The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

David Irving, Holocaust denial, and his connections to right-wing extremists and Neo-National Socialism (Neo-Nazism) In Germany

Definition & Concept of Right-wing Extremism

2. The definition and concept of right-wing extremism [RWE], especially in the 1980s

2.1. What constitutes RWE in Germany is well defined by the official institutions set up to defend the constitution of the Fereral Republic of Germany [Bundesrepublikdeutschland - FRG] and also in the political and social sciences.

2.2. The importance and significance of the official definition of RWE are related to the

[Page 11]

peculiarities of West Germany's post-war democratic development to a system of values encompassing human and civil rights. As opposed to other classic western democracies, with their long tradition of freedom and rule of law, West Germany had to build a new democratic system of liberty, basic human rights, and a democratic political system, following the terroristic and anti-democratic rule of an ultra- nationalistic right-wing extremist regime between 1933 - 1945. Part of the ideological core of this system had been a deadly friend-foe dichotomy (described amongst others by the professor of constitution and law, Carl Schmitt), and a racist anti-Semitism.

2.3. The Basic Law of 1949 represents the endeavour to return to a (western) liberal tradition of freedom and individual rights. Contrary to some other long-lasting democracies like Britain it laid out explicit standards and values as immediate, direct laws. In other-words, basic human rights are legally binding and written into the Basic Law, the constitution of the FRG. For example the basic human rights of the dignity of man, individual freedom, equality before the law, freedom of belief, conscience and religion, etc: This represents a divergence from some other democratic traditions, but is clearly anchored in the uniqueness of recent German history.

2.4. The constitution's right to protect itself is also enshrined in the Basic Law. One of the `fathers' of the German constitution, Professor Carlo Schmid, posed a fundamental question during the debates of the Parliamentary Council charged with drawing up the constitution.

Should equality and liberty be granted absolutely and without any restriction? Should it also encompass those who singularly strive to achieve power and then having done so destroy freedom? I personally believe that the principles of democracy in itself cannot nuttier the means for its removal. Democracy rises to more than a mere: product of usefulness only where courage is found to believe in it as something that is necessary to preserve human dignity. Should this courage be found, then so should the courage to be intolerant of those who abuse democratic principles to destroy it.<3>

2.5 This idea is expressed in the German idea of a `militant democracy' [streitbare Demokratie]. In article 73 of the Basic Law it is stated that the federal government can

[Page 12]

exclusively legislate in the defence of constitutional rights to ensure their continuity and the security of the German federation and of the individual federal states. According to article 87.1 a federal law can initiate and establish central offices to collect information necessary to uphold the constitution. Thus state institutions also include a federal office for the defence of the constitution and an executive arm. It aims to guarantee the constitution and protect its enemies. Part of its activities are to monitor extra-constitutional and anti-constitutional activities, individuals, and groups, and to publish its findings.<4>

2.6 The OPC defines as extremist all endeavours aimed at abusing, fully or in part, constitutional law and all efforts to replace it with a totalitarian nationalistic system, efforts often based on ideas of dictatorial order.<5>The principles protected are set out are as follows:

respect towards basic human rights as set out in Basic Law
democratic sovereignty of the people
division of power
accountability of the government
lawfulness of the administration
independence of the judicial system
a multi-party system equal opportunity for all political parties right to build democratic opposition.<6>

2.1. The question of a ban on extremist activities in the German legal system.

2.1.1. Although the definition applied to the protection of the constitution is very clear, the one applied to banning political parties is more diffuse. This is due to the decisive role political parties play within the political system, as defined by the constitution. According to article 21 of the Basic Law, political parties have a special role to play in the realization of the democratic sovereignty of the people. As this privilege is

[Page 13]

guaranteed by constitutional law, only the Federal Constitutional Court [Bundesverfassungsgericht - BVG] can rule on if a political party violates this law. The initiative to ban a political party can only come from a constitutional institution, for example the federal government, or the upper and lower houses of parliament. The constitutional court has decided to ban a political party only twice since 1949. This was the case with the Socialist Reich Party [Sozialistische Reichsparte - SRP] in 1952 and the German Communist Party [Kommmunistische Partei Deutschland - KPD] in 1956. The argument was essentially that the constitutional law had been infringed by both parties.

2.1.2. To repeat: only constitutional organs are entitled to ask for a ban of a political party. And they in turn are free to decide whether to ask for such a prohibition or not. This means that a party that is not banned, but is nevertheless described as extremist by the OPC, is by no means necessarily democratic. It is therefore wrong to suggest, as Irving does in the case of the DVU, that a party is not extremist if it is not banned. In the case of the DVU the OPC is absolutely clear that the party is extremist and has extremist views (see below).

