By Christoph Vandreier in Germany:
20 July 2017
One of the largest neo-Nazi gatherings in the last decade took place in the small town of Themar in the German state of Thuringia last Saturday. More than 6,000 right-wing extremists travelled from across Europe to take part in the “Rock against foreign infiltration” festival.
The right-wing extremists obviously felt emboldened by the campaign waged by the major political parties in Germany against left-wing protesters following the G20 summit in Hamburg. It was, after all, Heiko Maas, the Social Democrat Justice Minister, who issued a call for a “Rock against the left” concert.
While the police acted brutally against peaceful demonstrators at G20 and violently broke up authorised gatherings, they acted as security forces for the attendees of the neo-Nazi festival. Even when the right-wing extremists began committing widespread acts of criminality, and used the Nazi salute and “Sieg Heil” greeting [illegal in Germany], the police refused to disperse the gathering and arrest the perpetrators.
The neo-Nazis acted extremely aggressively and made no secret of their political outlook from the outset. Die Zeit reported on one attendee who arrived at the event with an open jacket revealing a T-shirt with a swastika printed on it. Other participants wore T-shirts including “National Socialist” and “I love HTLR.” This has been documented by hundreds of sources online. Journalists were threatened and spat on.
Bands who performed included Stahlgewitter, who sing about the Wehrmacht in their songs and chant “88,” a code which means “Heil Hitler” in neo-Nazi circles. The music was interrupted by speeches from representatives of the neo-Nazi NPD, Pegida, and many more right-wing extremist organisations.
There are only a few pictures from inside the grounds, which could not be seen as they were sealed off by construction barriers. Journalists reported that they could hear the singer of the right-wing extremist band “Blutzeugen” repeatedly shouting “Sieg Heil” from the stage and that similar slogans were taken up by the crowd.
One of the few short videos of the event revealed dozens of neo-Nazis performing the Nazi salute and shouting “Sieg Heil.” The video only showed a small part of the crowd, creating the impression that hundreds of Nazis raised their arms. The video was deleted shortly afterwards by its author, but had already been shared across social media.
The police initially asserted on Sunday evening that they had been unaware of these scenes. But given the absurdity of this claim, they were forced on Monday to acknowledge that they were aware that symbols in violation of the constitution, whose use is a criminal offense, were displayed. Nonetheless, the police stated that dispersing the gathering would have been disproportionate because the right to freedom of assembly had to be protected.
One week after the brutal police crackdown on peaceful anti-G20 protesters, these claims are thoroughly hypocritical. In Hamburg, a tent camp of left-wing G20 counter-demonstrators was violently broken up by the police. Several peaceful protesters were attacked with water cannon and tear gas. But when neo-Nazis gather to glorify Hitler and give the Nazi salute, which is illegal under German law, their “basic right to freedom of assembly” is enforced by the police!
In Themar, in spite of the widespread criminal action and glorification of Hitler by the 6,000 neo-Nazis, the police issued only 43 criminal charges, including for the use of symbols belonging to constitutionally outlawed organisations, threats, grievous bodily harm and breaches of the law on bearing arms.
The police effectively protected the neo-Nazi hordes. A photo widely shared on social media shows a police officer engaging in a friendly manner with one of the right-wing extremist music groups. The police insisted in a press release that the picture did not depict a handshake. But the picture speaks for itself.
In addition, Vice reported that the police discussed the G20 protests with the neo-Nazis. Two neo-Nazis approached a group of officers and one asked, “And, were you in Hamburg?” When the officers nodded, the neo-Nazi said, “Shit, wasn’t it? If only you had intervened a bit more firmly.” …
The fact that the same police officers were subsequently tasked with defending the rights of the neo-Nazis must be taken as a serious warning.