When Wade Michael Page strode into a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and began to kill, it was the culmination of more than a decade in the neo-Nazi movement. The best evidence suggests that Page came to his racist beliefs while serving at a North Carolina Army base that was then a hotbed of white supremacist activity — beliefs that were further honed by years on the white power music scene.
The Southern Poverty Law Center today released the latest issue of its investigative magazine Intelligence Report, and its cover story analyzes the background and ideological development of Page, who murdered six people and wounded four others last August before putting a bullet in his own head. An accompanying sidebar details the modern history of right-wing extremism in the American military, and a related editorial traces the growth of political violence aimed at Muslims.
‘Wade saw the military as a transformational time in his life,’ one expert who was also a personal acquaintance of Wade told the Intelligence Report. ‘He always said, ‘If you don’t go in the military a racist, you’re sure to leave as one.”
The question of whether to try to ban the far-right NPD party is one of the most controversial issues in German politics. Now the authorities have compiled a dossier of over a thousand pages in an attempt to prove that the NPD is anti-democratic. The file, which SPIEGEL has seen, provides a shocking exposé of an anti-Semitic and racist party whose members glorify the Nazis.
The stack of paper is thicker than a brick and heavier than the Berlin phone book. It contains 3,051 exhibits and 1,147 pages of classified information.
These pages could soon form the basis for a decision to make a new attempt to ban Germany’s far-right National Democratic Party (NPD). Only a little over a week ago, on Aug. 28, German President Joachim Gauck urged such bold action against neo-Nazis during his speech to mark the 20th anniversary of racist riots in the northeastern city of Rostock. Gauck spoke of a state that “is able to defend itself.”
Now, this dossier, which has been in its final version since late last week, is supposed to be the weapon in that fight. It is the weapon of a democracy that defends itself against its enemies — a democracy that is vigilant and alert, not frail and weak.
Bavarian Governor Horst Seehofer, who heads the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), wants to deploy this weapon at all costs. He is determined to show decisiveness in the fight against right-wing extremism, and thus add momentum to his campaign ahead of the Bavarian state election in the fall of 2013 — “if necessary, single-handedly,” as he says. By contrast, his fellow party member, Hans-Peter Friedrich, who bears responsibility for the initiative as German interior minister, is afraid that the bid to ban the NPD will be rejected by the German Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, as happened with a previous attempt to ban the party in 2003. Typically, German Chancellor Angela Merkel remains noncommittal. She is merely observing.
In the 1,147-page dossier, which SPIEGEL has analyzed, the interior ministries of the German states and officials from Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, have compiled a catalogue of speeches, acts of violence and public appeals that could prove that the far-right NPD not only disdains the German state, but is also aggressively combating it.
This collection is currently the most explosive dossier in German domestic politics. It forms the basis for one of the major domestic policy debates of this fall — and it promises to be a major issue during 2013 when both national and a number of state elections will be held.
Goldwag wants to understand the origins of the hostility in his new book. Here is perhaps his best explanation: “The New Hate is at once the expression of a quixotic desire to turn back the clock to a mythical golden age when women and minorities and gays and foreigners were less troublesome than they are today; when the government only gave and never took; and a cynical ploy to up the turnout of Republican voters. Most of the time it’s reflexive and vindictive to its core.”
Goldwag underscores how the past serves as prologue. Again and again in The New Hate, he demonstrates how the theories, and the rhetoric spreading those theories, were devised decades and sometimes centuries earlier by previous generations of conspiracy-minded, history-twisting, racist, misogynistic, homophobic evangelicals. Since the internet spawned authoritative-sounding blogs and social media, the haters appear to have become better at reaching beyond the lunatic fringe. For example, right after Barack Obama’s election, Goldwag noticed the controversy over Obama’s birth certificate continued unabated. He wondered whether to add a paragraph about Birthers to a new edition of one of his previous books, but decided “that references to such a transitory political derangement might just as easily date” the book as update it. No one will remember the Birthers six months hence, he calculated - mistakenly.
The equivalent of the Birther movement has existed in previous centuries and inspired books by clearheaded authors. As Goldwag notes, the “canonical works of scholarship” preceding his include The Paranoid Style in American Politics by Richard Hofstadter; Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort by Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons; and The Politics of Unreason: Right-Wing Extremism in America, 1790-1967 by Seymour Martin Lipset and Earl Raab. Goldwag’s tome is the most up-to-date, naturally, but it is also the best written and the least paranoid about paranoid haters.
