The German weekly Die Zeit is reporting that the generation of Germans who joined the neo-Nazis after the fall of the communist regime in the GDR have now become parents themselves. They are said to be raising their children in the spirit of the ultra-right from a very early age.
The weekly gives the example of little Siegbert, who always goes to nursery school wearing some rather unusual clothing. He is always a bit crabby and slightly emaciated, most of all during winter. His parents will not allow him to eat the nursery school’s food, so he can only eat the cereal they prepare for him at home. His colds always last an exceptionally long time, because his parents will not take him to the doctor or give him medicine. They have explained to his nursery school caretaker, Doreen Krüger, that the boy must toughen up.
Ms Krüger could not ignore the little song the boy sometimes sang in front of her, an ultra-right version of the lullaby “The Moon Has Risen”. There is no room in her nursery school for a four-year-old who sings hate songs. She is glad little Siegbert no longer attends the school. “When he didn’t return, I cried with relief,” she said. However, she is aware that means Siegbert has probably lost his only contact with the diverse, normal world.
The names used above have been changed to protect the identities of those interviewed. The teacher is afraid of people like Siegbert’s parents. She works at a nursery school in the north of Germany between Rostock and Schwerin, where dozens of neo-Nazi families have settled and are doing their best to disseminate their ideology in the elementary schools, nursery schools, and other facilities.
Fontaneland, the “Switzerland” of Mecklenburg, features a graceful brick church, a charming village fishpond, and herons flying in the air from time to time. In this idyllic setting, experts from the Evangelical Church estimate that children like Siegbert are being raised by about 60 families. Their children are named Arwin, Freya, Hildegund or Thore. They don’t use the word pizza, but call it “vegetable pie”. They don’t celebrate Christmas – they celebrate the Germanic holiday of Yule. Boys of four often already know how to break someone’s arm – and that the Aryans are better than people from the “inferior nations”.
The parents of these children consider themselves to be members of the Artaman League, an ultra-right nationalist cult which existed during the Weimar Republic and later combined forces with the Hitler Youth. Some of them are closely connected to the NPD or other ultra-right organizations, while others came from the neo-Nazi Viking Youth, Silesian Youth or the banned German Youth Faithful to the Homeland (HDJ). In the idyllic setting of the “Switzerland of Mecklenburg”, where there is not much else besides cheap land and clean air, they want to raise their children in the Artaman spirit.
“Neo-Nazi skinheads are dying out. The fascists are getting cleverer, they walk around here in pinstripe suits and ties, or in clothing made from materials that are environmentally friendly,” claims the director of several nursery schools in the area, who also did not want to reveal her name.
These people are fathers who seek seats on the PTA, mothers who accompany their children on field trips and bake them something for the journey, parents who propose repainting the nursery school together. The nursery school director says parents from the ultra-right scene are often very active and engaged. They don’t start off telling lies about the Holocaust or inciting hatred against foreigners. First they do their best to win the trust of nursery school staffs and other parents.
“The nicer they are, the more dangerous,” says the nursery school director. She is both a fighter and a politician who does not want to reconcile herself to the mixture of blindness, fear, indifference and resignation she observes among many parents and her own co-workers. In the nursery schools for which she is responsible, she has canceled secret voting for the PTA. All of the teachers receive training in democracy and pluralism. What will that do? She shrugs her shoulders.
The New Right’s ideas of child-rearing are often borrowed wholesale from the Nazi era. Boys must be diligent, impervious, and strong. Girls are to learn how to take care of the farm and household. At summer camps run by the banned HDJ or other organizations, they learn the Germanic names of the months. There are photographs of preschool-aged children participating in organized paramilitary trainings.
One girl who attended such a camp said that both physical and psychological violence were the order of the day there. The children are brainwashed to give unconditional devotion to the leaders of their parallel world and to resist the institutions of “normal society.” Is a new generation of right-wing extremists being raised? A generation for whom fanaticism and hatred of foreigners will be normal?
Not necessarily, says Michaela Köttig, who researches women in the ultra-right movement at a college in Frankfurt. Just like the generation of 1968 rebelled against their parents, who professed the importance of duty and obedience, she believes these children will one day rebel against their fascist parents.
One such woman, who grew up in a family where her father was a member of the ultra-right, was sent to the HDJ summer camps but later left the scene. She says: “It is possible once you have reached a certain age to distance yourself from the scene and open up to a different view of the world. However, that will only succeed if the person manages to escape the influence of their own parents.”
When this young woman turned to the Exit organization, which helps such people, she was suddenly completely on her own. Her free time, her friends, her school – her entire previous life had been connected only with neo-Nazism. Those who want to escape being raised by the new neo-Nazis must do nothing short of starting a completely new life. She considers that what they did to her and the other children unequivocally poses a threat to children’s well-being.
Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert