Analysis of Group
Almost since its inception in the 1960s, the NPD was widely discussed in the German and at times international media. Described by the German Intelligence service as “racist, anti-Semitic and revisionist” and staunchly opposed by the German political establishment, media reports of the party are quick to point out its xenophobic and anti-democratic character.Michelle Martin, “German party accused of neo-Nazi traits set for EU parliament,” Reuters, May 21, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/21/us-eu-election-germany-neonazis-idUSBREA4K0DY20140521. Given the extreme views propagated by the party and against the backdrop of Germany’s World War II legacy, the NPD’s electoral success has been received by the media with shock and consternation. While the NPD’s views and actions were universally rejected by media outlets, opinion varied on the most effective way to deal with the challenge the party posed to Germany’s young democracy. Given the current collapse of approval for the NPD among its former supporters and the financial difficulties the party faces, recent media reports have concluded that the NPD has failed to modernize and is likely to become increasingly more extreme.Frank Jansen, “Verfassungsschutz: ‘NPD wird eng mit Neonazis kooperieren,’” Der Tagesspiegel, September 15, 2014, http://www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/rechtsextreme-nach-den-wahlen-verfassungsschutz-npd-wird-eng-mit-neonazis-kooperieren/10703248.html.
The discovery in 2011 of the neo-Nazi terrorist cell National Socialist Underground (NSU), which is believed to be responsible for the murder of 10 people, mostly of Turkish origin, sent shockwaves through the German political system. The failure of German police and intelligence agencies to uncover the activities of the group for so long, and the scale of the group’s crimes, led to a new debate on the threat of right-wing extremism in Germany. During the investigation into the NSU’s activities, an overlap between NSU members and the NPD were uncovered. While direct links between the NSU and NPD have been hard to prove, newspapers pointed to the ideological role that the NPD had played in establishing an environment where violent right-wing extremist ideas could flourish. The left-wing TAZ argued in this context that “The NSU could only survive 14 years in the underground because they could rely on a legal operating network…” and held the NPD responsible for a “mental brutalization.”Andreas Fanizadeh, “Der Ober- und Untergrund,” taz.de, November 19, 2011, http://www.taz.de/!82179/.
Attempts by German government bodies to ban the NPD have been widely discussed in the press. Some view the current second attempt by the Bundesrat to ban the party as an insufficient way to deal with the challenges that the NPD poses. The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung argued that “a ban, which can only target the organization and not the views that are associated with it, will ultimately strengthen the forces, which view the current system as sordid and un-democratic.”Reinhard Mueller, “Stumpfe Waffe,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, December 3, 2013, http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/npd-verbot-stumpfe-waffe-12693531.html. The newspaper went on to ask, “[W]here is the debate around [the issue of xenophobia]? Why does no one dare to tell the sad supporters of raciology that they are not at all nationally disposed (...)?“Reinhard Mueller, “Stumpfe Waffe,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, December 3, 2013, http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/npd-verbot-stumpfe-waffe-12693531.html. The Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), on the other hand, strongly supports banning the party, arguing that “the NPD (...) is anti-constitutional to its bones because it believes in an ethnically defined concept of humanity, which denies immigrants fundamental human rights.”Wolfgang Janisch, “Verfassungsfeindlich bis in die Knochen,” Sueddeutsche Zeitung, December 2, 2013, http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/npd-verbotsverfahren-verfassungsfeindlich-bis-in-die-knochen-1.1833652. While the SZ does not view the NPD as a direct threat to Germany’s democracy, it argues that the party should be banned “because the lessons from the Hitler regime include a firm defence of the dignity of human beings.”Wolfgang Janisch, “Verfassungsfeindlich bis in die Knochen,” Sueddeutsche Zeitung, December 2, 2013, http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/npd-verbotsverfahren-verfassungsfeindlich-bis-in-die-knochen-1.1833652.