Because Goldwag’s book is so impressively grounded in historical research about the Populist Right, it does not come across solely as a polemic based on passion and selective use of evidence. Still, because of the targets’ sleaziness and stupidity, in some of the case studies Goldwag provides he cannot help editorializing. In a passage about Birtherism, Goldwag notes the alleged conspiracy “would have required either supernatural forethought or time travel, as not only is a birth certificate with a raised seal and signature on file in Hawaii’s office of vital records but contemporaneous announcements of Obama’s birth were published in two Honolulu newspapers.”
On Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel paid tribute to the families of immigrants murdered by a neo-Nazi terror cell. Newspaper editorialists across the political spectrum agree that the event was a wake-up call for Germans and that it’s time to become tolerant and accepting of the country’s large immigrant population.
It was an event unlike any Germany has seen in recent years. And for many people, the gesture of solidarity with the victims of far-right violence was long overdue.
On Thursday, the country paid tribute to the victims of the neo-Nazi terror cell with an official state ceremony at the Konzerthaus concert hall in Berlin. Chancellor Angela Merkel gave the keynote speech, where she described the murder series as a “disgrace for our country” and asked the victims’ relatives, many of whom were present, for forgiveness for investigators’ wrongful suspicions.
But for many the most moving part of the event was when the relatives themselves got the chance to speak. The daughter of Enver Simsek, who was murdered in Nuremberg in broad daylight in 2000, paid moving tribute to her late father. Semiya Simsek also talked of the burden of having to live with the false suspicion that family-related or criminal motives must have been behind the murder. “For 11 years, we weren’t even allowed to be victims with a clear conscience,” she said.
Ismail Yozgat, the father of one of the victims, delivered a short speech in Turkish in tribute to his murdered son, and asked that the street in the city of Kassel where his son was born and also died be renamed in his honor. Gamze Kubasik, whose father was murdered in Dortmund in 2006, spoke of her hope “for a future that is characterized by more solidarity.”
The Zwickau-based neo-Nazi terror cell is believed to have murdered nine small business owners of Turkish and Greek origin and one policewoman between 2000 and 2007. The revelations about the murder series shocked Germany when the terror cell was discovered in November 2011 and sparked a heated debate about the threat of right-wing extremism.
Police had earlier failed to solve the murder series despite extensive efforts. The victims’ families have complained that investigators initially assumed that the murders must have been motivated by family tensions or criminal ties, and argued that such suppositions were racist.
Investigators came one step closer to clearing up the crimes on Thursday when it was revealed that a former associate of the neo-Nazi trio, identified only as Carsten S., had admitted that he provided the group in 1999 with the Ceska pistol they would later use in the murder spree. S., a former official with the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) who has been in custody since the beginning of February, insisted he had not known what the neo-Nazi cell planned to do with the gun.
On Friday, German commentators discuss the significance of Thursday’s memorial ceremony, with some arguing that it made a welcome contrast to the indifference shown by the German government in the early 1990s, following a wave of attacks on immigrants.
As far as Koch is concerned, the distance between the ‘ordinary’ neo-Nazi scene and the ‘hardcore’ element prepared to commit murder is very small. “You shouldn’t imagine that there are these nationalist gangs like the Kameradschaften, and then there’s a huge gap and then there’s a terrorist scene,” he said. “It all blends seamlessly together.”
Koch’s work with reformed neo-Nazis has taught him that violence permeates all parts of the extremist right-wing scene. This violence does not just take the form of drunken brawling at weekends, but disciplined training with guns administered by ex-servicemen.
“We have people in our programmes who have had weapons training themselves,” said Koch. “They were trained in western Germany, in Lower Saxony, by neo-Nazis who used to be mercenaries, for instance in the former Yugoslavia. Some were part of European training networks and got training in France or Belgium.”
The training takes place in remote country areas, sometimes privately owned, and sometimes rented for the purpose, either in an afternoon or over several days. “They often look for isolated wooded areas,” said Koch.
Not kids playing
Dierk Borstel, researcher into right-wing extremism at the University of Bielefeld, was also unsurprised to read the recent revelations about the NSU. “We’ve known that the option of terrorism, the option of militancy, the option of murder has been discussed in the extremist right-wing scene for some time,” he told The Local.
“A few years ago there was a group based in the Potsdam area that went underground that called itself the ‘National Resistance’ who specialized in blowing up Jewish cemeteries,” he said. “We have constantly had weapons and explosives finds, but they were never taken seriously. It was simply massively underestimated. The police just thought they were little boys playing cowboys and Indians.”
He was saved by two Turks, of all people. Manuel Bauer was in prison in Leipzig and had hinted to fellow right-wing extremists that he was thinking about turning his back on the neo-Nazi scene. A short time later in the prison yard, the far-right inmates attacked Bauer and began beating him mercilessly. That was when two Turkish prisoners came to his aid — and turned Bauer’s life around.
