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The Rise of Neo-Nazi Far Right in Former East Germany

  • 27-01-2022 7:49pm
    Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators Posts: 11,370 Mod ✭✭✭✭ JupiterKid

    I have a good acquaintance who is German - I used to work with her many years back in academia. She is originally from Bavaria, in her early 40s, and is married to a Slovakian chap and they have two young children.

    After she moved back to Germany, she lived with her then partner near Cologne and then was offered - and took - a good position at the university in Leipzig in the former East of the country. She has told me that it has been a culture shock for her, as a German growing up in the former West to settle near Leipzig where her neighbours hold very right wing views and the undercurrent of tacit support for neo-Nazi groups and political parties is alarmingly strong.

    Last year her husband was spat at in a local supermarket and told to “go home and leave here, you are not welcome as a foreigner” and they have had their rubbish bins overturned at night and their car daubed in xenophobic slogans. Also she has told me that many of her neighbours are avid anti-vaccine/Covid conspiracy theory followers. We do know that Covid vaccine uptake has been much slower in Germany than many other European countries, which I had found surprising given how organised, compliant and efficient I believe Germans to be.

    It has got to the stage where she is now planning to leave Leipzig and her good job to move back West to Nordrhein-Westphalia where she had not encountered this hostility. Here is a recent story on the rise of the far right in the former East:

    It has been known for many years now that neo-Nazi and far-right political sympathies are far, far stronger in the former East (GDR) outside of liberal, cosmopolitan Berlin - and indeed garner a disquieting level of support in some parts of the former East. 

    I don’t really know the reason for that dichotomy, but I would suspect it has to to with the way the GDR was run as a totalitarian state that replaced Nazism with Communism, the presence of the Stasi secret police and informants network, the lack of former East Germans being exposed to Western cosmopolitan influences in the post-war era including non-white immigration and the subsequent drastic economic restructuring following reunification of Germany in 1990 leading to mass unemployment and growing disillusionment and therefore resentment and bewilderment at the rapid changes to their former way of life that had essentially been frozen for 45 years.

    So anyone else have any ideas as to why there is a growing neo-Nazi threat in the former GDR? My German friend has seen it first hand and is leaving in order to protect her family.



  • Registered Users Posts: 21,881 ✭✭✭✭ One eyed Jack

    I think you’ve covered it well JK, and your friend is better off.

    (article in OP is a bit out of date though)

  • Registered Users Posts: 34,381 ✭✭✭✭ Gatling

    Can you Guess which country is actively supporting these far right groups, coincidentally groups in former east Germany

    Langley, Virginia

  • Registered Users Posts: 332 ✭✭ MarkEadie

    Scumbags are going to be scumbags.

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  • Posts: 533 ✭✭✭ [Deleted User]

    From my reading of it, which may be inaccurate but it's certainly what I've picked up on, you've two problems that are convolved:

    1. After WWII, East Germany (and the rest of the Eastern Bloc states) were put into somewhat of a deep freeze politically - being placed under the control of what amounted to an authoritarian state without democracy. As such, political discussion was extremely limited and denazification never happened in the way it did in West Germany. So, when it came out of that deep freeze, there was a sizeable minority who have a very uncritical view of nazi philosophies.
    2. Despite everything, German Reunification is only 32 years old. We are only seeing the first adults who have grown up entirely in a united Germany really since 2012 or so and there are inevitable time lags involved in reintegrating what is effectively a midsized country that was under communist rule and quite an oppressive regime for decades. There are economic gaps, skills and education gaps, wealth gaps, built environment gaps, and all sorts of issues that are only slowly moving forward. You also had a flight of people from the East to the West which was very pronounced in the 1990s but has faded by the 2020s to the point it's no longer a major phenomenon but it's likely caused a brain drain of more liberal types into the old West Germany or into Berlin, which is more of a phenomenon in its own right.

    The simple reality of it is it will probably take another generation or maybe more for everything about the DDR and the gaps to completely disappear. The process was remarkably smooth considering how big a deal it was, but German Reunification was far from just a case of flipping a light switch and the DDR suddenly being exactly like every other part of the Bundesrepublik Deutschland.

    On top of all of that, you've got a rise of far right nationalism across parts of Eastern Europe and I would suspect that a lot of that is also due to that same 'deep freeze' effect. They are very new democracies with only a few decades behind them and they're forming in an environment of online paranoia and general rise of extreme nationalism in bubbles around the world, including very influential places like US and (if you're in Eastern Europe) Russia.

    I think, given the circumstances, those former Eastern Bloc states have done remarkably well and have achieved a hell of a lot in terms of their journey back to democracy and Western European style normality and a lot of that has been supported through EU membership, but I think sometimes we also perhaps expect sailing to be a lot smoother than it can be in reality given the very tight time scale. It's very easy to forget how recent their democracies are.

  • Registered Users Posts: 921 ✭✭✭ snowstorm445

    As a poster above has already highlighted, East Germany has been an economic and unemployment blackspot ever since reunification. The drain from East to West that began during the Cold War has never really ended. I imagine the gap between East and West isn't as wide as it once was but the economic disparity definitely keeps it alive.

