GERMANY is poised to impose a ban on the country’s largest far-right party, the NPD.
Legislation, already adopted by parliament’s upper house, is expected to be approved in the new year by MPs and given the blessing of Angela Merkel to go before the highest court in the land.
But what lawmakers cannot do is legislate for the German mindset, one that retreats in worrying numbers to the politics of the extreme right.
The country’s intelligence service in 2012 identified around 10,100 dangerous neo-Nazis, who continue to attract impressionable young people into their ranks.
Only recently Germany’s Spiegel magazine stirred the national conscience again with an essay about the resurgence of the “ugly German,” the arrogant, swaggering, uncaring and xenophobic model of old.
Even while the elected representatives fine-tune the wording which seeks to banish the NPD to history, another far-right party is waiting in the wings to absorb its membership and pursue its anti-immigrant, anti-Europe agenda.
Die Rechte, or The Right, appears to have chosen a name that reflects its philosophy and is guaranteed to provoke those drawn to its polar opposite, Die Linke. The Right pledges that it is committed to the German constitution and democracy. It calls for the “preservation of the German identity,” which is defined as a “core concern” for the party. The party also calls for the abrogation of “tolerance permits granted to foreigners permanently living in Germany.”
The head of this new movement seeking a Fourth Reich for Germany is Christian Worch who has been an active neo-Nazi for 35 years. A former high-ranking member of the German People’s Union, which merged with the NPD, Mr Worch is seeking not only to pick up the membership of the NPD when proscribed, but also to lure in the disaffected right-wing of Mrs Merkel’s ruling CDU party.
“That was probably one of Christian Worch’s main political considerations. He’s a neo-Nazi political veteran and he probably senses an opportunity to increase his political strength,” said Hajo Funke, an expert on right-wing extremism and anti-Semitism who teaches at the Free University in Berlin.
So far the NPD has only succeeded in regional parliaments and never overcome the five per cent hurdle necessary to enter the Bundestag.
Yet forces are coalescing in Europe and the wider world to bring the kind of perfect storm upon Germany that the establishment fears so much. Mass unemployment, inflation, erosion of savings and pensions – which pushed the middle classes into the hands of the Nazis back in the 1920s.
Stefan Hradil, a sociology professor at the University of Mainz, said: “Whenever large parts of the middle class get into trouble, things become politically unstable. Then, these threatened portions of the middle class swing toward radical voting behaviour.”
Which, say observers, brings Germany back to its difficult relationship with its Nazi past that, increasingly, some want to see re-enacted. A ban on the NPD cannot so easily ban the beliefs of those who still worship at the shrine of an ideology supposedly consigned to history.