Bauer, now 32, comes from the village of Torgau, just east of Leipzig, and was an avowed neo-Nazi for five years. A bear of a man with a shaved head, he was involved in an arson attack on a Turkish food stand and was also feared for his fists. He would often wear a green bomber jacket or a black Harrington jacket along with wine-red combat boots. He says he was “the walking cliché of a skinhead.”
Bauer’s career as a skinhead began when he was 11 years old. He became friends with a group of classmates who glorified Adolf Hitler and would rail against foreigners in the schoolyard. It was shortly after Germany’s reunification, and right-wing extremism, which had remained largely underground during communism, could suddenly come out of the shadows. Across former East Germany, the extremists began finding each other — and assembling neo-Nazi cliques. At first, they were disorganized and informal, making them largely invisible to law enforcement.
Before long, Manuel Bauer became part of one of these groups, first as just one of many before working his way to the top. His parents, deeply religious Christians, were outraged.
‘I Thought I Was a Hero’
Bauer became the leader of a group calling itself “Wehrsportgruppe Racheakt” (roughly translatable as “Revenge Paramilitary Training Group”), and founded a second group with other neo-Nazis called “Association of Aryan Fighters.” Each group counted around 30 members, many of them from Torgau, but also from the small town of Loburg further north. “I thought I was a hero,” Bauer says today with a deep sigh. “But really I was just a big asshole.”
In recent days, some observers have criticized the German government for not taking a strong enough stand in reaction to revelations that a trio of neo-Nazis apparently killed at least 10 people in a seven-year murder series. But on Tuesday Germany’s political class sent a strong signal that the country was determined to fight right-wing extremism.
In a rare show of unity, members of the German parliament from across the political spectrum issued a joint declaration condemning the murders. “We are deeply ashamed that, following the monstrous crimes of the Nazi regime, right-wing extremist ideology has spawned a bloody trail of unimaginable acts of murder in our country,” the statement read. “Right-wing extremists, racists and anti-constitutional parties have no place in our democratic Germany,” the text continued, adding that steps should be taken to strengthen all democratic groups committed to combating extremism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism. The declaration also called for the structure of Germany’s law enforcement agencies — which are widely perceived to have failed in the case — to be reviewed.
It is very unusual for all the parties represented in the Bundestag to issue a joint statement of this kind. The parliamentary group of Angela Merkel’s conservatives generally refuses to pass resolutions in conjunction with the far-left Left Party, which it shuns because it is considered the partial successor to the former East German communist party.
Apology for Suspicion
In a plenary session, the members of the Bundestag also debated what action should be taken in response to the murders. Bundestag President Norbert Lammert, a member of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union, emphasized the parliament’s grief, shock and dismay at the murders. “We are ashamed that the federal and state law enforcement authorities were unable to uncover or prevent the crimes that were committed over a period of years,” Lammert said. He added that everyone in Germany had the right to live in safety, regardless of origin, beliefs or sexual orientation.
Lammert also apologized to the families of the deceased for the “suspicion” that had been placed on the murder victims. Investigators have been accused of disregarding the possibility that the murder series, which targeted mainly small businessmen of Turkish origin, might have had a right-wing extremist motive. Instead, police focused on the theory that the murders were related to organized crime, such as protection rackets, betting rings or money laundering — a position that is now being criticized as racist in retrospect.
On Tuesday, Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, who has been at the center of the current debate on how to fight right-wing extremism, said that around 300 federal and state investigators were now working on the case. He told the Bundestag that the killings were an “attack on our society … and our democracy.”
“We are filled with horror and grief as day by day we learn more about the murder series,” Friedrich said. He promised that the crimes would be thoroughly investigated and that everything would be done to “dry out … the intellectual swamp” that had inspired the crimes, a reference to the far-right milieu that the terrorists had belonged to.
Unfortunately no props to LGF, where this story had been broken by our fellow lizard Killgore Trout.
Also missing from the conversation on the program (only briefly touched upon by Boehlert as “delusional talk”) is this important part, as noted by Penn Bullock:
Then he says that unnamed senior military officials have personally assured him that they’ll throw in with the right-wing in a civil war.And I have people who come up to me in the military, major named people in the military, who grab me and they go, ‘Thank you for what you’re doing, we’ve got your back.’
They understand that. These are the unspoken things we know, they know.
On the face of it, Breitbart’s admission demands a congressional or criminal investigation. If he’s implying that military officials have pledged their armed support to him and the right-wing, those officials are guilty of treason. If Breitbart is lying, he’s diagnosable.
Another weird thing is that Boehlert seems to exclude Fox News from the MSM in this interview.