Zeitenspiegel Reportagen

The new face of Nazism

Appeared in "Die Welt", 25 September 2004

Von Autor Jan Rübel

The elections in the northeastern Germany state of Saxony brought unanticipated triumph for the NPD, Germany’s Neonazi party. It’s getting hard to pick out Neonazis at a distance. Delegate Johannes Müller, for example, is neither a skinhead nor a black-clad, drunken thug. He’s a doctor.

Johannes Müller looks a bit embarrassed at the outburst of the man next to him. “Germany needs a revolution to overthrow the liberal capitalist system!” The speaker is the candidate at the top of Nazi party list that was just selected by 9.2% of the Saxon electorate. He goes on to explain that the Green party is “the puppetmaster of antifascist terror.” Müller frowns.

“Nothing is the way it used to be,” Apfel adds in a menacing voice, nearly swallowing the microphone. Müller sidles away from him to the far edge of his seat.

Later he excuses Apfel’s performance. “He’s had a tough time,” he says. Apfel dresses and acts like a Nazi. Müller has it easier. You’d never guess he’s a Nazi, not until you talk to him long enough to realize that there is absolutely nothing you can say to change his mind.

Müller is someone you might spontaneously trust. A physician from the mountain town of Sebnitz, 35 years old, quiet, with a constant look of wide-eyed surprise, curiosity and helpfulness. Today he takes up a new profession: helping govern Germany.

His last day at the clinic. He points at a union poster to help illustrate a point. It depicts three children: black, Asian, white. The little blond girl, he explains, is arguably German. The Asian girl has no right to German citizenship.

“What if she was born here and only speaks German?”

“It’s not her culture. Being German is a matter of ancestry.”

He is strongly opposed to globalization, because the state is a place, a body. Easy to explain. He enjoys talking about scientific topics. Asked about the Third Reich, he says that he is not a historian. He rather resents Adolf Hitler, who gave nationalism a bad name. But his regime produced some good things, for example, technological innovations that led to the exploration of space.

“What about the scientists who had to emigrate?”

“I’m not familiar with the history on that level of detail.”

His red necktie is decorated with a “black sun” tie tack. “An ancient Celtic symbol that expresses my metaphysical values,” he explains. In actuality the symbol is very recent: an ersatz swastika dreamed up by Neonazi merchandisers …