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Germany

The NPD and the Petition to Ban it

After a wave of neo-Nazi violence and racially-motivated hate attacks, the German government undertook steps last year to ban the NPD.

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NPD demonstration on July 8, 2001

What is the NPD? The name might sound innocent enough, but the National Democratic Party of Germany is an extremist platform for neo-Nazis and their sympathizers.

The party's actual heyday was back in the 1960's when it won seats in seven state parliaments. Since then its popularity has declined, but it's still an organization to reckon with. The danger of the party lies in its charismatic appeal to the fringe element of society, those who feel marginalized by the winds of political and economic change in the 1990s.

When the party was established in 1964, it was made up of old war veterans who indulged in nostalgia for the Nazi era. The party then progressively changed its image and – like the similar right-wing German Republicans – aimed at attracting a broader spectrum of citizens and a position in national politics.

Political history

In its first campaign for national elections in 1969 the NPD failed to obtain enough votes to enter the federal parliament, the Bundestag, and retreated from the political stage.

In 1986 the NPD rose up again and joined forces with the German Volksunion, backed by the wealthy publicist Gerhard Frey. But the party's efforts again failed to bring it the necessary votes to enter the Bundestag.

It was only after German unification in 1989 that the NPD returned to the public's political consciousness as a threat to democratic institutions. Under the new leader Udo Voigt the party again revised itself and stretched out to all right-wing conservatives, targeting the numerous young unemployed in the new states in the east. This time the party had a revolutionary means of reaching its audience: the Internet.

Political observers warn that the NPD is especially dangerous because it has carved its own niche: young frustrated people who have not yet found their own political voice. The NPD relies on these young people's lack of direction to bind them to each other and to the party.

Despite their efforts, the NPD remains a peripheral party. In the last national elections it received no more than 0.3 percent of the vote.

Is the NPD a threat to German democracy?

Even with less than one percent of the national vote, many Germans regard the NPD as a threat to democracy. Concerns have risen over the last few years as shocked citizens read the headlines describing racial hate crimes:

• June 2000: Right-wing extremists brutally attack Alberto Adriano, a Mozambique immigrant in the eastern town of Dessau. He dies from his injuries before he can be rescued.

• July 27, 2000: A bomb placed at a commuter train station in Düsseldorf injures several Russian Jewish immigrants returning from a German course.

• October 4, 2000: A synagogue in Düsseldorf is vandalized in the night before the German day of Unification.

• January 2001: A fire is set in a Jewish cemetery’s mourning hall in Potsdam.

Although perhaps not directly connected to these acts of violence, the NPD cannot deny the party’s involvement in the increasingly violent neo-Nazi scene.

Party campaign proclamations leave little doubt as to its direction: "We demand the revision of postwar border treaties;" "We national democrats are implacably opposed to the multi-ethnic excesses currently being inflicted on the German people;" and "Germany must become German once more."

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