Germany has banned the HNG, a group that supports prisoners with far-right views. (More)
Last September, German police raided 30 buildings associated with a group called Aid Organization for National Political Prisoners and Their Families, whose German acronym is HNG. The group has about 600 members, and is accused of encouraging prisoners with far-right views to remain active in neo-Nazi movements and to commit more crimes once released. Then-Interior Minister Klaus-Dieter Fritsche said after the raid, “Our findings bring us nearer to the suspicion that the HNG’s main goal is to network and strengthen the mainly fragmented neo-Nazi scene beyond trench warfare.”
Evidence gathered in the raid apparently confirmed those suspicions, and the group was banned yesterday. “It was no longer acceptable that imprisoned right-wing extremists could be strengthened by the NHG in their aggressive position against a free, democratic order,” said current Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich in a statement. “The HNG contributed to a marked radicalization of the neo-Nazi scene.”
Germany’s domestic intelligence agency has said that far-right groups have in the last few years sought to use the financial crisis and euro zone debt crisis to prove that the capitalist system has failed.
The ban comes two weeks after the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD), which espouses the end of parliamentary democracy, regained seats in the state assembly of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. It is also represented in Saxony.
Right wing groups in Germany, including the NPD, are more radical than populist, anti-immigration parties in the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and Sweden which have enjoyed greater success at the ballot box.
While some have called for a ban of the NPD, Germany’s constitution poses a challenge:
[T]he contemporary German state has mostly tried in good faith to feel its way toward an ad hoc accommodation of its Nazi past, one that acknowledges the unique scourge of the Third Reich, while protecting the core freedoms of a liberal democracy. Symbols from the Nazi-era, such as the swastika or the “Heil Hitler” salute, are illegal in Germany, but far-right political groups have also been granted equal right to hold demonstrations to air their views. Holocaust denial is punishable by imprisonment, but neo-Nazi parties have been tolerated as long as they draw no explicit links with the Nazi regime.
The policies might sometimes may seem contradictory, but they are meant to hang together as a carefully managed compromise, one that pays respect both to the tragic origins and the decades-long success of the modern, democratic German state.
So far that “carefully managed compromise” has worked, but Germany’s leaders are aware of the potential of political unrest in times of economic hardship. Might that risk also explain why Germany’s leaders have been reluctant to support Greece and other European Union states facing financial crises?