    I suspect a lot of it might have to do with the legacy of East Germany itself. The process whereby West Germany really confronted its Nazi past was very slow (plenty of former Nazis ended up in positions of power in the new state with little more than a slap on the wrist) but especially from the 60s and 70s onwards there was a real self-examination among West Germans about the behaviour of their parents and grandparents. It definitely took a generation or two but that sense of guilt and contrition about their past that Germans are "famous" for is something which only emerged gradually (and often involved famous historic gestures among Western leaders to highlight it).

    East Germany was a communist state and so it always had a self-satisfied image of itself as an opponent of the Nazis that had nothing to apologise for. Never mind the fact that they were just as keen as the West to incorporate/reeducate former Nazis wherever they could for their own benefit. They even took over Nazis concentration camp facilities for a period of time - there's a very grandiose memorial built by the DDR regime at the centre of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, conveniently overlooking the fact that they kept running the facility for another 5 or 6 years after liberation. I get the sense that East Germans have never had to undergo that same level of self-examination that the West experienced. And with that lack of awareness plus their economic desperation, variations of Nazism or far-right thinking can have a wide appeal.

    Interestingly East Germany to this day is far less religious than West Germany is, even thirty years after reunification. I'm not saying that's a factor here but religious types in the West would definitely have been drawn to the CDU and similar parties (who to this day still have a strong religious factor that they like to reference from time to time), would there be that same appeal to non-religious conservative types in East Germany?

  • Posts: 533 ✭✭✭ [Deleted User]

    When you consider you'd a period from 1949 to 1990 in East Germany where political discussion was really not possible it's not all that surprising. It was an oppressive state, complete with a highly intrusive secret police force, heavy censorship and a dislike of any kind of discussion, so it's hardly a shock that there was little or no room for self-criticism or discussion of the past in any kind of robust way, at least outside of whatever top-down state dogma was at the time.

    You've also got a couple of generations who undoubtedly felt quite hard done, having been basically handed over to spend decades as a puppet state of the USSR, with all the economic, social and other disadvantages and lack of basic liberty that came with that and Germany had it worse in some ways by having this mirror image, a highly prosperous version of itself, sitting over the other side of the Berlin Wall / inter-German Border.

    I've heard that also feeds into an anger at the establishment by some far right sympathisers as they seem to blame so called liberal elites on absolutely everything.

    There's a lot going on in German reunification that I think tends to get swept aside somewhat in how we tend to want to see it has having been entirely smooth.

  • Registered Users Posts: 36,132 ✭✭✭✭ Annasopra

    Probably Russia. Dolores Cahill here has a lot of links to them too.

    Apparently a "normal" woman is a busty blonde sexy page 3 model who wears make-up, short skirts and red lipsticks and has pouty lips.  Who knew. 👀😏


  • Registered Users Posts: 519 ✭✭✭ foxsake

    oh noe, the russians :rolleyes:

    but silence while the CCP culturally and politically influence the west but that's grand cos they're a great bunch of lads.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 519 ✭✭✭ foxsake

  • Registered Users Posts: 713 ✭✭✭ Snooker Loopy

    Seems a bit too obvious but I'd have to say the modern spiritual leaders of the international Nazi set, Russia.

  • Registered Users Posts: 34,381 ✭✭✭✭ Gatling

    People will say it's conspiracy , but after the invasion and occupation of eastern Ukraine 7 years ago, Moscow hosted the largest Far right conference seen any where, these groups are anarchists who want to pull down governments because they hate immigrants , the LGBT community , foreign investment,and see themselves as the chosen ones who will fix all of this ,

    Russia supports groups in Germany ,the Balkans and Serbia , Moldova , Georgia who are all happy to demand nato be disbanded ,the EU broke up which allines with Putins goals the return of the Soviet union pre fall of Berlin wall.

    Langley, Virginia

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,305 ✭✭✭ 20silkcut

    The East German army kept the same uniforms and military traditions of the Wehrmacht and employed many of Hitlers former generals. Saw a video of them doing a drill from the 1970’s and it was almost identical to the type of drills in Nazi propaganda news reels from the 1930’s.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,128 ✭✭✭ Fattybojangles

    That is just not true if you want to see where Nazi generals ended up after the war look at NATO and the west German army.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,128 ✭✭✭ Fattybojangles

    Yes he changed sides in 1944 something Adolf Heusinger amongst many others never did. Almost all judges in West Germany were also former Nazis alos its madness to accuse the DDR of taking in former Nazis when West Germany was ran top to bottom by high ranking former Nazis.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,305 ✭✭✭ 20silkcut

    He was not the only one.

    The adoption of Nazi military attire and traditions in the East German army was bizarre and led from the top.

  • Registered Users Posts: 757 ✭✭✭ generic_throwaway

    That's interesting - but the weird thing is that the folks who are most appalled by foreigners being in the country are the folks who are furthest away and have least exposure to them. I'd imagine that 'West Germany' is far more cosmopolitan (read: foreigner infested) than 'East Germany' today. Yet it's the folks in the East of Germany who are angry about the presence of people of non-German origin. We see the same in the UK - the people angry about foreigners are people in homogenous leafy rural villages, not the people in the cities who actually live and work with them.

  • Registered Users Posts: 226 ✭✭ cannonballTaffyOjones


    a yes ... the mythical "far right" ....

  • Registered Users Posts: 226 ✭✭ cannonballTaffyOjones

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  • Registered Users Posts: 757 ✭✭✭ generic_throwaway