2.1.3. The procedure involved in banning political groups and associations (as aposed to parties) is different. In practice it is easier for official institutions to prohibit associations and societies that violate the Basic Law. This can be taken at the initiative of the Interior Ministries or ministers, both at a federal or state level. For instance in 1980 the militant military sport group `Wehrsportgruppe Hoffmann' was banned as was the neo-Nazi group `Volkssozialistische Bewegung Deutschlands/Partei der Arbeit' and it's youth wing `Junge Front' in 1982. Michael Kuehnen's neo-Nazi National Socialist's Action Front [Aktionsfront Nationale Sozialisten - ANS, later to become the ANS/NA, NA for National Activists] Was likewise banned in December 1983. There were also a series of bans in the 1990s (see below).<7>

2.2 Additional definitions from the political and social sciences.

2.2.1. Although there is a debate as to what the definition of RWE legitimately encompasses,

[Page 14]

there is wide academic consensus that RWE is essentially anti-democratic, in that it stands contrary to the tradition of human rights and the constitutional state. Ethnocentricity, often in the form of overt racism and nationalism, are at the core of an ideology that claims superiority over all other values. The values of universal human rights (of individual liberty, freedom, equality, respect of human dignity) are despised, rejected, or denied - as well as fundamental rights of freedom of speech, thought, conscience and religion. RWE is directed against parliamentary and pluralistic democratic political values and systems, against the sovereignty of the people and the division of power. RWE aims to achieve an authoritarian, totalitarian and centralized power system, often in the form of a hierarchical anti-democratic one-party movement, ruled by a strong leader.

2.2.2. Uwe Backes and Eckhard Jesse, prominent academic experts on extremism in Germany, define RWE as a collective name for various anti-democratic beliefs and efforts. The core of this doctrine denies the basic claim of equality represented by equal rights.<8>These extremists principally advocate inequality and an aggressive nationalism that breeds resentment against ethnically foreign groups; a phenomenon often leading to an advocacy of naked racism. They seek a strong state that will realize the `objective' interest of nationalist values, even by military means.

2.2.3. This ideological impulse to fight back is often not confined to mere political rhetoric. Within the framework of political culture and political psychology, the aggressive authoritarianism of RWE presents a specific view of perceiving the world as one surrounded by dangerous enemies, so that fighting back is essentially the only solution to survival (although the perceived enemies are merely scapegoats). As this tendency towards authoritarian aggression against weak scapegoats solves neither the social nor the personal problems of the aggressor, these aggressions have an addictive quality. Consequently right-wing extremists perceive themselves, as recognised by Adorno and Alport, in a paranoid way as `persecuted persecutors'.<9>RWE's ideology

[Page 15]

of inequality and denial of human rights leads to advocating violence. RWE is often connected with an ideology and/or a practical tendency towards violence, militancy, and terror (see especially the neo-Nazi groups in eastern Germany).

2.2.4. Thus the belief system inherent in RWE is the perception of dangerous enemies within and without that have to be defeated if their own world and values are to survive. These internal `enemies' are often migrants, foreigners, or others of different opinion who are perceived as threatening their supposed homogenous society and state system. These foreigners are often the scapegoats for the existing social miseries in society, and as such the targets of political violence. Such racist perceptions of the outer world lead externally to ideas of containing or even conquering this outer world by expansion (a new Reich) or an aggressive foreign policy.

2.2.5. In general RWE tendencies and groups can arise in many forms, not only in Germany, but in Great Britain (the National Front), France (Jean Marie LePen), Austria (Jörg Haider's Austrian Federal Party - FPÖ) or in Belgium (Vlaams bloc)

2.2.6. However German RWE is particular in its ambivalent relationship to the most extreme form of nationalism in German history - National Socialism [henceforth NS]. Despite the de facto military and moral disaster of NS, the resulting destruction and self-destruction (the genocide of Jews, gypsies and Slavs), many right wing extremists see in NS a point of orientation. In many ways historical NS acts as a model for RWE within the FRG. NS, although tactically criticised, may be fully identified with, its characteristics applauded, and its symbols used as an efficient means of bringing out confrontational behaviour. To serve this purpose various tactics are used to `save', `rescue', or rehabilitate the NS ideology (sometimes in the Italian version of fascism) by:

* relativising and playing down the its atrocities
* denying some of these atrocities
* in its most radical form, rehabilitating the system by a form of radical negation and denial, so

[Page 16]

called `revisionism' or `denialism"<10>

2.2.7. These tactics are of interest when analyzing the shape and the format of post-war RWE in Germany. This ideological affinity with NS and the resulting attempts to free NS of the burden of its crimes is of pivotal importance for national and international `networking' within the RWE scene, both in Germany and elsewhere in Europe and North America.. The revisionist campaign of Auschwitz denial since the late 1980s plays a key ideological and organisational role in this effort.

2.2.8. To summarize. RWE strives towards a hierarchical, anti-democratic, and even totalitarian state, based on cultural or racist subordination, the rejection of `others', especially so-called inferior races, foreigners, and other scapegoats. Implementation of this ideology of subordination often takes the form of advocating and using physical violence.

2.3. `Old' and `new' RWE.

