Archive/File: fascism nwt.102193-1 Last-Modified: 1993/10/21 GERMANS BEGIN TO SENSE STRENGTH OF NEO-NAZI THREAT washington, oct. 21 (nca) - the following article By CRAIG R. WHITNEY appears today in the new york times: MAINZ, Germany - Kurt Muller, a retired nurseryman with a brown toupee and a distinctive pair of metal-frame glasses, has served time in prison for expressing virulent Nazi views. But for years his neighbors in this Rhineland state capital were inclined to dismiss him as a harmless and irrelevant nuisance. Recently that attitude has changed. When Muller, 63, and his wif e, Ursula, 59, tried to enter the Dorfschanke restaurant a few blocks away from their house in Gonsenheim the other day, the bartender blocked the door. "You can't come in here," he told the couple. "If I let you in, all my other customers will boycott the place." The Mullers left, furious, and retreated home. Belatedly, the general public and the government seem to be waking up to warnings from anti-fascist critics that neo-Nazis are far better organized and more dangerous than most Germans had thought they were. "We have recognized for some time that the connections among right-wing groups have been expanding," Eckart Werthebach, the president of the federal domestic intelligence service, told the Frankfurter Rundschau in late September. There is no indication that the scores of right-wing nationalist and neo-Nazi groups in Germany follow a single leader as the Nazis followed Hitler two generations ago, government officials say. But there is no longer much doubt that the ideology they share and seek to spread has had dangerous consequences. A wave of anti-Semitic and xenophobic violence has claimed 24 lives over the last year and a half, with the bulk of the attacks inspired, if not directly ordered, by militant nationalist and neo-Nazi groups. To counter the threat, the federal intelligence service in Cologne has tripled the size of the department responsible for keeping right-wing militants under surveillance. Right-wing assailants were blamed for about 1,480 attacks on foreigners in the first nine months of this year, 22 times the level reported a decade ago. In its latest annual report, the intelligence service said there were 82 "right-wing extremist organizations and other groupings" in Germany at the end of 1992, up from 76 in 1991. Part of the rightist surge is attributed to discontent in the eastern part of Germany, where the fall of Communism and reunification with the west left millions of people without jobs. Right-wing nationalists have sought to exploit such frustration, along with resentment over the arrival of one million foreigners seeking asylum and jobs since the Berlin wall fell in 1989. Whatever the causes, the effects are alarming. "In 1992, 80 Jewish cemeteries were desecrated in Germany," Ignatz Bubis, the head of the Central Council of German Jews, said recently in Bonn. "That is as many as were desecrated in all the years between 1926 and 1931." The government has banned six neo-Nazi groups in the last year and has said it will ask the courts to ban a seventh, the Free German Workers' party. And after a long period of playing down the violence as if to avoid encouraging it or alienating voters, Chancellor Helmut Kohl and other leaders have taken a sharper tone of condemnation. "The damage that neo-Nazis have done to our reputation in the world cannot be described drastically enough," Kohl said last month. He called for existing laws to be applied against neo-Nazis "in all severity." The intelligence service estimates membership in far-right groups at about 41,900 people, not including the leading nationalist Republican Party, which is estimated to have 25,000 members and hopes with the help of the others to win seats in the German Parliament in elections next fall. Three years ago, the agency estimated that 32,200 people in this country of 79 million belonged to far-right groups. To all outward appearances, the myriad groups to which neo-Nazis belong are splintered and uncoordinated. But in conversations over the last few weeks, some of their leaders revealed that they are in close contact with one another, hiding their channels of communication from their opponents and from the authorities. Such informal networking, they say, enables the movement to coordinate the activities of skinheads and other violence-prone youths who have carried out most of the thousands of acts of violence. The leading figures of the movement range in age from their early 20s to their mid-60s. Some of the older members have supported the Nazis since they were children; some of the younger ones, particularly in the east, seem to have been attracted to neo-Nazi values because of the dislocation that followed Germany's unification in 1990. Some are unemployed social outcasts on welfare, while others are the products of seemingly wholesome democratic backgrounds in the prosperous west. What all of them share is a clear set of beliefs, expressions and prejudices instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda of the 1930s. To these people, eastern Germany is only "central Germany," the real east being territories belonging to Poland and Russia that the rightists have sworn to recover. The Mullers say it is tough being a neo-Nazi in Germany these days. The police have raided their house 68 times over the last 28 years to look for Nazi propaganda, and Muller has twice served short prison terms, including a 14-month sentence he received in 1982 for perjury and other offenses. But the bar in an alcove in their living room is still a shrine to the Fuhrer, whose picture is pinned to the wall along with a swastika and an anti-Semitic slogan: "The chosen people of Satan killed Jesus Christ, Martin Luther and Adolf Hitler." Every April, the Mullers' walled-off property on the outskirts of Mainz is a gathering place for neo-Nazis far and wide who come to celebrate Hitler's birthday, the summer solstice, or what they see as the martyrdom of Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess, who died in an Allied prison in Berlin in 1987. Muller said a narrow escape from death in an American bombing raid on Mainz on Oct. 19, 1944, when he was 14, made him a pro-Nazi nationalist for life. "We believe America is the long arm of world Jewry," he said. "Germany has become the crown colony of Judas." Mrs. Muller is the leader of an organization called the Mutual Aid Society for Nationalistic Prisoners, known by its initials in German as HNG. The German authorities believe that it is a crucial part of a national right-wing network that enables seemingly splintered or unassociated groupings and political parties to share information and coordinate activities, including contacts with skinheads and other violence-prone youths.
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