APOLDA, GERMANY— On a recent sunny October afternoon, in a verdant field in central Germany, a vast stage stood beside a cluster of tents, concession stands, and port-o-potties awaiting the arrival of some 5,000 attendees. It could have been the site of a music festival practically anywhere in Europe. But this was “Rock Gegen Überfremdung” or, roughly, “Rock Against Foreign Inundation,” a sort of Woodstock for neo-Nazis, billed as one of the largest festivals held by Europe’s resurgent far-right. Walking past the site, I could see the white memorial tower of the Buchenwald concentration camp gleaming from a hilltop in the distance.

As in many parts of Europe, Germany is experiencing a wave of nativist populism, sparked by the arrival of 1 million asylum seekers in 2015. Last year, that movement propelled the right-wing Alternative für Deutschland (AFD) party into parliament, and it has stoked a heated debate over migrants, even as the number of newcomers has dropped. In September, riots ripped through the east German towns of Chemnitz and Köthen after two local killings, reportedly committed by asylum seekers. Mobs attacked bystanders who looked like foreigners; some raised Hitler salutes. The images splashed on television screens shocked Germany into a collective bout of soul-searching.

Along with the new nationalist surge, there has been something of a renaissance of neo-Nazi culture in German states like Thuringia, where Rock Gegen Überfremdung is held. Only three percent of Germany’s population lives in Thuringia; yet, by some estimates, it hosts around a third of the country’s far-right concerts. This has thrust local authorities into a pitched battle to clamp down on this flourishing far-right scene, placing Thuringia at the center of of a conflict between Germany’s embrace of free expression, and the fear that some of these expressions are posing a threat to its democracy. That conflict played out in spectacular fashion last weekend— from a back-and-forth struggle in the courts, to street skirmishes and police helicopters in a tiny Thuringian town.

[Read: Fighting the far-right and neo-Nazi resurgence in Germany]

Like many parts of former East Germany, Thuringia is an economically depressed state. Local leaders say that has made it a fertile recruiting ground for the far right, and something of a hub for neo-Nazi events. There’s also its convenient location, smack in the center of Germany. MOBIT, a watchdog group that monitors the far-right, has found that neo-Nazi figures are also buying …read more

Source:: The Atlantic – Best of


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The Dangers of a Neo-Nazi Woodstock

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