The Far-Right’s Respectable Façade: How the NPD Targets the Mainstream
In the past, Germany’s far-right NPD party was associated with skinheads and violent thugs. In recent years, however, the party has been trying to appeal to mainstream voters by cultivating a respectable image and campaigning on populist issues. But the party needs its links to the neo-Nazi scene to maintain its political power. By SPIEGEL Staff
This is part two of SPIEGEL’s cover story on the NPD. You can read the first part here.
The NPD, anxious to ensure that no one says the wrong things, is putting a great deal of emphasis on self-control at the moment. Because of the NSU’s alleged killing spree uncovered in November and the public debate over what should be done about the NPD, the party is faced, once again, with the prospect of a possible ban. This makes it all the more important for the NPD to project an image of itself as a well-behaved and rational mainstream conservative party. Hence its self-portrayal as a “party that cares” about people in Germany — provided they are ethnic Germans, of course.
In the past, the NPD used the term “National Socialism” as a provocation. But Apfel doesn’t like the term anymore, characterizing it as being “burned by history.” Instead, the party now prefers the slogan “respectable radicalism.” It describes the attempt to camouflage (but not necessarily dispense with) the party’s unpleasant associations, so that ordinary citizens can identify with it more closely. The party is putting on its mainstream façade for ordinary people by engaging in social grassroots activities, but always in the hope that the national awakening of its fellow Germans will eventually follow.
“Tutoring, children’s sports, providing advice on Hartz IV (welfare benefits) — wherever we see an area where the government isn’t doing enough, we move in,” says Peter Marx. He speaks with the soft, singsong-like inflection of people native to the western state of Rhineland-Palatine, an accent he took with him when he moved to Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania a few years ago. Marx, the manager of the NPD’s parliamentary group in the state, exploits the fact that the famous “blooming landscapes” that former Chancellor Helmut Kohl promised for eastern Germany never materialized in many places. If there were functioning civil-society structures in Western Pomeranian towns like Anklam or Ueckermünde, the right-wing extremists would be little more than an annoyance in the region. The fact that these structures are absent is what makes the party so dangerous.