Udo Voigt, the chairman of the far-right (NPD), had hoped that 2011 would see the radical right make an important step forward in Germany. On Jan. 1, a merger with its rival far-right party, the German People's Union (DVU), went into effect, thereby combining their numbers just in time for a year that will see parliamentary elections in seven of Germany's 16 federal states. In a New Year's speech, Voigt confidently told his supporters that 2011 would be a "small super-election year."
"State elections, municipal elections -- Germans will finally get a chance to punish those at the top," Voigt said, looking straight into the camera. "We have a chance. We have a program for the future."
Now, less than six weeks later, Voigt's cockiness has given way to disillusionment. For the second time since 2008 , tens of thousands of internal party e-mails have been leaked. SPIEGEL, along with other publications, has been given access to more than 60,000 e-mail messages from the accounts of NPD politicians. The party has labeled the people behind the leaks "criminal suppliers." It remains unclear whether the digital information came from a disgruntled individual within the party's headquarters or was obtained by a hacker.
The e-mails lay bare the chaotic internal life of the far-right party. They testify to the problems encountered during the merger with the DVU, shady finances related to state election campaigns and internal wrangling that often degenerated into hateful words and insults toward other party members.
The e-mails also document blatant racism. One senior Bavarian NPD official writes about "Kanacken," a racist term of abuse directed against people of immigrant descent, while a well-known neo-Nazi from the southwestern city of Aschaffenburg reflects on the "National Socialist movement." One NPD official from Hamburg complains about another party member having a "Negress" as a Facebook friend.
Sensitive Details about the NPD-DVU Merger
Still, the most awkward details from the data leak regard Voigt's prestige project, the NPD's merger with its former rival, the DVU. They disclose that there was massive resistance to the move within the DVU. One DVU member wrote in an e-mail sent ahead of Dec. 12, the day of the party convention where the merger was voted on, that DVU chairman Matthias Faust would get to experience his own "Waterloo" -- in other words, a total defeat. In order to help the merger go through, one NPD official from the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg offered the support of a "Kampfgruppe" (a term associated with the Nazi era, referring to a combat unit) from the city of Schwäbisch Hall. The unit, the official wrote, could be transported in a rental van to the DVU convention, which was being held in Kirchheim, a small town in the eastern state of Thuringia. "Nine men cost €524 ($710)," he wrote. The fee included €45 for meals, he explained, "as an incentive."
However, it would appear that not all of the van's passengers would be eligible to vote. The NPD official asked Faust to supply him with a "back-dated DVU membership card and a back-dated invitation" for his girlfriend, who would be coming along. When approached by SPIEGEL, Faust denied having supplied a back-dated membership card or invitation. Talk of the "Kampfgruppe" could only have been "a joke," he added, saying that "absolutely no combat units were present" at the convention. What's more, he said, guests wouldn't have been allowed to vote.
A majority of people attending the Dec. 12 convention voted for the merger. Since then, the right-wing extremists have been calling their common party "NPD -- The People's Union." Still, the merger is far from being a done deal. After the vote was held, senior officials representing DVU associations in four states complained of voting improprieties, such as not having been given enough time to properly review and respond to certain documents in the run-up to the vote. In January, a state court in Munich sided with the complaining officials, declaring that the vote did not meet democratic requirements and that a new vote would have to be held before a merger agreement could be signed.
Money Problems and Inflated Ambitions
In addition to such legal troubles, the NPD continues to struggle with financial shortfalls . The NPD is hoping that it will clear the 5 percent hurdle in the March 20 election in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt and secure seats in the state parliament. But, to support its campaign, the party has apparently been forced to meet its financial needs with the help of private loans.
According to one of the internal emails, the family of Udo Pastörs, the deputy head of the NPD in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, extended a €25,000 loan to the Saxony-Anhalt campaign organization under his wife's name. Ironically, Pastörs, an avowed critic of capitalism, is charging the Saxony-Anhalt brethren 3.5 percent interest on the loan and only appears to trust his notoriously cash-strapped party to a certain degree: As collateral for the loan, Pastörs demanded a guarantee from the NPD's national organization, which had to be personally signed by the NPD's national leader Udo Voigt.
