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.

A demonstrator at an NPD march.

Foto: DDP

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What didn't you like about your fellow party members?

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.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: How does the party finance itself?

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.

'People Greet Each Other With Their Arm Outstretched'

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Isn't there a danger that the neo-Nazi activists will be put off if the party presents too harmless an image?

Luthardt: No, because everyone knows it's just tactics. The leaflets, the placards, the opposition to Hartz IV (eds. note: unpopular low unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed) -- there's no substance behind that. No one knows what alternative there could be to Hartz IV. Let's kick out all the foreigners, then the Germans will have jobs again, that's the basic concept the NPD talks about. They only refer to freight trains when no one from outside is listening.

A demonstrator at an NPD march.

A demonstrator at an NPD march.

Foto: DDP

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The freight trains of the Third Reich?

Luthardt: The ones in which they want to put political opponents, the Jews and the foreigners once they've taken over the country again. Internally there's very plain speaking. And the singing of the Horst Wessel song (eds. note: the anthem of the Nazi party) is also very popular. No wonder that the Kameradschaften groups are willing to bite their tongues in public.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: But relations with the Kameradschaften aren't always easy.

Luthardt: Absolutely not. The Free Nationalists don't like to be dictated to and are skeptical about parties. But most of them still let themselves be used by the NPD. They're the useful idiots of the party, comparable to the role the SA had for the Nazis. I always tell them: just look at the history of the SA, that's just what will happen to you when they're in power.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: When did you notice that the internal communications of the party are so different from the way it shows itself to the outside world?

Luthardt: Very soon after I joined the board. It's not hard if you see how people greet each other with their arm outstretched.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: How come the activists refrain from such unconstitutional activities in public?

Luthardt: The foot soldiers are under strict instructions never to talk to the press. And it's pretty rare that any of them opens their mouths. If it does happens, they're quickly summoned for a talking to. The officials have all been trained to deal with that.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: They get taught how to behave in public?

Luthardt: That's one of the focuses. There are internal documents which clearly state how everyone should behave. Anything to do with the Third Reich is especially sensitive. So people are taught how to respond to questions such as 'What do you say about the Holocaust?' The first sentence has to suffice, otherwise there's a danger of contradicting oneself if follow-up questions are asked.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Did you find the training courses convincing?

Luthardt: If you're on the moderate side of the party, it's a shock. It does make you think about whether you're in the right party.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Who runs these courses?

Luthardt: Thomas Salomon. And he's 100 percent convinced about what he says. He's one of the leading thinkers, together with Jürgen Gansel and Holger Apfel from Saxony.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What kind of politics do these gentlemen dream of?

Luthardt: Of the German Reich. They're totally convinced that they'll win an election one day and that things will really get going. Everyone can imagine what would happen then.

Interview conducted by Christoph Ruf, author of a recently published book on the NPD.
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