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Cablegate: Germany's Ongoing Struggle with Right-Wing Extremism

R 291601Z OCT 08
FM AMCONSUL LEIPZIG
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 0124
INFO FRG COLLECTIVE
AMCONSUL LEIPZIG

UNCLAS LEIPZIG 000021


DEPT FOR EUR/CE, INR

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINS GM CASC PREL
SUBJECT: GERMANY'S ONGOING STRUGGLE WITH RIGHT-WING EXTREMISM

REF: A. 08 HAMBURG 004, B. 07 LEIPZIG 020, C. 06 HAMBURG 055, D. 06
HAMBURG 054, E. 06 HAMBURG 046, F. 05 LEIPZIG 018, G. 05 LEIPZIG 019


1. (U) This is a Mission-wide message and has been coordinated
with Embassy Berlin and Consulates Frankfurt, Munich,
Duesseldorf, and Hamburg.

-------
Summary
-------

2. (U) Germany has extensive government and civic efforts
against right-wing extremism, including legal and constitutional
provisions. Right-wing extremists -- also referred to as
neo-Nazis -- remain a cause for concern, however, and will
require continued attention. Right-wing politically-motivated
crime is an ongoing problem with over 17,000 cases reported in
2007. Although in absolute terms right-wing violence is most
prevalent in the populous states of North-Rhine Westphalia and
Lower Saxony, on a per capita basis the eastern German states
exhibit a higher rate of right-wing violence. Importantly,
Germany's mainstream political parties have rejected any
involvement with right-extremists and no right-wing party is
represented in the Bundestag. Three parties have found
resonance at the local and state levels, mostly in eastern
Germany. Overall, support for right-wing parties remains
relatively low, tied primarily to social and economic issues and
immigration. Public and private initiatives to fight extremism
and foster tolerance receive funding from the German government
and the European Union. Mission Germany promotes these goals as
well, including through the International Visitors Leadership
Program. End Summary.

----------------------
Right-Extremist Crimes
----------------------

3. (U) Germany's 1949 constitution aims to prevent the
formation of Nazi-like parties. Political parties seeking to
undermine freedom and democracy may be banned by the Federal
Constitutional Court. Right-wing extremist associations which
are not registered political parties may be banned by federal
and state-level interior ministries. Nazi-related paraphernalia
and publications are prohibited; many groups utilize foreign
internet service providers to establish websites or publish and
print materials outside of Germany. To date, 24 right-extremist
groups, including two political parties, have been banned.

4. (U) The Office for the Protection of the Constitution (OPC)
also monitors politically motivated right-wing extremist crime:
in 2007, 17,607 politically motivated criminal incidents
involving right-wing extremists were recorded -- a 3 percent
decline from 2006. Of these, 1,054 were acts of violence. For
the first half of 2008, right-extremist incidents ranging from
vandalism to attacks on foreigners rose slightly from 2007
levels. (Note: Americans in Germany have reported incidents of
being assaulted for racial reasons or because they appeared
"foreign;" none appears to have been attacked because of being
an American citizen. End note). Right-wing crimes account for
only a small fraction of total crimes committed in Germany; for
example, the Federal Criminal Police Office recorded
approximately 495,000 non right-wing extremist criminal offenses
in Berlin alone in 2007.

--------------------------------------------- -------
Right-extremist parties remain state/local phenomena
--------------------------------------------- -------

5. (U) There are three main right-extremist parties: The
National Democratic Party (NPD), The German People's Union
(DVU), and the Republicans (REP). These parties use
differentiated strategies to seek public support, often not
revealing immediately or directly their basic white-supremacist
and German nationalist ideology -- which would defy the
constitution and might result in a ban by the Federal
Constitutional Court. The DVU and the REP had limited success
in state elections in Saxony-Anhalt, Baden-Wuerttemburg, and the
state of Berlin. The DVU won 6.1 percent of the vote in
Brandenburg's 2004 elections and the REP has not held seats in
any state parliaments since 1996. Right-wing extremist parties
have consistently poor showings in federal level elections; in
2005, a DVU-REP alliance won only 1.6 percent of the vote.

6. (U) The NPD is the largest right-extremist party with a
membership of 7,200. It was established in 1964 and has an
underlying racist, anti-Semitic, and revisionist ideology. In
2003, the German Government, Bundestag, and Bundesrat sought a
Constitutional Court ban of the NPD, arguing the party's goal is
to abolish parliamentary democracy and the democratic
constitutional state. The case was rejected, however, when it
was discovered that part of the NPD's leadership were Federal
OPC informants, which according to German law made the evidence
inadmissible. The NPD is active in all states but has seats in
only two state parliaments: Saxony (9.2 percent result in 2004)
and in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (7.3 percent result in
2006). Reinhard Boos, president of Saxony's OPC, predicts the
party might enter the state parliament again in 2009, but with
fewer seats. In North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW), the NPD has is
developing close relationships with the extreme groups Pro NRW
and Pro Cologne -- groups that style themselves as
"anti-Islamization."

---------------------------------------------
Non-party affiliated right-wing organizations
---------------------------------------------

7. (U) Neo-Nazis also group themselves into loosely knit groups
called "Free Associations" (FA). There is a wide variety of FA
and they do not all conform to the model of combat-booted
skinheads. They are well-organized, sometimes violent, and use
intimidation to frighten minorities. The FA often try to
recruit members by appealing to youth and initially playing down
neo-Nazi ideology. It is generally agreed that there are close
relations between functionaries of the NPD and members of FA.

-------------------------------------
Efforts to Fight Right-Wing Extremism
-------------------------------------

8. (U) All levels of government and the mainstream political
parties are committed to fighting right-extremism. States and
communities cooperate; the states of Brandenburg and Saxony work
to counter cross-border cooperation of right-wing extremists
more effectively. Between 2001 and 2006, the German government
provided 192 million euros for 4500 projects and initiatives
implemented on at the state and communal level. NGOs have
partnered with federal-level organizations to address this
problem. For example, several states support Mobile Counseling
Teams (Mobit), which teach people to recognize right-wing
extremist structures, music, and symbolism, and encourage voters
to support mainstream political parties and steer clear of FA.
Some NGOs have found creative ways to tackle the dual problems
of unemployment and intolerance by grouping underprivileged
youth of different ethnic backgrounds in programs combining
diversity awareness and vocational training.

-------
Comment
-------

9. (U) Right-extremists have achieved only limited electoral
success: only at the state and local level and primarily in
eastern German states. They are ostracized by all mainstream
parties at all levels. In Saxony's and Mecklenburg-Western
Pomerania's parliaments, members of mainstream parties jointly
rebuke NPD proposals and speeches, which is encouraging. The
support for right-wing parties at the local level appears
correlated with voter concerns about social programs,
unemployment, and immigration. We can expect the NPD and the
DVU to campaign on these issues in forthcoming state elections
and elections to the European Parliament; in the current
economic climate it is possible these parties could enjoy an
increase in temporary support. Their limited influence,
however, will remain focused on the local level.

10. (U) The significant public funding to combat right-wing
extremism and the negative press such activities generate
illustrates the powerful public and political commitment to
combating right-wing extremism and promoting tolerance. Mission
Germany's interest in diversity, tolerance, and democratization
programs and in efforts against right-wing extremism helps
pressure political leaders to confront it. In addition to our
public engagement, the Mission created an International Visitors
Leadership Program designed specifically for activists and law
enforcement officials involved in anti right-wing extremist
programs, which will take place in 2009. End Comment.

BRUCKER

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