 plays, some satirising the Communist regime and especially former dictator Janos Kadar, and published many volumes of essays and short stories. His newspaper and magazine articles often blamed Jews and international powers for Hungary’s problems. After the 1956 anti-Soviet Revolution, he spent six months in an internment camp for leading a college militia during the uprising. During his detention, Csurka was recruited as an informant for Hungary’s secret police. but eventually declared unfit for the task because of his refusal to cooperate. Hungary’s cultural authorities twice silenced Csurka, first in 1972 for antisemitic and subversive statements and then in 1986.

While on tour in the United States, he published an article in the emigré press dealing with the plight of ethnic Hungarian minorities living in Hungary’s neighbouring countries for which he was given a year’s ban. Csurka was a founding member of the Hungarian Democratic Forum, a conservative party that led the first post-Communist government in 1990-1994.

He was expelled from the party in 1993 and later formed the nationalist Hungarian Justice and Life Party, which was in Parliament between 1998 and 2002.

HUNGARY | Socialists overtake far-right Jobbik in popularity contest

Friday, 3 February 2012, 19:59 | Source: |

Hungary’s left-wing parties have gained some popularity, while far-right Jobbik has turned less popular, the January survey by Medián showed on Thursday. The governing Fidesz party enjoys practically the same confidence of the voters than in the previous few months, local weekly HVG reported.

Among eligible voters, Fidesz enjoys a 26% support, unchanged from November and December 2011, i.e. the ruling party’s loss of popularity has stopped. Support for the Socialist Party (MSZP) rose to 15% from 11%, placing it before the far-right Jobbik party, whose popularity eroded from Dec11. The pollster registered a 2% support for the party led by former PM Ferenc Gyurcsány, the Democratic Coalition, among eligible voters.

Among voters with party preference the same tendencies can be observed, albeit not so strongly. The popularity of Fidesz and opposition green party LMP stagnated, while that of MSZP rose and Jobbik has become slightly less popular. Support for DC in this group is at the threshold necessary to make it to Parliament, at 5%.

73% of the respondents believe Hungary is going in the wrong way, which marks a moderate correction after a jump close to 80% from sub-70% levels in Nov-Dec. (There were no data available for those who see things going in the right direction and those who did not know or would not say what they think in this respect.)

HUNGARY | Young, Wired and Angry: A Revised Portrait of Hungary's Right-Wing Extremists

Friday, 3 February 2012, 19:57 | Source: SPIEGEL |

Though largely ignored by the national media, Hungary's right-wing extremist Jobbik party operates within a surprisingly well-developed and self-sustained online universe. What's more, recent studies have found that the party's supporters aren't the "losers" that many experts thought they were.

The leader of Hungary's right-wing extremists rarely expresses himself so clearly. Speaking before a crowd of a few thousand supporters in Budapest's Sportmax complex on Saturday, Jan. 21, Gábor Vona announced the end of liberal democracy in the world. In the speech traditionally delivered before party members in January, the 33-year-old politician demanded "no compromising" either with or as part of the ruling political system, calling instead for "fighting, fighting and still more fighting." "We are not communists, fascists or National Socialists," Vona said. "But -- and this is important for everyone to understand very clearly -- we are also not democrats!"

Vona's words were met with highly enthusiastic applause. It was the first time that the head of the right-wing Jobbik party ("The Better") -- which received just under 17 percent of the vote during elections in April 2010 -- had made such a crystal-clear rejection of democracy. The speech was only given slender and primarily disinterested coverage in the Hungarian media. Elöd Novák, a deputy chairman of the party, claimed that this probably had more to do with organizational priorities rather than a conscious effort to boycott reporting on the event. "We are the second-strongest party in Hungary," he said, "but we hardly play any role in the traditional media."

Although Novák talks of "exclusion," he in no way intends it to be accusatory. Granted -- even though it backs Hungary's exit from the European Union, the party recently sent a letter of complaint to Neelie Kroes, the EU commissioner for digital agenda, alleging that it receives too little coverage from the Hungarian media. But the fact is that the party fondly fosters its image of being a media outcast. What's more, in reality, they have absolutely no need for the traditional media.

Surprisingly Modern and Well-Networked

When Jobbik wants to communicate with its supporters and voters, it takes a different tack. Party politicians speak at so-called "resident forums" almost every day and listen to people in the smallest villages voice their concerns. Still, by far their most-used vehicle for disseminating their ideology is an extremely well-organized network made up of hundreds of right-wing extremist websites interlinked via platforms like Facebook or iWiW, a Hungarian social-networking service.

