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Far-Right Party Recruits Neo-Nazis

DW staff (ziw)October 6, 2004

Emboldened by recent regional election gains, Germany's far-right NDP party is pressing on. With an eye on upcoming national elections, the party has recruited prominent neo-Nazis for top leadership positions.

On the march forward: NDP leaders are looking to enter national politicsImage: AP

Germany's far-right National Party (NPD), which made headlines last month when it won 9.2 percent of the vote in regional elections in the eastern state of Saxony, is pressing on with its efforts to enter the national government. Looking ahead to upcoming federal elections in 2006, the NPD has recruited two prominent neo-Nazis for high-ranking leadership positions.

The move is part of a larger plan to create a "people's front" from the right. NPD leader Udo Voigt is also scheduled to meet with Gerhard Frey, the leader of the German People's Union (DVU), another far right party that snagged 6.1 percent of the vote in Brandenburg during the same regional elections, for talks focused on a possible alliance.

Prominent Neo-Nazis join the ranks

NPD Demonstration gegen NPD Verbot
NPD supporters demonstrated against banning the partyImage: AP

In recruiting Thomas Wulff and Thorsten Heise onto the NDP's board of directors -- a move which will be officially announced at the party's conference at the end of October -- the NDP will gain two prominent members of the neo-Nazi movement with a strong regional following and national profile. Wulff directs the far-right scene in Hamburg, and Heise is active in Thüringen.

Their appointment could mobilize additional far-right voters and facilitate the NDP's grab for power and influence at the national level -- or so the NDP leadership hopes. By pushing for alliances, the NDP is, in effect, serving as the unifier of Germany's previously somewhat fragmented far-right scene.

"The most important thing is to get into the federal parliament in 2006," said Klaus Beier, the NDP spokesman. "In the future there will be no more working against one another."

The NPD claims that the far-right could win 7 percent of the vote in a national election, but analysts doubt that will happen.

Will the government move to ban the party?

Saufen für das Reich
Neo-Nazis at a demonstration in AugustImage: AP

Last year, the German federal government failed in its effort to have the country's highest court ban the NDP. The court decided to close the case on the grounds that several of the witnesses had ties to Germany's domestic intelligence agency.

The government, however, was successful in foiling NDP plans to hold a massive demonstration in Berlin with the xenophobic title "Berlin Stays German."

Though German Interior Minister Otto Schily has said that the government will not make a second attempt to ban the party, the addition of prominent Neo-Nazis to the party ranks and its attempt to repeat regional successes on the national stage could change that.