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An Outside Analysis of Right-Wing Extremism in the FRG (November 30, 1980)

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Creating Public Awareness

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Recent events make clear that individual right-wing activists no longer content themselves with circumscribed acts of violence; rather, they proceed directly to murderous terrorist attacks. Over the course of the past year – in addition to the Munich attack – there have been at least six bomb attacks on Jewish memorials or admissions centers for foreigners. In August, two Vietnamese refugees were killed during an arson attack on a Hamburg dormitory for foreigners. Thankfully, the perpetrators of this crime have been arrested. Most of them were members of the so-called German Action Groups [Deutsche Aktionsgruppen]. The head of this right-wing extremist organization is the former lawyer Manfred Röder, who has also been taken into custody in the meantime. In particular, these violent acts against foreigners point to a new political line of attack for right-wing extremist agitation, the potential impact of which is unsettling.

According to the most recent report by the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) for the year 1979, the total number of right-wing extremist organizations is continuing to drop slowly, along with their membership rolls. This statistical trend is mainly attributable to the continued decline of the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), which presents itself in a democratic guise. With around 8,000 party members, it accounts for about half of the total membership of all right-wing extremist groups. In the Bundestag elections of October 5, the NPD received 67,000 votes, a result that put its total share [of the vote] at about 0.2 percent, about half of what it was four years ago. In 1969, the NPD received 4.3 percent of the vote and thus only narrowly missed the threshold needed to win seats in the Bundestag. Thus, as a political alternative within the framework of democratic, parliamentarian rules, the extreme right seems to have become virtually insignificant in today’s Federal Republic.

1,400 Activists

The opposite trend, however, can be seen in the country’s estimated thirty militant neo-Nazi groups, whose activist membership base, according to the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution, comprised 1,400 people at the end of 1979, a clear increase – 40 percent – from 1978. Last year it was estimated that the hardcore nucleus of these right-wing fanatics – who are increasingly conspiratorial in their plotting and who have, in some cases, moved on to openly terrorist crimes – comprised approximately 300 people. This circle might have expanded significantly in the meantime. Right-wing extremist excesses have also risen dramatically in the last three years; this category, however, also includes minor offenses such as displaying Nazi emblems (about 1,500 incidents were registered in 1979 – 50 percent more than in the previous year). The number of serious cases of right-wing extremist violence also doubled within a year, rising to 117. Courts and investigative agencies have reacted to this development, however: there were 365 convictions last year for offenses linked to right-wing extremism. In the trial against the terrorist group led by the German army lieutenant Michael Kühnen, who wanted to resurrect the Nazi Party, long prison sentences of four to eleven years were imposed for the first time. At the moment, several hundred preliminary proceedings are being held in connection with incidences of right-wing extremism. The objection that is sometimes raised – that a certain blindness prevails in the Federal Republic when it comes to the dangers of the right – seems to be misplaced, at least with respect to the German judiciary.

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