This was also the case with Vona's speech on Jan. 21., the website of Jobbik's weekly magazine bar!kád, broadcast the speech live. Likewise, right after the event wrapped up, other news portals operated by Hungarian right-wing extremists presented complete multimedia reports on the event, part of which eventually made its way onto Facebook.

This approach has long since become a matter of routine. For years, Hungary's right-wing extremists have very effectively utilized the Internet to reach their goals. They use it to disseminate their messages and to organize demonstrations and campaigns -- many of which also involve hate speech and incitement. "The Internet has been and remains very important to us," says Márton Gyöngyösi, a Jobbik member of parliament. He explains that this is "not only on account of our limited access to the traditional media, but also because a major part of our supporters and voters are young people who we can best reach via new media."

Experts have been observing this trend for some time now. "During the 2010 election campaign, the Internet played a key role for Jobbik," says Áron Buzogány, a German-Hungarian political scientist who studies social movements in Eastern Europe. "When compared with the other parties, Jobbik had the most up-to-date Internet presence based on Web 2.0 (tools). People visiting these (web)pages could take an active role in helping shape them, thereby becoming part of the campaign themselves."

Budapest-based political scientist József Jeskó, who has been studying the online activities of Hungary's right-wing extremists for years, reaches a similar conclusion. "Jobbik is the first party in the history of Hungary to have effectively used the Internet's advantages for its own purposes," he says. Jeskó emphasizes, however, that Jobbik neither built up nor controls the online network of Hungarian right-wing extremists itself. Instead, he says, "Small groups with similar convictions, but many different interests, have made contact with the help of the Internet and jointly created a virtual world for themselves."

Modern, well-networked right-wing extremism in Hungary was born in the fall of 2006. At the time, there was rioting in the streets of Budapest. Among other things, demonstrators stormed the building of MTV, the national broadcasting company, and crippled its transmission abilities. One of the things that sparked the riots was the secretly taped "speech of lies" delivered by socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány in May of that year. Although the speech was made during what was supposed to be a closed-door meeting of his party, it was secretly taped -- and broadcast. In it, he openly admitted to lying to voters.

Online Launching Pads for Violence

One of the things that helped spark the violent protests was the appearance a few months earlier of the website, which has come to be the central and most-visited online platform of Hungary's far-right extremist scene. The website disseminates extremely aggressive anti-Semitic, anti-Gypsy, chauvinistic and homophobic content. What's more, under the rubric "collection point for genetic garbage," it periodically organizes what boils down to be witch hunts against certain individuals that can sometimes have horrific consequences. For example, in December 2007, the former socialist politician Csintalan Sándor was attacked and severely mistreated. For months during the run-up to the attack, the website had hosted a campaign against what it called the "Jewish rat." Those suspected of carrying out the attack, including Hungarian neo-Nazi leader György Budaházy, were arrested in 2009 and are currently standing trial on charges of committing terrorist crimes.

For years, law-enforcement officials in Hungary have also been trying to get the website, which is registered in the United States, shut down and to have the people suspected of running it arrested. But, so far, their efforts have failed. Rumor holds that one of its writers is none other than Jobbik deputy chairman Elöd Novák, though he naturally denies the accusation. "If I admitted that, I would obviously go to jail," Novák says. "But, it's true that I maintain good relations with the editorial staff," he admits before brazenly adding: "Sometimes I use my cell phone to send them material straight out of parliamentary meetings."

A World unto Itself

Oft-visited websites like also serve as hubs for the online network of Hungarian right-wing extremists. Visitors can follow links from these sites to other right-wing extremist websites, to the Jobbik party website, to local right-wing extremist organizations, to the web-based radio station and to "nationalist-feeling" folk or Rock groups -- all of which link back to each other. But that's not all. There are also ads for and links to "nationalist" stores and companies offering almost the whole range of everyday needs, including food, beverages, clothes, furniture, travel agencies, lawyers and financial advisers. Indeed, there are even websites for finding "nationalist-Christian partners" and ordering "nationalist taxis" online.

