As part of Al Jazeera's series on the rise of the right in Europe, Barnaby Phillips travelled to Germany to explore the growing popularity of neo-Nazi groups.
|Far-right support has grown considerably |
in eastern areas of Germany
In the small town of Halbe in eastern Germany some of the country's new generation have gathered for march, a march back to old times and back to an ideology of hatred and separation.
Those taking part are forbidden by strict German laws from displaying Nazi symbols but there is little secret where their affiliation lies or that they are honouring a time that most people recall with revulsion.
The marchers are part of a growing number of the population who dream of what they call a pure Germany, composed only of whites.
Anti-fascist protesters have also travelled to Halbe attempting to disrupt the march but are forced back by police.
Such gatherings are a dilemma for the German authorities. If they ban marches, they could appear undemocratic, but allowing them may risk seeing support for the far-right support grow, albeit under tight restrictions.
But the rise in popularity of neo-Nazi groups has accompanied another worrying trend, the increase of racist attacks.
A report this week in the Tagesspiegel newspaper revealed that racist attacks committed by neo-Nazis and other far right groups had reached their highest levels since the reunification of Germany in 1990.
The crime rate rose by 14 per cent last year to 18,000 extremist offences according to the report, with 1,100 of those acts of violence, an eight per cent annual increase according to federal police figures.
In one of the most serious incidents in July last year, far right supporters in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt burned the diary of Holocaust victim Anne Frank, causing outrage among German politicians and anti-racist groups.
In another incident in the state later in the year, teenagers forced a 16-year-old classmate to parade around school wearing a sign with an anti-Semitic, Nazi-era slogan.
Such figures and events are alarming, particularly for Germany’s black and African communities with some areas of eastern Germany already no-go areas for them.
In the country’s capital, Berlin, Al Jazeera spoke to Emmanuel Donkor, struggling to make his way after moving to Germany from Ghana.
Instead of seeing his hopes of a brighter future realised he was attacked while waiting on a train station platform a by a white skin-head and his pit-bull terrier.
Emmanuel said passer-bys just watched and could only say, "the police…never happen again."
However in the east of Berlin, the presentable face of the far-right can be found.
Udo Voigt has been the leader of the National Democratic Party (NDP) since 1996.
The party has been consistently labelled by successive German governments as descendants of the Nazis but that did not stop its candidates winning 12 seats in the state parliament of the eastern region of Saxony in 2004.
|Emmanuel Donkor says passers-by did nothing |
to help him when attacked by a white skinhead
It followed that success by winning six of 71 regional parliamentary seats in another eastern state, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern last year.
Voigt and his followers are quick to exploit the economic malaise and unemployment that is prevalent in eastern Germany.
For the NDP closed factories and unemployment are opportunities to win over angry Germans.
Voigt says immigrants must go home and that the German race must stay pure.
"We German people have many qualities- we are hardworking, courageous and faithful," he says. "But if we mix races we will lose these qualities. Because we will then mix our characteristics with the characteristics of other races- and we are opposed to this."
When politicians say races shouldn’t mix, the consequences can be ugly.
Ben Adison knows that. He fled Sierra Leone's civil war but in Germany he was beaten into a coma by a neo-Nazi gang.
Today he feels alone and says that black people are hated in his town.
"Its like 'lets kill them, they are not human beings……I will cut your throat'", he says
The German government plans to pump millions of dollars into promoting tolerance and diversity this year, but at the same time it has also cut funding for several existing programmes aimed at combatting racist attacks such as the ones on Emmanuel Donkor and Ben Adison.