There are, however, those politicians who cannot easily dodge the charge of having underestimated the growing danger of right-wing extremist activities. Until the Munich blood bath, they had more or less openly charged Interior Minister [Gerhart] Baum, who is responsible for security services, with deliberately exaggerating the dimensions of right-wing extremism in order to divert attention away from his own lack of success in combating left-wing terrorism. It was surely ill-advised for Bavarian Interior Minister [Gerold] Tandler to have criticized his Bonn colleague Baum at the beginning of September for having exaggerated the “shadow threat” of right-wing extremism beyond what was actually warranted by reality. Earlier quotes on right-wing extremism by [Franz Josef] Strauss have also been in circulation. After the Munich blast, these quotes make it seem as though he downplayed the danger, and they most probably hurt him severely in the final phase of the election campaign.
Agitation against Foreigners
Until the most recent terrorist attacks, however, it was difficult, even for neutral observers, to regard neo-Nazi agitation as anything more than the confused sectarianism of a few hopelessly isolated, small clusters. It is true that the right-wing extremist weekly Deutsche National-Zeitung has been published for years for a readership of about 100,000, and that a dense journalistic thicket of extremist off-shoots has been thriving in this right-wing corner. But for a long time, the primitive slogans of the extreme right – which reveal no cohesive concept, but rather only a confused mishmash of theatrical Nazi glorification, rabid anti-Semitism and anti-Communism, as well as a disdainful rejection of parliamentary democracy – have barely found any broad resonance beyond the circle of old Nazis, which is already shrinking for biological reasons alone.
Even in the 1970s, when more young people started surfacing among the ranks of violent neo-Nazi groups, no one really believed in the existence of a milieu of sympathizers that had to be taken seriously, something comparable to the left-wing terrorist milieu that sparked such heated discussion in this country. It the meantime, however, the militant right seems to have expanded its spiritual base – which, quantitatively speaking, was also very limited up to this point – through focused agitation against foreigners in the Federal Republic. West Germany is presently home to almost 4.5 million foreigners (about 7.5 percent of the total population), who, in view of the increasingly dismal economic prospects and growing unemployment that many Germans face, are less readily accepted than in the earlier boom years. The foreigner problem has been exacerbated by the overwhelming tide of asylum seekers, mostly from Turkey and the Third World. It is estimated that well over 100,000 of them will come this year alone. Societal displeasure with these developments is erupting here and there, and in terms of explosive potential, this doubtless provides right-wing extremist fanatics with their most dangerous tool.
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Source: R.M., “Unterschätzter Rechtsextremismus in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland? Das Signal des Münchner Bombenanschlages” [“Is Right-Wing Extremism Being Underestimated in the Federal Republic of Germany? The Munich Bombing Was a Sign”], Neue Zürcher Zeitung, November 30, 1980.
Translation: Allison Brown