Neo-Nazism: Spirit of Hitler Still Alive in Germany

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BERLIN - Some 65 years after the fall of Nazi Germany, there's growing concern that the spirit of Adolf Hitler still lives in the country.

It's not a widespread phenomenon, but the neo-Nazi movement continues to exist in small pockets across Germany.

"Young men are attracted because there are no alternatives in the village except this group who are aggressive, who are male, chauvinist and dominating the scene," explained Hajo Funke, a neo-Nazi expert at the Free University of Berlin.

A Cult-Like Movement

A recent report revealed one out of twenty 15-year-old German boys belong to a neo-Nazi group -- a number no other political party can claim.

Matthias Adrian was one of those teens. Now, he helps others leave the movement with a group called Exit Deutschland.

"I was a neo-Nazi, 24 hours a day," Adrian recalled, comparing the movement to a cult.

He said he was convinced that Jews were an evil force that controlled the world. He added that neo-Nazi groups have hidden weapons caches across Germany. 

"Our movement, Exit Deutschland, helps people leave the right-wing extremist scene safely, because everybody who leaves the scene is a traitor in the eyes of neo-Nazis," Adrian said.

Lessons of Deception

The legal and political arm of the neo-Nazi movement is the National Democratic Party or NPD. The group didn't agree to an interview with CBN News, but a former NPD figure said its goal is the restoration of the Third Reich. 

He also said members are trained to talk moderately in public, but privately praise Nazi Germany and the Holocaust -- something Adrian said he experienced.

"We had schoolings about it, how to give quotes in public, how to do interviews with the media," Adrian said. "(Neo Nazi's say) 'We are not violent, we are nationalists, but we are not violent. We are nice guys.'  In public they denied the Holocaust, but in private they glorified it."

"If you take into account also their presentations, their speeches, and their texts and their newspaper articles, then they're outright anti-Semitic, anti-foreigner, racist. and in some cases against Muslim persons for living here," Funke added.

Official membership in neo-Nazi groups is relatively small, but the number of Germans who agree with some neo-Nazi ideas is much larger. Some recent reports revealed that neo-Nazis in eastern Germany are trying to run their own kindergartens.

Turmoil in the Richest Nation?

After recent gains in state elections by the NPD, there have been new calls that the party be banned.

The neo-Nazi movement is also trying to cash in on the new bestselling book "Germany Eliminates Itself" by Thilo Sarrazin, an official at Germany's central bank. 

Sarrazin writes that Muslim and Turkish immigration is wrecking Germany. The far right has seized on the popularity of the book, saying Sarrazin is right.

But how can the neo-Nazi movement persist in the richest, most successful nation in Europe -- once wrecked by Nazi ideas?

Jörg Drieselman, a former political prisoner in the old East Germany, says overall, Germans in the East -- once under the boot of communism -- resent the results of unification and feel controlled by what he describes as a politically correct nanny state.
 
"(The movement continues) because of the fragility of the democratic culture in eastern Germany," Funke explained. "The movement continues because of some economic miseries. But there won't be a big success (with the neo-Nazi movement). It's on the sidelines. It's subculture."

Adrian grew up in the wealthy American sector of West Germany and doesn't believe poverty has anything to do with neo-Nazi growth. 

But the movement is still around in Germany -- meaning everyone is not happy living in Europe's wealthiest nation.

Originally broadcast September 30, 2010

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