Germany’s far right has reunited too, making it much stronger

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Far-right terrorists killed a regional politician on his porch near the central city of Kassel, attacked a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle and shot dead nine people of immigrant origin in the western city of Hanau.

This summer, the government took a drastic decision to dissolve an entire military company of special forces after explosives, a machine gun and SS accessories were discovered on the property of a sergeant major in the state of Saxony. . A disproportionate number – around half – of those suspected of right-wing extremism within this unit, the KSK, were from the former East, its commander said.

Nationalism and xenophobia are more entrenched in the old East, where the murderous history of WWII was never confronted so deeply at the societal level as in the old West. The AfD’s share of votes is twice as high in the eastern states, where the number of far-right hate crimes is higher than in the western states.

Officially, there were no Nazis in the former East Germany. The regime defined itself in the tradition of the communists who had resisted fascism, giving rise to a state doctrine of remembrance that effectively exonerated it from the atrocities of war. Far-right mobs who beat foreign workers from other socialist states like Cuba and Angola have been labeled as misguided “thugs” by Western propaganda.

But a powerful neo-Nazi movement was growing underground. In 1987, Bernd Wagner, a young police officer from East Berlin, estimated that there were 15,000 violent “local” neo-Nazis, of whom 1,000 were repeat offenders. His report was quickly locked.

Two years later, as tens of thousands of people took to the streets in anti-Communist protests that ultimately brought down the regime, pro-democracy activists were not the only protesters.

“Skinheads worked too,” Mr. Wagner recalls.

The battle cry of these anti-communist protests – “We are the people” – later became the war cry of the far right during the anti-Muslim marches in Pegida during the 2015 refugee crisis, riots in far right in Chemnitz in 2018, and again to the current protests against the coronavirus.

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