Europe: Too Right To Be Right / News / News agency Inforos
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Europe: Too Right To Be Right

Nazi sentiment spreads

Europe: Too Right To Be Right

In July Germany's longest running neo-nazi trial ended. A Munich court sentenced Beate Zschäpe to life imprisonment for her role in the National Socialist Underground (NSU). The far right cell committed 10 murders, 9 of them Turkish immigrants, 2 bombings and numerous cases of attempted murder and robbery between 2000 and 2007.

The court concluded Beate Zschäpe was "aware of", "contributed to" and "co-piloted" the acts. The two other members of the SNU died in a murder-suicide after a 2011 failed bank robbery.

The case was controversial due to perceived investigation failures by Germany's Domestic Intelligence Agency. Initially the so-called "kebab murders" were attributed to Turkish drug dealer mafias. Government agencies also paid neo-nazis informants, and then tried to destroy files to protect their identities.

So despite the guilty verdict, the Turkish authorities called the ruling "non-satisfactory" for failing to probe the "role of the deep state" in the cover up.

Controversial too were the sentences of the group's four accomplices. Their gun supplier was jailed for 10 years; while the man responsible for getting them an apartment was imprisoned for 30 months.

Dirk Laabs, a writer on the NSU told German media: "It's hard to imagine people accused of supplying weapons and logistics for terrorist activity would have got off so lightly if this had been a trial about an Islamist cell".

Beate Zschäpe received a letter of support from Anders Breivik, who was convicted of right-wing terror attacks in Norway that left dozens dead. The questions then remain. How widespread are the activities of violent right wing groups in Europe? And how are governments responding to them?

Across Ukraine there have been reports of increased violence against Roma peoples, principally by the far right. In June near Lviv a camp shelter was attacked leaving one person dead and several injured. It is the 6th such attack in 2 months, which have been attributed to the Angry Youth group.

The head of the National Police Sergiy Knyazev stated "Such attacks on members of the Roma community by radicals have become more common", adding that Ukraine's security services should become more involved in the investigations.

Following attacks on Roma camps by the National Brigade in Kiev, Lviv and Ternopil, the Lviv Major commented "Should the law enforcement system not use the force it is entitled to use by law". While Human Rights Watch warned the increasing number of attacks should be "a final wake up call for Ukraine's police".

If the attacks in Ukraine indicate the persistent threat of far right violence and a seeming powerlessness of the authorities to investigate, events in Poland suggest a more coordinate activist presence, drawing together groups from across Europe.

Police estimated that 60,000 far right supporters gathered at Poland's Independence Day March last year. These included the local All-Polish Youth, National Movement and National Radical Corp, while also attracting Italy's Forza Nuova, Slovak Far Right, the English Defence League, Britain First, and a UK-based youth group Patriae Fidelis.

Neo nazi groups attempted to organize the Shield and Sword music festival this year in Poland to celebrate Hitler's birthday in April, gaining supporters from Germany and the US. Poland's Internal Security Agency managed to ban the event; which then crossed the border into the Ostritz district of Germany instead.

The Polish government has become embroiled in controversies regarding its Nazi past, attempting to criminalise those who implicate Poland in the country's death camps. The Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki was forced to deny being a holocaust denier after claiming there were "Jewish perpetrators" involved in the camps. He has also visited the Munich grave of an underground Polish resistance group who collaborated with the Nazis.

And Arkadiusz Karbowiak, an official tapped to create a major new history museum in Warsaw has condemned the postwar tribunals in Nuremberg, Germany — where top Nazis were judged — as "the greatest judicial farce in the history of Europe."

Tom Junas from the Human and Social Studies Foundation in Bulgaria notes that "far right ideas have managed to become mainstream" across Eastern Europe. He notes many Nazi collaborators are being rehabilitated as anti-communists and defenders of national liberation. And he cites an incident from this year when Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović praised Argentina for giving refuge to Croats from the fascist Ustasha movement after the war. Comments which Efraim Zuroff from the Wiesenthal Centre called "a horrific insult to the victims".

Junas also gives the example of the Bulgarian United Patriots political party who give Nazi salutes and Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov who describe the Roma as "ferocious humanoids". He adds that none of this draws attention from the European Union as "Bulgaria isn't rocking the boat", and "they play along with Europe".

Peter Kreko from the Political Capital Institute, a Budapest-based think tank, expressed concern that "younger, weaker more fragile democracies" were more vulnerable to right wing populism, which could "weaken and even demolish the democratic institutions".

The US-based Foreign Policy journal is even more pessimistic stating "the European political spectrum has been reduced to the mainstream right and the populist right, with the mainstream gradually evaporating as it absorbs the ideas and rhetoric of the populists".

The case of Beate Zschäpe focuses attention violent far right crimes. Terrible though these crimes are, more far-reaching social dangers arise not from isolated violence but the normalisation of fascist heroes and mythology within Europe's political culture itself. While there will always be soul-searching and outrage expressed against the former, the slow erosion of memory and history represented by the second may be much harder to resist.

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