Former NPD Official Speaks Out: Hitler Salutes, Nazi Songs and Dreams of a New Reich
Uwe Luthardt was a senior member of the right-extremist NPD. But he quit after three months. In an interview, he describes the NPD as a deeply radical party where Hitler salutes and financial irregularities are common -- and which is bent on restoring the German Reich.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: You recently quit the right extremist party NPD. Aren't you afraid?
Luthardt: The local party leader threatened me. He said a board member doesn't quit the party, he's either thrown out or disappears. I replied that I know more about him than he does about me. Since then it's been quiet. Someone who just quits usually gets a lot of problems, and can find himself waking up in intensive care.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: So people who leave are threatened?
Luthardt: It happens. Otherwise the party would have even fewer members. The mood isn't good at the moment. It's easy to see that the party is short of money.
A demonstrator at an NPD march.
Luthardt: It wasn't really my world. When you went along to evening meetings, you saw all the shaven heads -- and a black sun or other Nazi symbols tattooed on arms. They usually just boozed or were abusive. If there's no opponent around, they just fight among themselves.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: The grassroots aren't especially intellectual, in other words?
Luthardt: Many in the JN (Young National Socialists) and in the Kameradschaften (eds. note: loosely organized far-right groups) have an IQ close to my shoe size. Most of them are simply failures: failed pupils, people who dropped out of school or their apprenticeships, alcoholics that can't find a foothold anywhere else, thugs. But every local organization has three to five men who don't have criminal records. They're the ones sent to face the press or man information stands.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What did you hope to get from the party when you joined?
Luthardt: I wanted to do something for Germany, I wasn't interest in a Greater Germany. And suddenly everyone was saying we'll take back Silesia and then we'll give the communists a thrashing.
Luthardt: Through music events among other things, they get money from ticket sales. And then of course through the Festival of Peoples, that generated just under 17,000 in 2007.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: But you have to subtract the money the bands get from that amount.
Luthardt: No. Usually one tells the authorities that the bands get paid. But in reality they just get their expenses back and a receipt for a supposedly paid fee. But that is donated back to the party. And the party can write the donation off their taxes.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Why do the bands forego the money they are due?
Luthardt: Out of conviction. It happens in the party too. Whenever I went to Berlin on a training course, we got our transport costs paid but then handed the money back to the party in the form of donations. It's the same pattern.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: How are the donations laundered -- apart from the falsified receipts?
Luthardt: Take the donations from South America
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Donations from South America?
Luthardt: Yes, payments from nationalist Germans who haven't been living in Germany for a while. They make donations to small companies, for example, which in turn redirect the money to the party. Voigt's (eds. note: NPD chairman Udo Voigt) power base partly consists of money men from South America -- and Jürgen Rieger (eds. note: Voigt's deputy) has excellent contacts there.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: In the media, NPD officials portray themselves as right-wing democrats and try to avoid unconstitutional statements. How radical is the party really?
Luthardt: The aim is the restoration of the Reich in which a new SA (eds. note: the paramilitary arm of the Nazi party) takes revenge on anyone who disagrees with them.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Does that also apply to the moderate wing?
Luthardt: There is no moderate wing. The few isolated moderates there are have no say. The media training courses at party headquarters are very effective. The members know how they must sell themselves. It starts with the instruction that any meeting with outsiders must be held in innocuous offices. That applies to everyone apart from the chairman. He deliberately poses behind a massive desk with party flags in the party headquarters. The Jena party headquarters deserves its name "Brown House." No journalist has ever been in there.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What would they see?
Luthardt: A load of SS pictures in the cellar. And there's a room with weapons.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: So the claim that the NPD isn't interested in the "Third Reich" is just for self-protection.
Luthardt: It's pure tactics. The idea is to atttract those who haven't yet understood that the party isn't right-wing radical, it's much more radical than that. It's about showing a respectable image in public. That's why the party leadership prefers members who have totally normal haircuts and clothes. They can be sent to man the information stands.
- Part 1: Hitler Salutes, Nazi Songs and Dreams of a New Reich
- Part 2: 'People Greet Each Other With Their Arm Outstretched'
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