Since 1989, nationalism in Germany has grown at a terrifying pace
and has been accompanied by a level of political violence from the
extreme Right not seen since the days of the Weimar Republic when
Hitler's fascists sought to terrorise all opposition.
This violence, which has resulted in more than 80 fascist
killings since 1990 and more than 23,000 Right-wing extremist crimes
investigated by the German police in 1993 alone, is the product of the
rise of nationalism in a country that has signally failed to come to
terms with its recent history and which continues to have judical
and law enforcement systems that are "blind in the right eye".
Since reunification, Germany has been the recipient
of numerous protests and complaints about racism,
antisemitism, fascism and state-inspired
nationalist activities from, amongst others, the US State Department,
the Russian Foreign Ministry, the Polish Foreign Ministry, the Danish,
Czech, Nigerian, Portuguese and Israeli governments, the United Nations
refugee organisation UNHCR, the World Jewish Congress, the European
Jewish Congress, Amnesty International and the US human rights
organisation Helsinki Watch.
All have demanded an end to the racist and antisemitic violence of the
German extreme Right and many have put the responsibility for the
lawless activities of Germany's 65,000-plus organised right-wing
extremists squarely on the shoulders of the German government itself,
either for its pitiful inaction in the face of this criminality or, in
some cases, actually accusing the government of complicity.
Inside Germany, there exists a very broad consensus of concerned human
rights organisations, anti-fascist organisations,
some intellectuals, leaders of some opposition political parties,
leaders of minority religious and ethnic communities, anti-militarist
and trade union groups which takes the matter further. For this broad
consensus, the issue of terror and violence, of burning refugee centres,
vandalised former Nazi concentration camps and desecrated Jewish
property, is summed up in a single German phrase: Die Brandstifter
sitzen in Bonn.
Translated into English, this phrase loses something but is nonetheless
accurate: "the arsonists are sitting in Bonn", a reference to the German
government of Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
The world-famous German novelist Günther Grass
hit the nail on the head in 1993 when he declared: "The most dangerous
thing is that we have [skinheads] in government. They are nicely dressed
with beautiful hair. They speak well. But they
think in the same way as the young kids who shave their heads and carry
swastikas and demonstrate. They encourage these ideas and these brutal
What might reasonably be termed the resistance - few use the
term "opposition" any more in Germany - shares the views of Grass and
those who identify the German government and state as central to the
problem of nationalism and its evil manifestations.
More and more, they see that, in reality, two separate nationalist
projects exist in Germany: the nazi project and that of the mainstream
conservative Right, embodied in the ruling Christian Democratic Union
and its even more Right-wing counterpart, the Christian Social
Union, in Bavaria. Sometimes these projects converge, sometimes they
diverge, but almost continuously they run parallel.
For the conservative nationalists, who are not fascists and
nazis despite their lust to make Germany a world power again, the
fascists even represent a measure of competition and at least a
potential threat. Hence, the bans on some nazi groups as explained in
the section of this pamphlet on "internal security".
This conservative nationalism, which harks right back to the national
Right parties, the Deutschnationale Volkspartei and the Deutsche
Volkspartei -the people who handed over power to Hitler in 1933 - in the
Weimar Republic, has escaped serious attention as have the activities of
the new militarists.
This pamphlet, which does not and could not pretend to be
comprehensive, scrutinises some of the aspects of the "new-old"
nationalism and of the militarism which was never rooted out, but lay
comparatively dormant for 45 years, only to be re-energised by the
takeover of East Germany and the reunification that consummated it.
We do not doubt that this Searchlight special edition will
attract critics, not least from those unfamiliar with the developments
in Germany. Many of the facts presented here will shock but, almost
without exception, facts cited are taken from the liberal and
conservative German press and from parliamentary documents which, far
from being state secrets, are publicly available. It is one of the
peculiar contradictions of the current situation in Germany that so much
information on these developments is to hand.
Not everything is concealed and, in part, we publish this pamphlet
because of the relative failure of the international press to report
accurately on the situation in Germany. There have, of course, been
honourable exceptions, not least the excellent reporting of the Daily
Telegraph's Robin Gedye and the work of American journalists
Karen Breslau and Marc Fisher. But generally, coverage has been
superficial and, in some cases, so false as to amount almost to
Searchlight is very proud that its team has been able to
report, since even before the Berlin Wall opened, the revival of
nationalism in Germany with formidable accuracy and depth. Even some of
our erstwhile critics have had to accept that our analysis has stood up
to the test of real developments.
We shall also probably be accused of being "anti-German" but our
friends in Germany - and they are many - will testify readily to the
great solidarity and material and political assistance provided by
Searchlight. Among German antifascists such criticism will find scant
Our objective is not to fan the flames of anti-German prejudice, but to
warn of the character of revived German nationalism, which twice in this
century, through its unbridled ambition, has plunged the world into war.
Above all, we want our readers to see, well in advance, that once more a
war danger begins to haunt the situation in Europe and to help develop
an awareness of that danger.
A Germany that begins to view its army as an instrument of foreign
policy, that can organise a torchlight parade, reminiscent of the Nazis,
by the Bundeswehr in front of the Brandenburg Gate to celebrate the
departure of US, British and French troops, has by no means exhausted
Events are now taking place in the heart of Europe which a mere five
years ago would have been regarded as unimaginable at best, and as sheer
fantasy at worst. Nobody can forecast the course of developments in the
next five years or the next decade. However, in the light of the changed
situation and the dangerous trends illustrated in this pamphlet, there
are - alas - few grounds for optimism.
Our hope is to warn so that people can make reasoned judgments for
themselves, debate the issues and organise action to ensure early
international opposition to German nationalism and militarism and to
encourage all those brave people who resist these frightening tendencies
Nobody can say they were not warned.