Germany's neo-Nazis are increasingly using music to spread their message, particularly among the unemployed youth of the former communist East Germany, according to experts on extremism.
Neo-Nazis are branching out from rock to spread their message through other genres
In 2004, neo-Nazis applied for permission to hold 137 concerts, mostly in the poor eastern provinces of Saxony and Thüringen, figures released by the federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution show.
From January to September 2005, the authorities had received 100 such requests and the "trend shows no sign of slowing down," said an official from the office, who asked not to be named.
He said the amount of racist audio and video material seized by the authorities had also increased.
Toralf Staud, a journalist and the author of "Modern Nazis," said the extreme right National Democratic Party (NPD) had developed a new strategy to spread its racist, anti-Semitic and anti-capitalist ideologies.
The party launched a high-profile campaign against the socio-economic reforms of the government of former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in 2004, but has now moved on to subverting the national cultural policies, he said.
Staub said the NPD was trying to win over future voters among the youth, and it was to this end that the party distributed thousands of free CDs in front of schools when Germans voted in national elections on September 18.
Ballads, rap and hip-hop adopted by skinhead bands
Far-right music is finding its way onto the airwaves via radio stations and the Internet
The neo-Nazis are known for so-called "skinhead hard rock" but has now branched out into ballads, hip-hop and "gangsta" rap.
A rap group from the eastern German city of Dessau called Dissau Crime has released a song called "Zyklon D," named after the type of gas used by the Nazis in their gas chambers during the Holocaust. The rappers have swapped the trademark neo-Nazi outfit of boots, tight jeans and flying jackets for running shoes, oversized clothes and camouflage gear.
But the lyrics are the same as always: the glorification of the Aryan race, the myth of the Nordic warriors and hatred of immigrants and Jews.
The youth of the former East Germany, who have borne the brunt of the reunified country's economic slump and the impact of the opening of borders with Poland and the Czech Republic, are the target audience.
Former East Germany a target-rich environment
The NPD has found sympathetic ears in the disadvantaged east
The NPD's support is strongest in the former German Democratic Republic, and it scored its first poll success in Saxony in 2004 when it claimed 9.2 percent of the votes in a regional election.
"In the new states, where unemployment stands at up to 40 percent, the NPD offers the youth a haven where they feel they are among friends, where they can drink beer and listen to music," said Patrick Moreau, a French researcher who studies extremist groups in Germany.
"It is a slow politicization through music. In the west, the strategy is less successful because there the authorities organize more leisure activities for the youth," added the researcher, who is based in the eastern city of Leipzig.
The main purveyor of neo-Nazi music is still the Internet, which offers free downloading sites set up in the United States and Denmark, but there is also a profusion of free "Nazi concerts" on the sidelines of political demonstrations, said Moreau.
Convicted neo-Nazi holds one final concert
Michael Regener from the extremist band "Landser" was sentenced to three years
To see how closely the NPD and the neo-Nazi music scene is linked, he added, one only has to recall that the skinhead singer Michael Regener played his farewell concert before going to prison at the party's congress in Thüringen in March.
Regener was sentenced to three years and four months in prison for belonging to a criminal organization.