Neo-Nazis take council seats in cities across Germany as march of the Far Right continues through Europe

Mail Online, UK/June 9, 2009

The German government is alarmed at a weekend of local elections which saw neo-Nazis propelled into power in towns and cities across the country.

Right-wingers seized council seats in many major urban centres as the recession bites and anti-foreigner sentiment increases.

Berlin, acutely aware of Germany’s past when the world’s last major recession opened the window for Adolf Hitler and his supporters, is thrashing around for a solution to the burgeoning allure of the extremists, particularly among the young.

In the east German cities of Leipzig, Dresden, Weimar, Schwerin, Rostock and Erfurt the main neo-Nazi party the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) won seats in all councils. In Parthenstein in Saxony the NPD candidate tied with his centre-left social democratic opponent – but then won the vacant seat by drawing straws with his rival.

In the state of Thuringia the NPD seized 21 seats, in Saxony 73, trebling their numbers from the last elections in 2004. In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania it now has representatives in most local councils.

In the wealthy western Saarland the NPD won seats in the city councils of Saarbruecken and Völklingen. In Saarbücken the party won 1.9 per cent of the votes, in Völklingen 4.6 per cent, and in the ancient Roman city of Trier they won their first seat in the city parliament.

'The local elections of 2009 are a signal that the NPD, at least in most of eastern Germany, is now a fixture on the landscape,' said the Der Spiegel news magazine.

A far-Right defector earlier this year told how neo-Nazi recruitment was spiking among the young as unemployment went up and they saw their families struggling in the downturn.

Former NPD official Uwe Luthardt painted a chilling picture of them attempting to build a ‘Fourth Reich’ from the grassroots upwards as experts fear that the worsening conditions are worryingly similar to those of the late 1920s and early 1930s which propelled Hitler's Nazi regime - the Third Reich - to power.

He went on: 'The simple aim is the restoration of the Reich in which a new stormtrooper organisation takes revenge on anyone who disagrees with them.

'In Jena in East Germany in the NPD HQ there are a load of SS pictures in the cellar. And there's a room with weapons.

'The basic concept the NPD talks about is, "Let's kick out all the foreigners, then the Germans will have jobs again".

'The dream is of the German Reich. They're totally convinced that they'll win an election one day and that things will really get going.

'Everyone can imagine what would happen then.'

The democracy watchdog Network for Democratic Culture said the far-right had been busy recruiting and throwing dozens of candidates into the elections as they fed off fears and insecurities related to the economic crisis.

Opponents are pleased that their victories were not greater and that a sprinkling of seats in most places will not give the extremists authority over funding, immigration issues and other sensitive areas such as policing.

But long-term solutions to the far-right menace continue to evade policy makers. The number of far-Right attacks last year rose to 20,422, with violent crimes up 5.6 per cent at 1,113 cases, including two killings.

Far-Right crimes accounted for two thirds of all "politically motivated" crimes last year, which reached 31,801 - an increase of 11.4 per cent and the highest level since 2001.

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