This, in turn, does not seem to have entirely conformed to Voigt's understanding of loyal camaraderie. In an e-mail to Matthias Heyder, the NPD's lead candidate in the Saxony-Anhalt state elections, Voigt grumbled that it was "a joke that, of all people, a man as well-off as Udo (Pastörs) still wants a guarantee in this case." Pastörs has confirmed the existence of the loan but refuses to provide any additional details. Voigt opted to not respond to questions regarding the loan.
The financial shortages also have something to do with the costly campaign in Saxony-Anhalt as well as with Heyder himself and his at times ambitious campaign plans. For example, although he is just a regional politician, Heyder wanted to have a "documentary" filmed about him in which he flies "from appointment to appointment" in an airplane and is welcomed upon arrival at airports. What's more, as Heyder wrote to the NPD's media relations officer, he wanted to have members of the press accompany him on his flights, who would get to see "real rallies" whenever he landed. The point of all these staged events would be to portray the NPD as a serious party -- despite the fact that recent polls put its support at a meager 3 percent -- and to help it secure the votes it needs to win seats in the state parliament. Heyder has also declined to respond to inquiries.
NPD Struggling to Mobilize Supporters
While the NPD in Saxony-Anhalt have their heads in the clouds, their colleagues in Baden-Württemberg are having a hard time mustering enough people on the ground. The NPD in the state is suffering from mobilization problems: The far-right party has to collect 150 valid signatures in each election district in order to be allowed to field their own candidates in the state parliamentary election on March 27.
In December, Janus Nowak, a local party official from the town of Böblingen, wrote an e-mail with "ALARM" in its subject line. In the e-mail, he reported that, despite months of trying, party members were "apparently incapable" of even "getting merely a single signature per day." In order to increase the yield, the NPD official provided the would-be signature-gatherers with detailed suggestions on how they "could address people on the street and be successful." For example, he suggested that every pitch should begin with the words: "Hello, I'm not trying to sell anything. No vacuum cleaners or washing machines or anything."
Once they had gotten that far, campaign workers were instructed to make sure "to look people in the eye," rather than looking at their clipboards, and to avoid saying anything too "complicated." The most important piece of advice regarded what came last: "Say 'Thank you' and don't talk too much." The idea of deploying professional signature collectors, such as an "NPD organizational wizard" from the town of Völklingen, was even considered. But the man in question appeared to lack selfless dedication to the party. Instead, as Nowak complained in an e-mail, he asked for "€1,000 a week" in addition to "meals + additional helpers + information kiosks + accommodation." Nowak also declined to comment on the e-mail exchanges.
Rudolf Schützinger, a member of the NPD's executive committee in Baden-Württemberg, also gave some thought to how to increase the number of signatures being collected. He suggested paying €1 to "each collector who turns in an acceptable, unauthenticated signature" and €2 for every authenticated signature.
Schützinger also had another idea up his sleeve: attracting campaign donors with a sort of "profit-sharing" scheme. He suggested that, if the party succeeded in winning more than 1 percent of the vote, donors would get their "entire donation back within a set time frame + 30 percent." But, if the NPD could "not master" the 1 percent hurdle, donors would get back half of their contribution, while still being able to write the donation off against their taxes. In doing so, they would "have a loss of only 25%." According to Schützinger, this scenario offered the advantage that the party would not have to assume any "financial risk," while at the same time motivating "the gamblers among our sympathizers" to make donations.
In an e-mail, the NPD official admitted that the scheme had "a capitalist aftertaste" and noted that it would need "legal validation" as far as party finance laws were concerned. In the end, the idea was apparently rejected. Schützinger also chose not to respond to SPIEGEL's inquiries.
Threat of Legal Action
NPD spokesman Klaus Beier has threatened legal action in response to the publication of the emails. According to Beier, the "e-mail traffic between both party officials and party members, which used encryption technology (was) copied in breach of (Germany's) communication secrecy law" and that "the texts, whose content was probably manipulated" were "provided to the compliant journalists." On Saturday, the news agency DPA reported that the NPD had filed a criminal complaint over the publication of the e-mails.
In any case, Beier refused to say anything about who was behind the data leak or how it came about. He did say, however, that one had to assume that "the system has far-reaching means at its disposal for reading all of the NPD's e-mail communication."
Beier's remarks are reminiscent of the stance that the party took back in 2008, when SPIEGEL published an earlier collection of internal NPD e-mails.