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Most historians place responsibility for World War II directly on Hitler’s chancellery and his platform of appropriating the lands of other sovereign European nations in order to establish a great kingdom on Earth for the German people, better known as the Third Reich. Yet the legacy of Germany’s culpability is not in its ambition for more territory but in the philosophy and ideology established by the governing the Nazi Party. Following the war under Russian and American rule, Germany had undergone a period of ‘denazification’ that prevented Nazis from articulating their views to the general public, and made even the display of a swastika a criminal offense punishable by one year in jail. Eventually, the political philosophy was repressed to the degree that children growing up during the 1960s and 1970s were largely ignorant of it. Curiously, by the 1980s, Neo-Nazism had experienced something of a renaissance in Germany. In the last fifty years, the Neo-Nazi movement had gained momentum in the West as Germany and other nations have been getting record numbers of immigrants from third world cultures whose birth rates are often much higher than those of the native inhabitants-combined with a rapidly decreasing standard of living-that has sparked civil unrest in these countries, specifically Germany. Scholars have found that the movements that are specifically Germany in origin are far more violent than its European counterparts because the number of recruits is greater and they are more likely to harass and assault immigrants and ‘undesirable visitors’.  While fascism, nationalism, and racism have been examined to great depth by the community of historical scholars, it is still unclear how much Hitler’s philosophy influenced European Neo-Nazis in general and particularly those residing in Germany during the years of partition and after reunification.
In this study, we seek to explore exactly why and how this reemergence of discriminatory ideologies has happened and to analyze primary and secondary source materials that examine any ideological links between the original Nazi Party and the Neo-Nazis. In addition, we will investigate the increase in third world migration and population displacement within Germany to help determine if it would be the impetus to a broader range of development and support towards Neo-Nazism. It is through this exploration that this author intends to prove that current Neo-Nazis within Germany are not a direct product of their heritage. It is not Nazi ideologies that resurrected and molded the Neo-Nazis but rather xenophobia catalyzed by the philosophy and ideologies of Nazism.
Much has been written about Neo-Nazism and its origins during the last forty years. During the postwar era, some scholars argued that propaganda efforts by the Soviet Union were successful in building a coalition of far-right wing dissidents (Neo-Nazis) that would destabilize capitalist Western democracies (Western Germany), all but eliminating xenophobia as a root cause of Neo-Nazism. In this case, propaganda may have paved the way for the NDP to become a more potent player in national discourse. According to John George, Francis Parker Yockey was a rather shadowy American figure that established the “European Liberation Front” and wrote Imperium as the Bible of young Neo-Nazis. “Yockey was quite likely a paid agent of the Soviet Union. [He] felt that the United States [in West Germany] was a greater danger to European ‘culture’ than was Russia. This would explain, in part, his willingness to work for people who could only be described as his ideological foes.”  Yet the attention that Neo-Nazism has garnered from scholarly literature is more concentrated on the implications that the reemergence of such Nazi-like ideologies would have on Germany’s present and future than on whether or not the origins of such ideologies can truly be traced back to a handing down of original Nazi principles and beliefs.  4It is often assumed that although former Nazis were silenced by “denazification” efforts of the government from publicly declaring their ideologies, they still supported these ideologies in private and passed them on to the succeeding generations that they influenced  . Yet evidence of this being the case is scarce, despite the fact that whether or not such is the case holds a great deal of importance not just to scholarly pursuits but also to public policy. If Germany’s Neo-Nazism is not the product of heritage, then attempts to combat Neo-Nazism by continuing to demonize Nazis and Nazi history serves little to no purpose. Neo-Nazis would invariably think of these efforts as a misunderstanding of the government of their plight and what they stand for which may only embolden their spirits and boost their efforts. Thus, it is important for scholarly texts to determine to what degree it can be claimed that Neo-Nazism is the product of inherited Nazism, and if this was not the case to point out the real cause of Neo-Nazi principles that continue to proliferate at the present. This is the main contribution that this work seeks to impart.
