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How an SPD mayor became an NPD icon

Erschienen auf "Spiegel-Online", 2011

Von Autor Frank Brunner

Hans Püschel’s career had been exemplary: a martyr to democracy under East Germany’s Soviet satellite regime, a respected social democratic village mayor in the troubled state of Saxony-Anhalt. What made him decide to campaign on the platform that Hitler was an underrated genius?

Until a few weeks ago, Hans Püschel, 62, sounded like someone you might want to meet. In the communist era he served time for sympathizing with Solidarnosc, and in 1990 he became a founding member of Saxony-Anhalt’s social democratic party. He has for many years been mayor of Krauschwitz, a village of 560. He is accounted a seasoned local politician. He is active in the church.

He stands on the stage at Krauschwitz’s shabby community center and finds kind words for the last thousand years, a glorious time when the world found salvation in the German essence. The audience applauds enthusiastically. Around 70 unabashed Neonazis, including skinheads in full regalia. Not-so-very-complex codes prevail: “88” on a jacket means “Heil Hitler” because H is the eighth letter of the alphabet. One attendee takes time out to yell at the assembled journalists, saying they have sold their souls to “system media.” A speaker encourages his comrades to join Magdeburg’s militant fighting unit. Most of them are as old as Püschel or older. Many are drunk, and evidently not for the first time.

This is the campaign kickoff event for Saxony-Anhalt’s NPD, and the party elite is here in force. They are currently polling four percent. Five would be enough to gain them entry to the state parliament in Magdeburg …