No Neo-Nazi Danger Hitler's Heirs Clamor, but with No Prospect for Influence in Germany

By Paul Bookbinder. Paul Bookbinder is associate professor of history . | The Christian Science Monitor, November 8, 1990 | Go to article overview

No Neo-Nazi Danger Hitler's Heirs Clamor, but with No Prospect for Influence in Germany


Paul Bookbinder. Paul Bookbinder is associate professor of history ., The Christian Science Monitor


ON Saturday, Oct. 20, a march of about 500 neo-Nazi demonstrators took place in Dresden. This march, during which the participants yelled racist slogans and gave the Nazi salute, has provoked a sharp reaction from the German public and press, and has brought concern that signs of neo-Nazism in the newly reunited Germany may be early warning of dangers to come from the new Germany.

Many German voices questioned the decision of Mayor Herbert Wagner to permit the march and called for tough action against the neo-Nazis. The incident raises two fundamental questions: How serious is the neo-Nazi movement in Germany today? How has the government of the Federal Republic of Germany dealt with such movements?

Karl Bracher, the dean of German historians writing about the Nazi era, reminds us of the insignificant nature of the Nazi movement when it began to agitate in the early 1920s, and how the history of the rise of Nazism was the history of the constant failure to take seriously the menace of National Socialism and Adolf Hitler.

No Adolf Hitler is on the horizon, however; more important, the Germany of the 1990s is a vastly different place from that of the 1920s. Sixty million Germans have lived in a stable democracy with an institutional base of political parties, churches, courts, and schools that are dominated by people committed to humane values and democratic processes. This Germany has been prosperous and stable, and has had the time to build the institutional flexibility and citizen participation that should make it able to survive even a substantial economic downturn.

The 17 million Germans who lived under oppression in the East have struggled hard for freedom and participation. They are much more likely to adopt the dominant democratic values of the majority of their fellow citizens who lived in the Federal Republic than those of fringe extremist groups.

The neo-Nazis are very much a fringe group in Germany today. Several political groupings, most prominently the Republicans, espouse neo-Nazi ideas and compete in elections. In their best showing in this year's elections, the Republicans received 4.9 percent of the vote, less than the 5 percent necessary to achieve representation in the state legislature. …

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