Praise for Hitler: Secret Files Build Case for Banning Far-Right Party
The question of whether to try to ban the far-right NPD party is one of the most controversial issues in German politics. Now the authorities have compiled a dossier of over 1,000 pages in an attempt to prove that the NPD is anti-democratic. The file, which SPIEGEL has seen, provides a shocking exposé of an anti-Semitic and racist party whose members glorify the Nazis.
The stack of paper is thicker than a brick and heavier than the Berlin phone book. It contains 3,051 exhibits and 1,147 pages of classified information.
These pages could soon form the basis for a decision to make a new attempt to ban Germany's far-right National Democratic Party (NPD). Only a little over a week ago, on Aug. 28, German President Joachim Gauck urged such bold action against neo-Nazis during his speech to mark the 20th anniversary of racist riots in the northeastern city of Rostock. Gauck spoke of a state that "is able to defend itself."
Now, this dossier, which has been in its final version since late last week, is supposed to be the weapon in that fight. It is the weapon of a democracy that defends itself against its enemies -- a democracy that is vigilant and alert, not frail and weak.
Bavarian Governor Horst Seehofer, who heads the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), wants to deploy this weapon at all costs. He is determined to show decisiveness in the fight against right-wing extremism, and thus add momentum to his campaign ahead of the Bavarian state election in the fall of 2013 -- "if necessary, single-handedly," as he says. By contrast, his fellow party member, Hans-Peter Friedrich, who bears responsibility for the initiative as German interior minister, is afraid that the bid to ban the NPD will be rejected by the German Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, as happened with a previous attempt to ban the party in 2003. Typically, German Chancellor Angela Merkel remains noncommittal. She is merely observing.
In the 1,147-page dossier, which SPIEGEL has analyzed, the interior ministries of the German states and officials from Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, have compiled a catalogue of speeches, acts of violence and public appeals that could prove that the far-right NPD not only disdains the German state, but is also aggressively combating it.
This collection is currently the most explosive dossier in German domestic politics. It forms the basis for one of the major domestic policy debates of this fall -- and it promises to be a major issue during 2013 when both national and a number of state elections will be held.
The debate focuses on the question of how decisively the state must act to ban its opponents -- and how much freedom it may grant to the enemies of freedom. The NPD is the largest and most important organization on the right-wing fringe of German society. It has seats in two state parliaments and receives millions of euros in government funding. Its representatives deny the Holocaust, ridicule the parliament as a "conformist talking shop" and bitterly complain about the "damn Jews."
The demise of this protest party would have a considerable impact on the neo-Nazi scene and other right-wing radicals. After "evaluating the evidence," the two houses of the German parliament, the Bundestag and Bundesrat, and the German government "should submit a joint petition to ban the party," says Thomas Oppermann, parliamentary secretary for the center-left Social Democrats (SPD).
Tainted by Connections
But the state has already failed once on this front. In 2003, the Federal Constitutional Court rejected an attempt to ban the NPD because the Office for the Protection of the Constitution had infiltrated the party with too many informants. The court argued that it was possible that the party's policies had partly been shaped by the state. Right-wing extremists rejoiced in the victory.
If another ban attempt was now overturned, it would guarantee that the NPD could pursue its political agenda even more openly and aggressively for decades to come. "We should only strive for a ban if we can be certain that a ban will ultimately be the result," says German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger of the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP). "We simply cannot afford to fail a second time."
To prevent the intended court case from being tainted once again by the massive presence of moles inside the NPD, the state interior ministers have severed ties with some 20 informants in the party leadership who had previously been providing information. The idea is to prevent it from appearing, once again, as if the government were pulling the strings when top-ranking right-wing extremists rant about foreigners. Now, the intelligence agencies no longer receive much information about the inner workings of the party. That is the price that the ministers have to pay.
Indeed, the new dossier has been largely purged of classified information. It predominantly relies on information that was collected without the help of paid informants. Only 65 pages rated as "classified" list wiretap transcripts and informers' reports that were compiled using intelligence resources. "If we want to win this case in the German Constitutional Court, then we should only refer to open sources," says Lower Saxony Interior Minister Uwe Schünemann, a member of Chancellor Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU). In other words, there should be nothing in the evidence presented that might lead the judges to view the proceedings as tainted by possibly dubious informants from the shadowy world of the intelligence services. The aim here is to present convincing arguments based on what NPD functionaries have actually said and done.
'The Extended Arm of USrael'
The dossier paints a picture of a deeply racist party that has a close affinity for historical Nazism and -- as Saxony NPD parliamentary staff member Karl Richter once put it -- sees modern-day Germany as a "completely pathologized" state that is already in its "last days," as can be read in exhibit 2900.
Rejection of the despised democratic system pervades the daily political life of this party. It sounded like a policy statement when Udo Pastörs, NPD parliamentary floor leader in the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, spoke in Saarbrücken in 2009: "The sole purpose of the NPD is to serve as a tool, a political tool." He went on: "We want to inflict the maximum possible damage to this party state, which is nothing other than the extended arm of USrael." In right-wing extremist jargon, USrael is the symbiosis of the US and Israel, which supposedly represents all the evil in the world.
Other NPD functionaries such as the neo-Nazi Thomas Wulff, who managed to rise to the NPD executive board, spout rhetoric that sounds just as militant as Pastörs. "A sick system is shaking in its bones," Wulff said on May 7, 2009. "The symptoms of putrefaction permeate the order created by the war profiteers of 1945 and their German cronies."
In October 2009, the national chairman of the NPD youth organization Young National Democrats, Michael Schäfer, openly called for the overthrow of Germany's political system at a demonstration in Leipzig. "Comrades, one state has already met its end in Leipzig in the past," he said, in a reference to the Leipzig demonstrations that helped to bring down communist East Germany. "Why shouldn't it happen again? Why shouldn't today be the beginning of the end for the Federal Republic of Germany project?"
- Part 1: Secret Files Build Case for Banning Far-Right Party
- Part 2: Open Threats and Cynicism
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