1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Historic Similarities

DPA news agency (sms)October 20, 2008

The global financial crisis could strengthen far-right extremists, a German political scientist said, adding that he sees parallels between today's current turmoil the Nazis' rise to power in the 1930s.

Hitler giving a speech in Reichenberg
Though extremists could gain ground, a dictator won't take over, Butterwegge saidImage: AP

"I am, of course, not prophesying that far-right extremists grab power like they did on January 30, 1933," political scientist Christoph Butterwegge told German news agency dpa. "But it is striking how similar the cycles are."

The bankruptcy of financial institutions and plunging stock markets set off a global economic crisis that led to mass unemployment in Germany that the National Socialist German Workers Party took advantage of for its growth.

Some economists have said they fear increased unemployment in Germany could also be an effect of the current global financial crisis.

Unemployment fertile ground for extremists

Participants at an NPD rally
Studies are mixed on the connection between far-right parties and unemploymentImage: picture-alliance/dpa

The International Labor Organization warned on Monday, Oct. 20, that the credit crisis could cost 20 million jobs their jobs. While thousands have already been laid off in the world's financial centers, ILO head Juan Somavia said ordinary working people could feel the brunt of the lay-offs.

"This is not simply a crisis on Wall Street, this is a crisis on all streets. We need an economic rescue plan for working families and the real economy, with rules and policies that deliver decent jobs," he said.

Higher unemployment typically leads to an increased acceptance of far-right parties, Butterwegge said.

"The competition for resources will get much stronger when the state spends even a fraction of the 480 billion euros in the financial injections and guarantees," he said, adding that feelings of social injustice could mainly benefit parties that call for authoritarian forms of government.

A study presented this summer by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation found 37 percent of the German population said immigrants come to Germany "to exploit the welfare state," 39 percent think Germany "is dangerously over-run with foreigners," and 26 percent would like "a single, strong party that represents the German community."

The report found most of the participants said they felt powerless to help define politics, the study also revealed a widespread disillusionment with democracy and democratic principles.

Far-right parties are present in two German state governments but are not represented at the federal level. The far-right National Democratic Party has also called for nationalizing banks in the wake of the financial crisis.

Germany's main parties also lost some of their trustworthiness in some people's eyes after they all approved the massive bank rescue package a short time after saying there was no money to increase social spending, Butterwegge said.

"The far-right extremists know how to use that to their advantage," he added. "It opens undreamed of possibilities for the neo-Nazis."