Welcome to Nazi Side Effects, a new bi-weekly column from our friend Conor Creighton, which will endeavor to explore and uncover the hilarious and deleterious legacy of Nazism around the world. It will be running for the next few weeks, or until Conor runs out of stuff to write about.
First, let's run through some background information: German state elections are taking place in Berlin on September 18th. If a party can get 5 percent of the state vote, then they’re eligible to enter the national parliament. The NPD, also known as the neo-Nazi party, have never reached that 5 percent threshold before, but they already have 14 seats at state level, and with German opinion slipping slowly to the right, this could be their year.
You see, Germany is grumpy. Its people are tired of footing the bill every time Greece, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, and Italy pig out. They're also tired of immigrants who come there and, well, never learn to speak like them, eat like them, drive like them, or—even three generations after being there—identify themselves as German. These things eat at Germany. The NPD may be largely made up of white trash, alcoholics, and the insane, but some of their policies hit the right note amongst good folk who ordinarily wouldn’t consider themselves racists. The NPD have some good ideas, but they also have more than their fair share of off-the-deep-end, out-to-lunch, lock-‘em-in-a-straight-jacket ideas.
Example one: They want Germany to abandon the Euro. I suppose that's not the craziest one, actually, so let's move on to example two: They want Germany to retake the land they ceded to Poland at the end of WWII and annex Austria, creating a German-speaking superstate. The latter sounds vaguely familiar, but I can't put my finger on why, exactly.
Various attempts to ban the NPD have met with little success, and the longer they exist the more normalized their ideas become. There are neo-Nazi bars, neo-Nazi shops, and whole villages that have been bought up by the neo-Nazis in Germany. And while the numbers of neo-Nazis in Germany are still relatively small, if history has taught us anything, it's that it takes just one short Austrian with a comb-over to flip this mild-mannered land to megalomania.
Below is a picture from a recent NPD party conference in Berlin. Like most of their meetings, there’s a strong presence of anti-fascist kids ready to jump them and twice that amount of police to prevent that happening.
As you can see, it’s not so easy to pick out the neo-Nazis anymore. Most of them wear Vans and loose jeans like every other east German kid. If you see one of them in boots, he’s probably got a problem with his arches, and if you see one with a skinhead, they’re more than likely adopting the Bruce Willis remedy for baldness.
Stay tuned—this series will attempt to clear that up, bunk, and debunk a few of the myths, and leave you feeling a little closer to far-right extremism in Germany.
WORDS AND PHOTOS BY CONOR CREIGHTON