German young people, faced with liberal parents who are tolerant about sex, drugs and rock and roll, are increasingly rebelling by turning to right-wing extremism. Neo-nazi fashion, music and ideology have become an ever important part of German youth culture.
Here is how young Germans view things:
They believe that if foreigners left there would be more jobs and fewer unemployed Turks getting money from the government. There would be no Albanian drug dealers on the streets and no macho Islamic guys hitting on their girlfriends. They would also no longer run the risk of being beaten up by large groups of "Russians" on a Friday night in front of their favorite bar. They say it is always "the Russians" who attack first.
Many young Germans feel that they are not allowed to be patriotic:
One of the boys says that his mother, who he characterizes as "more to the left," became very upset when he and a group of friends tied the German flag to their tent during a summer camping trip. "Hey guys," she said, angrily, "you must be nuts, where do you think you are?" But what the boy's mother didn't seem to notice was that the surrounding tents were all flying flags -- Dutch, British and Hungarian -- and that no one seemed to care about that.
"We're not allowed to be patriots. We're not allowed to be proud of our country, but they are. Why? It's really annoying," they say.
So now they wear something they call the secret insignia of the right-wing scene: New Balance shoes. The "N" on the shoes is supposed to stand for "national," something that would never occur to mothers. They download songs by bands like Störkraft (Disturbing Force) and sport closely-cropped hair. And instead of making them outcasts in their school, their music and their haircuts are even considered hip in German schools these days.
Quietly and persistently, a new youth culture has developed in both the eastern and western parts of Germany. It's Germanic and xenophobic and potentially explosive.
While the German government does its best to ban neo-Nazi demonstrations at memorials for victims of the Nazis, right-wing extremism is gaining new adherents in schools, concert venues and at youth gatherings. The "nationalist mood" has become "chronic and wide-spread" in former East Germany, says Bernd Wagner, an expert on extremism. But young people in these areas are unlikely to encounter many foreigners there. According to a current study by the Bavarian State Office for Political Education, their right-wing extremism is a protest -- even a revolt -- against the West's more liberal, middle-class values.
Most young right-wingers, both in the West and the East, are not willing to engage in violence, but they do prepare the ground for skinheads and thugs. The first effects of this process are already being felt. In its annual report issued last week, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution notes that neo-Nazi groups have experienced growth rates in excess of 25 percent. The number of crimes and violent acts committed by right-wing extremists is also growing, as is the frequency of skinhead concerts. Minister of the Interior Otto Schily says that the increasingly aggressive right-wing extremist movement is cause "for great concern."
German parents seem to be incapable of understanding their children:
Many parents and teachers are completely perplexed by their children's xenophobic tendencies. These are fathers and mothers who came of age in the 1960s, who provided their children with a liberal upbringing, and whose greatest fear was that their kids might be taking drugs. They have been completely taken by surprise by the right-wing sentiments of German young people. Take, for example, a mother from Bremen who moved to the country with her husband and three children a few years ago. "Everything is wonderful here," she thought at the time. Two-and-a-half years later, when the woman threw her son out of the house, his parting words were "Heil Hitler!"
The boy had become increasingly drawn in by the local right-wing scene. The parents saw all the physical signs, but none of it meant much to them. How could they have known that sweaters by Lonsdale or Pitbull are especially popular among right-wing extremists? "After all, they're expensive clothes, so all I thought was that they must be good, brand-name quality." There was one incident that worried them a bit, but for the wrong reasons. One of their son's new friends showed up wearing a jacket labeled "Bierpatrioten" (Beer Patriots), the name of a right-wing band. But the mother took it as a sign that perhaps her son was drinking too much.
It eventually became more apparent to the woman and her husband that their son had drifted off to the right. He listened to CDs with titles like "Revenge for Rudolf Heß" and was visited by the police, who claimed that he and two of his friends had beaten up a Pole. Finally, the mother had seen enough. She threw the boy out of the house.
Right-wing extremists tend to do most of their recruiting in rural areas. Augsburg street worker Heiko Helbig dubs the phenomenon "village fascism." One of the reasons that rural areas have become such fertile ground for right-wingers is the lack of activities for young people. Those who aren't members of athletic leagues have become easy prey for neo-Nazi recruiters. During youth meetings, Helbig sometimes discovers seemingly harmless boys carrying pamphlets of songs that were popular in the Nazi army, or Wehrmacht.
Other street workers say that the extreme right-wing NPD party sponsors trips to demonstrations in Dresden for high-school students -- bus ride, lunch and beer free of charge. "The Right," says Nürnberg youth advisor Detlef Menske, "seems to have discovered the key." In fact, Nazi culture has become so omnipresent in the daily lives of some young people that they use Adolf Hitler's voice as their cell phone ring tone and Nazi symbols as their screen savers.
One of the most damaging aspects of neo-Nazi activity in the countryside is the silence of the parent generation. Local officials and the police still refer to neo-Nazi efforts as a fringe activity, and they refuse to acknowledge the potential for conflict with violent foreign gangs in Germany's smaller cities.
The press in the Bavarian town of Aichach had reported on a presumably foreign gang of thugs who had been attacking German youth, seemingly at random. The police downplayed the report, saying they were dealing with an "isolated group." Perhaps they were right, but young people in the town have reported multiple attacks, a circumstance that no one seems to be taking seriously in Aichach -- no one but right-wing extremists.
If the Germans really want to stop their children from embracing neo-Nazism they should do something about the high level of immigration in Germany. This new love for Hitler amongst Germany's youth seems to be a response to the problems caused by many immigrant groups in the country.