Political scientist József Jeskó describes this right-wing extremist network as an "almost completely self-contained virtual system" that gives its users an "unbelievably strong identity and a comprehensive worldview, their own complete way of living that only allows means or information to penetrate from outside with extreme difficulty." For Jobbik, Jeskó adds, this network offers a "huge amount of informal capital" through which it can "transmit an illustrated worldview to its voters free of charge" and shape their opinions. "Via the traditional media," he says, "the party would have not attained that to any degree."

Not the Party of 'Losers'

What makes the network even more valuable for Jobbik is the fact that its users are not people who are poor and socially frowned upon. Many political scientists initially viewed Jobbik as a party of "losers." But new studies provide a different picture, finding that the typical Jobbik voter is male, under 35, rarely unemployed and the holder of either a trade or secondary-school degree. Early last week, the British think tank Demos and the Budapest-based Political Capital Institute released a study based on the results of a survey of over 2,200 Facebook fans of the Jobbik party. The survey found that the typical respondent has "very low levels of trust in all major social and political institutions" and is "more likely to think that violence is justified if it leads to the right outcome." Likewise, the Internet-based service, Hungary's best-read online news website, summed up the average Jobbik voter as: "Very young, very Hungarian, very ill-tempered."

For political scientist Áron Buzogány, this shows that Jobbik's popularity is the tragic result of Hungary's failed political evolution. "For a long time, the country has been split into left and right to an extraordinarily deep degree, which is becoming an increasingly large social problem," he says. "An entire stratum of young people has grown up in the context of this division and has now found a home in the right-wing extremist micro-universe."

AUSTRIA | Far-right ball in Vienna sparks mass protests

Thursday, 2 February 2012, 15:17 | From our correspondent Martin Jordan for UNITED in |

The annual ballroom dancefest of Austria’s pan-Germanist, far right student fraternities in the former Imperial Palace and official residence of the Austrian president in Vienna has again sparked large-scale anti-fascist protests and public controversy. This year’s fascist anniversary waltz, on 27 January, coincided with the International Holocaust Remembrance Day and was thus a macabre provocation against the victims of Nazism.

As usual, the ball was spangled with such honoured guests from the right-wing extremist Freedom Party (FPÖ) as party leader Heinz-Christian Strache, Martin Graf (third president of the Austrian Parliament) and main ideologist and MEP Andreas Mölzer. Other illustrious far-right figures up for the Pasodoble at the FPÖs invitation were Front National leader Marine Le Pen, Sweden Democrats MP Kent Ekeroth and Vlaams Belang MEP Philip Claeys.

Opposite to this unwholesome sealed-off spectacle, 6000-8000 people mobilised against the far-right’s latest tail-coated, big frocked happening. The anti-fascists’ main strategy of blocking streets off the sanctioned demonstration routes successfully hindered the arrival of guests and caused the official opening of the ball to be delayed. Central to this strategy were cyclist lookouts and good internal communications that outplayed the less mobile police force in an after-dark cat-and-mouse game.

Strache, one of the main speakers at the event, used the occasion for a display of shameless bravado by comparing the anti-fascist demonstrations with the so-called “Kristallnacht”, the November 1938 Nazi anti-Jewish pogrom that is seen as the historic beginning of the Holocaust. In his warped mind, the ball guests are the “new Jews”. In reaction to this, Austrian president Heinz Fischer is now refusing to give Strache a medal of honour for his "efforts for the Republic of Austria" that is usually given to MPs after 10 years.

FRANCE | Marine Le Pen unable to stand in French Presidential race?

Wednesday, 1 February 2012, 13:37 | Source: RFI |

France’s far right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen says she is struggling to obtain the 500 signatures required to be a candidate in the spring Presidential elections.Under French law, she must be sponsored by at least 500 elected officials, in practice usually one of France’s thousands of local mayors. Sponsoring candidates does not imply support for their ideas, but the list of sponsors is published a few days before the first round and many are reluctant to be associated with the Front National.

Marine Le Pen maintains that mayors are afraid to sign for her because they fear that central government will punish them, by withholding subsidies if they facilitate her candidacy, a charge vigorously denied. Politicians from the two biggest parties, Sarkozy’s UMP and François Hollande’s Socialist party insist that she is bluffing about her situation.They point out that the Front National candidate always complains of trouble collecting signatures and always has enough in the end. But some voice concern that it would be undemocratic if she cannot stand, as opinion polls suggest that she has between 17 and 20 per cent support among the electorate. Marine Le Pen will today demonstrate in front of the France’s upper house of Parliament, where Senators are discussing a possible change in the rules so that sponsors might remain anonymous.