Germany - Why The New Nazis ? It's The East Wind


For anyone wondering why Germany still struggles with neo-Nazi and Far Right movements - particularly in the East, it's a complex situation, but there are a few key contributors.

When the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR) or East Germany was established after WW2, the founders of the new state (and Moscow) were keen to set themselves apart from the capitalist West Germany. This required a new national narrative, in line with Soviet ideology.

Essentially, a 'Day Zero' approach was taken. Fascism was seen to be the end-game of capitalism, its natural culmination. East Germany was a new dawn, a 'tabula rasa', a chance to start fresh. If anything, East Germans were posed as those who fought Nazism.


What this meant was that while the older generation put their heads down and got on with it, younger generations grew up not feeling the same responsibility for the past that their Western cousins did. This New York Times article from 1964 offers a fascinating glimpse.

Let me be really clear here - if you grew up at any time in West Germany prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, your education throbbed (and truth be told, still throbs) with confrontations with the country's Nazi past. There is simply no comparison in the approach.

At the same time, East Germany remained relatively culturally homogeneous - it didn't have the same exposure to migration and global trends that West Germany did. Combined with the collectivist bent of the DDR, a certain racial profile was maintained.


Many older Germans in the East remember the DDR as much, much more stable, plentiful and benevolent than it actually was - this is also that generation who grew up thinking Nazism was someone's else's fault. These attitudes were passed down to their children.

In 1989 the Berlin Wall fell, as we know, and those in the DDR were confronted with a markedly different West Germany - highly advanced in technology, infrastructure and social trends. Wealth disparities were huge and, in some areas, remain so to this very day.


Resentment in the east of Germany has festered for almost thirty years. A sense that the West has been a pernicious influence that has robbed them of the security and homogeneity they enjoyed from '49 - '89 has hardly had time to abate.

Combined with the fact that those in the former DDR simply weren't forced to confront the endgame of Nazism, it's only natural that radical Far Right groups quickly found fertile ground to grow and spread in the east.

Now, as Germany takes on migrants and asylum seekers, there is a noticeable surge in those flocking to these Far Right movements across the East - it's simply another change that they consider an affront to their sense of national identity and 'fair play'.


Of course, there are now plenty among the media, security services and populist political movements looking to use the migrant situation to their political or financial advantage, stoking fears and spreading false information - this is how something like Chemnitz happens.


There are plenty more factors at play that make Germany a flashpoint for Far Right violence, and I'm sure Germans will pitch in with their ideas.

I'm also happy to be corrected on any of these points.

Postscript

The DDR really did a number with its propaganda. 'Ostalgia' for the DDR is a *thing*. It's why it's acceptable for me to have a house with a bunch of East German trinkets. Also, I want a Trabant. Don't believe me? Go to the DDRMuseum.




By historian, writer, commentator and broadcaster Mike Stuchbery, reproduced here with full permission. You can find Mike on Twitter at ...