2.3.1. The terms old and new RWE are clearly defined in academic literature. Grosso modo the old RWE (sometimes referred to as the `ewig Gestrigen' - literally `eternal stick-in-the-muds') align themselves to more state-orientated modes of extreme nationalism. They identify with the fascist traditions of authoritarianism that were prevalent for example at the end of the Weimar Republic or with traditions of the Weimar Hamburg front, which combined the ultra-nationalists 'Deutsche Nationale'. with Hitler's National Socialist German Workers Party [Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei - NSDAP].

2.3.2.The new RWE presents itself as an updated, so-called `modernized' version of the same basic idea.<11> They pay lip service to a non-racist recognition of `other' ethnic groups, conceptualized as `ethno-pluralism', which is de facto ethno-pluralistic racism. They de facto also do not accept principles of Enlightenment and the universality of basic human rights. They have intellectual links to the far right and extreme

[Page 17]

nationalists within the `conservative revolution' of the late Weimar Republic (with persons like Ernst Ringer, Carl Schmitt, or Möller van den Bruck). <12> For some of the new RWE, the belief systems encompassed in Judeo-Christianity, Marxism and the idea of basic equality are themselves eliminatory of the Celtic or Nordic traditions, the `justification' for the `greatest genocide' in history. Thus the new RWE appeals to the peoples of the world to rejuvenate their unique cultural heritages and demand the basic right to be `different'. The belief propagates animosity towards multi-racial society and other cultures and belief systems.<13>

2.3.3. Parts of the new right try to disguise their RWE affiliations by presenting themselves as the new `democratic' right, in as far as they fear the attentions of the OPC might oust them from the democratic system. Having styled themselves as democratic these groups can broaden their sphere of influence, using this democratic-stance-to build bridges between national conservatives and RWE. Thus in the late 1980s the RWE parties of the so-called `Republicans' [die Republikaner] - and the German People's Union [Deutsche Volksunion' - DVU] positioned themselves accordingly, Nevertheless they are perceived as anti-constitutional by the OPC.<14>

2.3.4. Part of RWE supports national revolutionary politics, often arguing and agitating for a third way between capitalism and socialism, that of nationalist liberation and a corresponding movement (like the neo-Nazis in the 1990s in eastern Germany). These groups often see parallels between themselves and similar groups in the NS movement of the 1930s, and are avid exponents of a socialist version of a nationalist, racist movement. Examples of this are the present neo-Nazis, the revitalized neo-Nazi youth organization of the German National Democratic Party [Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands - NPD] the Young National Democrats [Jungen Nationaldemokraten - . JN] or the NS-oriented groups centred around Michael Kühnen, Christian Worch and Ewald Althans, with whom Irving had strong ties in 1990 -1993 (see below).

2.3.5. This process of radicalisation within RWE has been particularly militant in the former

[Page 18]

German Democratic Republic [Deutsche Demokratische Republik - GDR]

immediately prior to, during, and after German reunification. This opened a `space' for neo-Nazi agitation and propaganda. The male youth of eastern Germany has proven particularly recipient to such ideas.

2.4 Features and peculiarities of old and new RWE in Germany after 1945.

2.4.1. After 1945 the RWE world was inhibited for decades by the total political, moral and military defeat of NS. But despite the Allied repression of extremist attitudes, in post-war west Germany the west-German population continued to display anti-Semitic prejudices in one way or another.<15> According to first polls taken by the American occupying forces up to 40 % of the population identified with right-wing, anti-Semitic attitudes.<16> In the late 1970s the well-known Sinus-study considered 13 % of the population as having a full scale RWE belief system.<17> Similarly in the late 1990s according to different polls up to 30 % of the population identified with anti-foreigner sentiments or anti-Semitic beliefs.

2.4.2. Politically the FRG has experienced at least three waves of RWE:

* in the late 1940s (resulting in a ban on the SRP).
* in the late 1960s (centred on the NPD and, after its 1969 election defeat, on Dr. Gerhard Frey's DVU).
* since the late 1980s with Franz Schönhuber's newly founded Republicans, the DVU, and NPD, coupled and with militant neo-Nazi activists, operating partially beyond the pale of the `established' RWE.<18>

2.4.3. According to Richard Stöss RWE secured 1.4 million votes in the 1949 election (that is 5.7 % of the population). During the second RWE-wave in the late 1960s RWE secured 1.4 million votes (that is 4.3 % of the votes). The NPD narrowly failed to get

[Page 19]

into parliament because of the 5%-hurdle in the German voting system .<Ibid.> In 1989 during the third RWE wave the Republicans, together with the DVU and NPD secured 2.5 million votes (that is 8.8 % of the votes in the European parliament's election).

2.4.4. Official membership of the `organized' RWE went through ups and downs. First counts in 1954 registered 80,000 persons as members of organized RWE. By the early 1960s this membership had~decreased to 20,000, before the numbers increasing again to 40,000, boosted by NPD memberships. The late 1960s saw an ebb back 20,000. In the early 1990s RWE membership was reckoned at some 40..000 again.<Ibid.>

[ Previous ·  Index ·  Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.