(Another former political extremist in the current German government is Joschka Fischer, a leading member of the radical environmentalist Green Party and the current German foreign minister, who has been strident in his opposition to American policy in Iraq. In the 1970’s Fischer was a leftist streetfighter who was actually photographed while savagely beating a policeman during a riot.)
Although recent events may seem like a sudden explosion of neo-Nazi violence, a close look at the statistics reveals that neo-Nazi activity, as noted above, has been on the rise in Germany since unification. In the words of Paul Spiegel, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, ‘For years we have been warning that anti-Semitism is growing in Germany.’
The aborted bomb plot in Munich was not the first time in recent years that neo-Nazis have been discovered planning Palestinian-style terror attacks. Three years ago in the German state of Saxony authorities raided a neo-Nazi compound and found a nearly complete car bomb, detonators, machine guns, rocket launchers and missiles. And just two years ago a group of neo-Nazis in Munich attacked and savagely beat a Greek man as he was coming out of a restaurant; a month later a contingent of neo-Nazis attacked British soccer fans during an FC Bayern match.
Behind the Numbers
Although local authorities in Hamburg claim that neo-Nazi activity is on the decline there, the same cannot be said for other German cities. In Dresden, for instance, in 2003 alone neo-Nazis have publicly demonstrated on a number of occasions. Neo-Nazi activity in Dresden has been increasing steadily for at least the last three, and some of the demonstrations have been frequented by as many as 1,000 neo-Nazis.
How many overt neo-Nazis are there in Germany today? The Bundesverfassungsschutz (BVD), the German internal security agency, has an official estimate of 2,800 members in the various German neo-Nazi organizations. Other sources estimate anywhere between 10,000 and 20,000 members. Because there are criminal penalties in Germany for neo-Nazi activity, Holocaust denial and the display and use of Nazi regalia, the more overt neo-Nazis make an effort to mask the true nature of their organizations behind nationalistic and cultural screens.
Logic would dictate, however, that for each member of an overt neo-Nazi organization there are many persons who sympathize with them but choose not to join such organizations.
It is difficult to assess the true number of neo-Nazis because the various organizations that fall under the neo-Nazi umbrella combine, split off from one another and morph into new identities as legal and political necessities warrant and as leadership changes occur. It is also logical to assume that many, if not most, of the neo-Nazi organizations are set up in the classic cell structure, so that except for a few top officials the exact memberships of the groups are unknown to the rank and file.
In any event, taking the official 2,800 as a low ball estimate and 20,000 as being on the very high end of the scale, it would seem a safe bet to assume that the actual official membership in German neo-Nazi organizations is somewhere in the 5,000 to 10,000 range.
Neo-Nazi groups in Germany may have become emboldened by the failure of the Schroeder government to have them banned. Last year the government was dealt an embarrassing blow when the Constitutional Court refused to support the banning of the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD), citing as one of its reasons the fact that many members of the NPD had worked as government informers.
The increase in neo-Nazi activity in Germany seems to parallel an increase in anti-Semitism in other European countries such as France, Belgium and The Netherlands. Additionally, the embrace of anti-Semitism by the political left in America and the almost total domination of major American universities by a pro-Palestinian agenda likely gives encouragement to German neo-Nazis.