In May 1945, Germany surrendered after Hitler’s suicide in the Führersbunker when Russian tanks closed upon the city of Berlin. In the aftermath of the war, it was discovered that the German government was responsible for the loss of more than twelve million lives which included Jewish people, the Romanis, homosexuals, the elderly, and mentally ill, who were often deemed by officials as not being worthy of life. The Allied powers divided the country placing the Eastern half within the Russian sphere of influence while the Western part of the country fell under the sphere of the Western allies of the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. Many believed that with the surrender, the scepter of Nazism was forever removed from the global stage, but during the 1960s, widespread support for the National Democratic Party (NDP) in West Germany made the international community quite nervous. Political opponents-especially amongst the student demographic alleged that the NDP was trying to blow the embers of the Third Reich into a raging bonfire that would once more attempt to consume Europe. According to J.L. Richardson, while the NDP was an extreme right wing political faction that appealed to Protestant males between the ages of 45-60 on a platform of supporting small enterprises, acting in the interests of the ‘little guy’, the armed forces, and the self-employed, it also advocated banning foreign labor and all foreign influences on German culture.  While not overtly expansionist, NDP rule suggests that Nazi ideals may be revived and Germany once more becoming a society that is nationalist and racist at all levels of government.
Development of Neo-Nazi Beliefs in Western Germany
John George also explores the motivations that people have for joining fascist movements. Citing philosopher Eric Hoffer, he argues that people drawn to these movements are often disenchanted with society, with their lives, and with their environment. They long to be a part of something bigger than themselves. In this case, this is ensuring the proliferation of white supremacist ideals and helping to achieve a sort of peace that is most often associated with racially and culturally homogenous society. However, uncertainty, unemployment, wartime, civil unrest, and governmental leniency and aid given to non-citizens can cause people to act irrationally. While Western Germany was economically better off than their Eastern brethren, they had to bear witness to foreigners coming to Germany and receiving free housing, meals, medical care, and language training along with a stipend while they have to make their own way forward.  Given West Germany’s democratic stance that tolerated such actions, naturally, this helped lead to xenophobia. Neo-Nazism was a vehicle for the xenophobic citizens to find retribution that their government would not. The 2008 Annual Report of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution helps put things in perspective from a xenophobic point of view: “Abandoned by the ruling politicians, ordinary citizens especially are at the mercy of criminal foreigners”. What this shows is a clear difference between Nazism and Neo-Nazism. Nazis believed that they should be given preferential treatment because they were biologically superior to other races. This belief was a universal, and so extended beyond the boundaries of their nation which naturally led them to pursue extending those boundaries so that they can exercise their ideology further. Neo-Nazism on the other hand, seems based on a much more reasonable principle, which is that citizens of a country should have more right over that country’s resources than foreign immigrants. It can be seen from this principle that no claim to biological superiority or any type of superiority for that matter is made. The claim is not based on being better, but on being right.
Historical Evidence of Link Between Neo-Nazi Activity and Xenophobia
Under the influence of the Communists in Eastern Europe, the lawmakers of Eastern Germany sought to purge any sign of fascism from their governing legal documents. Before the GDR had enshrined its constitution, the government was satisfied that fascism had been expunged from the national consciousness, but the torch left by the Nazis was instead taken up by the youth of the nation. “By the mid-1980s, the writing was spray-painted on the walls for all to see: ‘Jews Out!’, ‘Sieg Heil!’, and ‘Third Reich Again!’ The desecrated Jewish cemeteries, vandalized Soviet war memorials, and the escalating violence of Neo-Nazi Skinhead gangs attested to the fact that something had gone terribly awry in the orthodox Eastern bloc state.”  Perhaps the repression of fascism in the GDR had the opposite effect intended and made Neo-Nazism even more attractive to young people. Hockenos argued that it may be possible that if the government had allowed Nazism to be discussed and examined that the youth might have seen it as a failure that brought Germany to the economically depressed state it was in and perhaps helped to encourage a newer, less destructive ideology. Christopher Husbands argues that the root of the movement began with a loose collection of ‘youth friendship groups’ and football fans as a rebellious act towards foreigners; acts without sustenance until coupled with Neo-Nazism. Furthermore, as the GDR had begun accepting thousands of asylum seekers, consisting of Turks, Moroccans, and others, into Germany for refuge and work, sentiment against them had grown quite strong.  