The right-wing extremist party, the NPD, is no stranger to controversy. Usually, however, more than a simple crossword is to blame. But a puzzle included in the party newspaper put out by the Berlin branch of the NPD has managed to infuriate members across the country.
Three months ahead of elections for the Berlin city-state parliament, party members included the puzzle in the internal paper, one million copies of which are set for release in August, according to a report in the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung. One clue for a five-letter word reads: "It's a German first name that has fallen somewhat out of fashion." The answer? "Adolf."
Another clue refers to a "German politician ('freedom flyer') of the 20th century," to which the four-letter answer is "Hess," in reference to Rudolf Hess, who was Adolf Hitler's deputy before he flew to Scotland in 1941 in hopes of coming to a peace agreement with the UK. Those who successfully complete the puzzle can submit their answers for prizes such a bicycle, party literature or clothing. Everybody likes a prize, but party members have been outraged by the puzzle's blatant references to Nazism.
While the NPD is certainly known for its Third Reich nostalgia, in recent years the party has sought to downplay its affection for Nazis, focusing on creating a more palatable image and appealing to a broader voting base. The tactic is meant to earn credibility for the disputed party and prevent critical coverage by the mainstream media.
The crossword puzzle is among "the dumbest PR actions in the history of the NPD" and "stupid squared," Hesse state party leader Jörg Krebs told online publication DeutschlandEcho over the weekend. Meanwhile Michael Schäfer, head of the NPD youth organization Junge Nationaldemokraten, criticized the campaign material in a Facebook entry. "That's how one squanders the points won in the election," he wrote. "Those of us at the base are the fools once again. Great!"
Credibility in Question
National party spokesman Klaus Beier refused to comment on the dispute, but Berlin NPD leader Uwe Meenen told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that criticism from those like Krebs was trivial. "He's not responsible in Berlin," he told the paper.
Meenen also refused to elaborate on the Nazi references in the crossword puzzle for fear of "ruining the fun of the riddle for people."
Meanwhile the neo-Nazi party may have a bigger battle for credibility ahead. State interior ministers plan to discuss the possibility of withholding tax revenue from the NPD at a meeting on June 21. Plagued by a number of financial and donation scandals in recent years, the NPD is funded in large part by German taxes in proportion to the number of votes they earn. In 2009 the party received about €1.2 million -- some 37 percent of their total receipts.
But a December 2010 report by the German parliament's research service may have discovered a loophole that could exclude the NPD from receiving state money in the future. Sources told SPIEGEL that it outlines the legal possibility of "excluding an unconstitutional party from state party financing." Such a measure would, however, require two-thirds majority vote in parliament to amend the constitution.