Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The return of Nazism in Germany?

In 2010, a controversial book was published in Germany, claiming that an influx of Turkish immigrants was "lowering the intelligence" of the population. This in itself is almost insignificant, but the fact that a poll conducted after publication, for a leading news organisation showed that 30% of Germans believe that their country is being over-run by immigrants, and over 50% would supposedly like to restrict the practice of Islam (FOX News, USA).

German Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Union Party, unsurprisingly, denounced the controversial publication, the title of which is Germany is Doing Away with Itself but was also keen to point out that multi-culturalism had failed in Germany and is quite clear in her views that Muslims (largely from Turkey) have failed to integrate into mainstream society. Indeed, this puts her in a challenging position: on one hand, due to the ageing and declining population, immigrants must play an instrumental role in the economy; though failing to take public opinion into consideration could be detrimental to her own reputation.

What's worse, significant swathes of the population are turning to extremism to prevent (more) decline in the indigenous population and the poor education standards associated with, primarily Turkish, immigration. In February of this year, over fifty men and women met in Berlin to form Die Freiheit (Freedom Party) whose ideals include spreading anti-Muslim feeling across Germany as well as 'halting the Islamization of our society' .

Combine this rather fierce debate with claims that numbers of Neo-Nazis are increasing in numbers, and there is much to be concerned about.

The Independent reports today (05/07/2011) that the far right movement of the National Democratic Party has shed its 'skinhead image' and is making every effort to both
look and act in a respectable manner in an attempt to appeal to mainstream voters who have a desire to combat the perceived immigration problem. There are reckoned to be over 25,000 supporters of the far-right party, many of whom are also members of Neo-Nazi groups.

Despite attempts to make themselves look respectable, the challenge has proved to be too much for some members. In Mecklenburg, where the NPD are fighting to keep their parliamentary majority. In fact the state government, controlled by Social Democrats have got to concerned over the rise of nationalist feeling, that they have insisted that every teacher signs a declaration showing their commitment to democracy, in a desperate attempt to prevent pupils and youth groups from being brain-washed by the racist propaganda produced and spread by the NPD. It is interesting to note that the Federal government tried to ban the NPD from national politics in 2001, but the Constitutional Court refused them permission to do so.

Such attempts to appear respectable, however, has proved to be just too challenging for some activists. Sven Kruger, a building contractor and NPD politician used a logo showing a Star of David being crushed by a sledgehammer. On searching the premises, German Police also found pictures of leaders of the Jewish community being used as targets for shooting

I am not likening the way Turkish immigrants in Germany are treated to the atrocities of the Nazi regime against the Jewish people in the 1930s and 1940s. What I am highlighting, are similarities with the two groups in terms of the perception of them from some sections of the German population.

Of course, such anti-immigration thoughts are not limited to Germany, but are prevalent through Western Europe (France perhaps has it even worse). But the fact that the NPD can win elections and appeal to more mainstream voters than, say the British National Party can in this country, is a matter of quite some concern.

It is also a sad state of affairs when groups of people from different cultures and religions fail to live harmoniously together. Perhaps government intervention is the answer; to educate minority groups, not only academically so they cause less resentment from the 'local' population, but also on cultural matters, so that they might feel more confident in integration, and vice-versa- people should be taught to respect one another and celebrate diversity.

For the forseeable future, Nazism remains a non-mainstream political force in German culture. Whilst concerning and saddening, most Germans are painfully aware and wary of what a return to extreme right-wing government would entail.

*Image from http://www.zimbio.com