In addition with the erosion of the ordered life promised by GDR government officials, many of the young people at the time felt as though they lacked guidance, direction, and potential employment. Asylum seekers were hired as guest workers and even though immigration was brought to a halt due to high unemployment, these guest workers’ numbers doubled.  As a result of these guest workers infringing on the rights of Germans, attacks on these foreigners were seen as legitimate and we usually committed by the extreme right (Neo-Nazis).  Diedrich describes armed German guards patrolling Jewish neighborhoods and cultural centers to discourage would-be hoodlums from vandalism and murder and laments that Germany had taken several leaps backward with respect to race relations. Diedrich argues that Germany had never planned on becoming a home for asylum seekers, especially with the rampant economic recessions, high unemployment, along with its precarious position as an occupied state, but it appeared that before reunification that the German people felt great remorse for the acts carried out by their government during the war. Husbands notes that of 2700 students that were interviewed in 1990 after reunification, approximately 50% favor some kind of sanction against hate groups, while approximately 20% had strong nationalistic and/or authoritarian views and 2% of them had extreme right wing tendencies.  Furthermore, in 1994 Germany’s Annual Report of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution reveals that there were over 1,200 attacks by right-winged (Neo-Nazis) extremist motivated by xenophobia. After the Eichmann trial, Hannah Arendt wrote an essay on the banality of evil-that perfectly normal people are often attracted to evil movements shattering the prevailing world view that one needs to be a monster to buy into ideals such as ethnic cleansing and the purging of the otherwise unfit. In other words, it takes very little to attract normal people to evil.
A Counterargument and Response
Post reunification of Germany, modern scholars have noted a dramatic increase in Neo-Nazi activity, not in merely the number of threats against minorities, but more of a willingness to act publicly and violently. “Jewish Germans who used to receive anonymous death threats in the past now find the writer’s address and FAX number on the letterhead. An Ehtiopian woman whose family has lived and worked in Germany for ten years and whose children were born here complains to a neighbor for calling her children ‘niggers.’ The neighbor responds with a haughty ‘I am proud to be of German blood’ and knocks the Ethiopian mother down.”  This clearly shows some evidence of the original Nazi ideology of superiority. However, to use evidences such as these to jump to the conclusion that all discriminatory activities are similarly motivated would obviously be folly. What this does show is that there may be two distinct types of Neo-Nazism that currently co-exist in Germany, one that is based on the supremacist ideas typical of the former Nazi movement, and another that is based on the more practical ideas of survival through action against perceived economic threats in trying economic times.
As larger numbers of immigrants from the Middle East and Africa enter Germany and the economic downturns that affected much of the West begin to affect Germany, Neo-Nazism becomes more attractive to white Germans-especially if they begin to feel as though they are losing their country and jobs to foreigners. The first Nazi movement in the 1920s and 1930s was born economic despair and the shame they were made to feel after the Treaty of Versailles and in rebuilding their national identity, they made the fatal decision to once more take on the world. Scholars fear that the growing tide of xenophobia can cause severe unrest within Germany itself, and note that if the state had access to the same military power that it had back in the 1930s that they may be on the warpath today. According to Dietrich, “There can be no doubt: the nightmares that were our past have returned to invade our present and to destroy our future. Visible for all, racist bigotry and violence once again struggle to become definers of German identity.’  With the growing support of extreme right movements riding on the back of xenophobia, it is possible that it may become one form of German identity, though it may not be ultimately definitive of German culture in the same way that liberal democrats and politically conservative survivalists both think of themselves and what they represent as American. On a final note, the German court system appears to sympathize with xenophobic Neo-Nazis. In November 1993, a Dresden court gave eighteen-month suspended sentences to two Neo-Nazis convicted of murdering a man from Mozambique by throwing him off a moving train.  This is not an isolated event and it can be argued that it is cases such as this that help to inspire and maintain such incidents.
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