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11 Oktober 2005

THE ECONOMIST in Reinhardtsdorf-Schöna

Diese Woche erschien im ECONOMIST auf Seite 44 dieser Artikel:

Germany's far right
The neo-Nazis haven't gone away

Reinhardtsdorf-Schoena, Saxony

ONE of the things people always say
about grand coalitions in Germany
is that they risk pushing malcontents towards
the political extremes. So how big
a challenge does Germany’s far right
now pose?

The good news from last month’s
German election was that the neo-Nazi
National Democrats (NPD) won only
1.6% of votes, well below the 5% needed
to enter parliament. Paradoxically, the
movement may have been hit by the
new Left Party, which chased far-right
voters. But it would be wrong to assume
the NPD is reverting to obscurity, after
winning a disturbing 9.2% of the vote at
a state election in Saxony a year ago.

Most Germans worry about far-right
parties only when they win more than
5% of the vote, says Toralf Staud, the author
of a book on the NPD called Modern
Nazis . The big danger, he argues,
lies not in the risk that the NPD will one
day win seats in the Bundestag, the
lower house, but in its efforts to promote
fascism in some east German regions.

The NPD may be Germany’s oldest
neo-Nazi party, but its strategy is modern.
It is no longer a sect seeking only to
defend the Third Reich. It has rebranded
its old xenophobia by including the rhetoric
of resistance to global capitalism.
Another fashionable cause is opposing
Turkey’s entry into the European Union.

A jumper on band-wagons, the party
has backed protests against labour-market
reforms and the war in Iraq. The NPD
has also found a place in far-right youth
culture, which now consists of more
than skinheads in bomber jackets: its
symbols are fashion brands, football loyalties
and, above all, music. Music is the
NPD’s way of attracting youngsters. It recently
handed out 200,000 copies of a
CD called School Yard , a medley of
rock songs and nationalist ballads.

It is in Saxon Switzerland , a mountainous
area near the Czech border, that
the NPD has had its biggest impact. And
it is in Reinhardtsdorf-Schöna, a village
of 1,600, that the party got its best result
in last year’s local elections: more than
25% enough for two seats on the local
council. Nationalism is cool among local
youth. Feting Hitler’s birthday is one of
their pastimes; if your skin is the wrong
colour, this place could be perilous.

Few of the burghers of Reinhardtsdorf-
Schöna are neo-Nazis. Yet resistance
to the far right is picking up only slowly,
partly because some fear that discussing
it openly could hurt tourism. However, a
"citizens’ initiative" is now warning people
about the NPD’s rise. At a reading of
Mr Staud’s book in a local bar, people exchanged
ideas about what to do. "We
have to stop looking away when we see
young people in their right-wing gear,
but talk to them," said one woman.
Curbing right-wing extremism will
take time, says Mr Staud. And it needs attention
not only at times when the NPD
does well. Despite its poor showing in
Saxony (4.9%) and Reinhardtsdorf-
Schöna (14.4%) in the general election,
the party topped a recent straw poll
among youths under 18 in Saxon Switzerland,
with 28.1%.