Neo-Nazism is the name for a modern offshoot of Nazism. It is a radically right-wing ideology, whose main characteristics are extreme nationalism and violent xenophobia. The neo-Nazi movement is by far strongest in Germany, but groups are well known in other countries as well.
Neo-Nazism is, as the word suggests, a modern version of Nazism. In general, it is an incoherent right-extremist ideology, which is characterised by ‘borrowing’ many of the elements that constituted traditional Nazism. The most important of these elements is extreme nationalism. The traditional Nazi anti-Semitism, however, is not as prominent in the neo-Nazi ideology.
Neo-Nazism necessarily has to be viewed in its historical context, as a continuation of traditional Nazism. Consequently, one of the neo-Nazis’ most important objectives is the re-establishment of Nazism as an acceptable political ideology. This, for instance, is done by promoting the lie that the Holocaust never took place (Holocaust denial). The neo-Nazis have also taken over many of the symbols that were used by the Nazis: the swastika, the Nazi greeting (the out-stretched right arm), pictures of Hitler, etc.
The neo-Nazis do not constitute a homogenous group. It is rather the overall name for many different groupings that all belong on the far right of the political spectrum. The neo-Nazis’ typical enemy is no longer the Jews – although they still remain a hated group – but rather foreigners and immigrants. Thus, the main purpose of neo-Nazism is to stop immigration and hereby secure the survival of the national ‘race’. As a result, mainstream politicians are frequently accused of ‘treason’ for passing moderate immigration laws.
In general, neo-Nazism is anti-intellectual. Consequently, it has no coherent political ideology, but is, however, most often characterised by two defining elements: extreme nationalism and xenophobia. An important aspect of neo-Nazism is the strong social element, the ideology brings to its members. Neo-Nazi groups meet to drink, play music (especially racist ‘White Pride’ music) and sing old and new Nazi battle songs. They also arrange parades and marches, for instance on Hitler’s birthday.
However, a number of neo-Nazi groups, particularly in Germany, also carry out violent assaults. Homeless, “losers”, “foreigners”, “people of presumed Jewish heritage” and others have been assaulted and in some instances murdered.
Just like Nazism, the most important condition for neo-Nazism is discontent. This discontent is frequently directed against economic problems, growing immigration, social differences, and the democratic system. For this reason the neo-Nazis have been particularly successful in poor areas, for instance the former German Democratic Republic, where most of the neo-Nazis are recruited.
Neo-Nazism in Germany
The neo-Nazis in Germany constitute a small extremist minority, and among the reasons for their progress are:
- The Eastern German areas’ disappointed expectations following the reunion of 1990
- A massive influx of refugees, from the former communist states of Eastern Europe as well as from Africa and Asia.
The many immigrants make up a serious problem in the already poor Eastern German areas, where there is a growing competition for the jobs among Germans and immigrants. This has lead to high level of xenophobia, which again has lead to neo-Nazi groups having few problems recruiting new members.
Neo-Nazism is not a new phenomenon in Germany. The larges neo-Nazi party, the National-Demokratische Partei Deutschlands (NPD), was founded in 1964. Typically for certain parts of the neo-Nazi movement, the NPD tries to present itself as a respectable political party that respects the ground rules of a democratic society.
Other parts of the German neo-Nazi movement are much more militant. In 1991 the German authorities registered 3,884 instances of violence committed by neo-Nazis. The most notorious episode took place in the city of Mölnn in the state of Schleswig-Holstein on 23 November 1992. Neo-Nazi skinheads threw incendiary bombs into two houses occupied by Turkish families. Three Turks perished, including two children 10 and 14 years of age. The deaths led to a public outcry in Germany and a wave of sympathy with the Turkish victims. In Munich, 350,000 people took part in a public protest against neo-Nazism.