Ban Germany's right-wing NPD? Neo-Nazi revelations spark debate.
Neo-Nazi enclaves like Jamel, Germany, are closed to foreigners and minorities – and supportive of the hard-right NPD party. Last week, 74 percent of Germans said the NPD should be banned.
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The NPD, which is represented in the regional parliaments of two German states but has never played any role at the federal level, has tried for some time to shed its extremist image. “People can come to their party offices and get help filling out welfare application forms,” says Mr. Krumpen. NPD members are running youth clubs and local soccer teams, and sitting on local councils. Just last month, the party elected a new leader, Holger Apfel, who is regarded as less radical than his predecessor.Skip to next paragraph
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In a poll last week, 74 percent of Germans were in favor of banning the NPD. “A ban would destabilize the right-wing scene, throw it back for decades,” says Bernd Wagner. The ex-policeman is Germany’s foremost authority on right-wing extremism. He runs “Exit,” an organization that helps neo-Nazis leave the scene and reintegrate in society. “We need to act,” says Mr. Wagner. “The official statistics show a decline in the number of right-wing extremists. But we at Exit see a core of neo-Nazis that is better organized and more radical than before.”
But the German government needs to show a concrete and direct link between the NPD and the terrorists of the NSU. Otherwise it risks a repeat of the embarrassment of 2003, when an attempt to ban the NPD failed, because Germany’s constitutional court rejected the case. Back then, the NPD was so heavily infiltrated with informers of the domestic intelligence service that the court decided most of the evidence brought against the far-right party would be inadmissible.
The arrest of a former NPD official who is accused of actively supporting the NSU last week could make the case for a ban and push the informer problem into the background, politicians hope. “If we can produce a watertight link between NPD and terrorists, we have an important argument on our side,” the Interior minister of Lower Saxony, Uwe Schünemann, told a German newspaper. Bavaria’s Interior minister, Joachim Herrmann, said the support for a ban was growing on a daily basis.
Not everybody agrees, though. Hartfrid Wolff is an MP for the Free Democrats, the junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government. He sits on the Parliamentary Oversight Committee that controls Germany’s intelligence services. “The failure of the domestic intelligence agency to stop this terrorist gang was a disaster,” he says. “But we should not in a knee-jerk reaction try to ban a party that has a considerable electorate. It would be much better to dry up its voter base, win over its supporters.”
Mr. Krumpen has a more practical approach. “If we ban the NPD, we don’t get rid of a single right-winger,” he says. “What we lose is a target whose structure and weaknesses we know well enough to fight. Ban it, and the neo-Nazis just go underground.”
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