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Commemoration of neo-Nazi victims with hypocrites

by DoDo Thu Feb 23rd, 2012 at 04:15:04 AM EST

Memorial to honor victims of neo-Nazi terrorism | Germany | DW.DE | 23.02.2012

Three months after a far-right terrorist cell was uncovered in Germany, the country will hold a memorial service for the victims of neo-Nazi violence. It's one of the steps Berlin has taken to fight racism.

That's all nice and well, but let's recall the steps not taken by a sizeable part of the 1,200 guests, including chancellor Angela Merkel who will be the main speaker:

Proteste gegen Nazi-Aufmarsch in Dresden: Nazis einmal um den Block - taz.deProtests against Nazi march in Dresden: Nazis once around the block - taz.de
Während die Bundestagsvizepräsidenten der Oppositionsparteien, Wolfgang Thierse (SPD), Katrin Göring-Eckardt (Grüne) und Petra Pau (Linkspartei), gegen die Neonazis demonstrierten und sich, wie zumindest im Fall Thierse, sogar an den Blockaden beteiligten, war aus der schwarz-gelben Bundesregierung offiziellen Angaben zufolge an diesem Tag niemand in Dresden.While the deputy speakers of the Bundestag from the opposition parties, Wolfgang Thierse (SPD), Katrin Göring-Eckardt (Greens) and Petra Pau (Left Party) participated in the protests against the neo-Nazis and, at least in the case of Thierse, even in the blockades, according to official sources, no member of the Black-Yellow Government was in Dresden on this day.
In einer Antwort an Linkspartei-Chefin Lötzsch, die der taz vorliegt, hatte die Regierung zuvor eingeräumt, dass sich in dieser Legislaturperiode noch nie ein Regierungsvertreter von Amts wegen an Demonstrationen gegen Rechtsextreme beteiligt habe. Im vergangenen Jahr hatte sich allerdings der Dresdner Bundesminister Thomas de Maiziere (CDU) an einer Menschenkette beteiligt - offenbar privat.Earlier, in a reply to Left Party leader Lötzsch, of which taz has a copy, the government conceded that no representative of the government had never participated in a protest against right-wing extremists in the current election cycle. Last year however federal minister Thomas de Maiziere (CDU), who hails from Dresden, participated in a human chain - apprently as private person.
Die Vorsitzende der Grünen, Claudia Roth, sagte dazu der taz: "Diese Haltung spiegelt das Versagen der demokratischen Verantwortung der Bundesregierung wieder. Mir fällt kaum ein Bundesminister ein, der nach der erschütternden Mordserie nicht hierher gehören würde."The leader of the Greens, Claudia Roth, told taz: "This attitude reflects the failure of the federal government's democratic accountability. I can barely think of a federal minister who would not belong here after the shocking series of murders."

Some context.

To prevent another outbreak of fascism, you should not wait until another Enabling Act but need to nip fascist trends in the bud well before – this is what modern anti-fascism is about. Since street politics is a central part of the recruitment drive and community-forming of fascist movements, confronting protests by fascist movements is part of that.

In West Germany, from the fifties to the seventies, anti-fascist protest focused on old Nazis holding public offices or company CEO positions. However, from about the early eighties, in reaction to attempts by a resurgent far-right at gaining a higher profile, three forms of anti-fascist protest developed:

  1. Human chains or chains of beacons: a simple show of a silent majority to show that they outnumber the fascists or at least look better than their mock paramilitary formations. Usually initiated by local politicians.
  2. Counter-protests and blockades: a direct confrontation of fascist gatherings and shows of force, which usually amounts to civil disobedience, by hindering a far-right event that was legally approved on the basis of political freedoms. Usually initiated by a broad coalition including church initiatives, unions, Social Democrats, Greens, Leftists and communist splinter parties.
  3. Street battles: anarchists and members of the autonomous left advocate violent confrontation, though that often ends up as street battle with police.

However, after Reunification, this anti-fascist street culture was missing in Eastern Germany, and developing and broadening it was long and difficult. Add to that the attitude of local authorities. While the office for the protection of the constitution in Thuringia state was infamously in a total failure in watching over the NSU terrorists, in Saxony state, the local CDU built a stable and wide power base comparable to the CSU's in Bavaria, and practised a culture of looking away when it came to the far right.

The capital of Saxony state is Dresden, which is well known for a WWII event immortalized in the literary world by Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. The bombing of the city in February 1945 was unquestionably a war crime by modern standards: in a city with little military or industrial significance but lots of refugees at the time, British bombers deliberately targeted civilians by fire-bombing residential areas with their wood-rich buildings, setting lots of fires to merge into a single firestorm. The operation was a terror bombing, with the aim to break popular support for the regime, a military tactic with origins well before European applications in WWII and the Spanish Civil War, as a measure against colonial uprisings. As such it was also a failure in pure military terms, since it didn't induce civilians to rebel (or go on strike in factories), nor did it stop German soldiers from fighting on in an already lost war. Of course, the bombing of Dresden should not be mentioned without its context of the Third Reich's previous terror-bombings of cities in Britain (like Coventry), Spain (like Guernica) and uncounted Polish and Soviet cities along the Eastern Front, not to mention crimes against humanity much worse than terror bombing.

On top of the above, the late supporters of a regime that declared a total war have no moral basis at all to talk about Allied war crimes. But just that is what they did, staging a "Mourning March" on every anniversary from 2000, while Saxony's conservative government looked the other way. And it did work out for the far-right: while the march grew from a dime-a-dozen rally of a few hundred into Europe's biggest far-right gathering with 6,000 participants in 2010, the neo-Nazi NPD party entered the regional parliament in 2004 and (even if losing a lot of voters) remained there after the 2009 elections.

In 2010 however, anti-fascist initiatives finally went full-throttle. Although police confronted some blockades with violence and battled the autonomous left, the neo-Nazi march was effectively blocked shortly after its departure point.

The next year, even Dresden's then CDU mayor felt the need to do something by organising a human chain, while blockades again stopped the neo-Nazi march and there were street battles between an aggressive police and the black block again. After the events, the misplaced priorities of Saxony authorities were exposed: while a few hundred of the neo-Nazis who wandered away from the failed "Mourning March" were attacking a leftist culture house unchecked, police stormed the headquarters of the blockade organisers to gather evidence of anti-constitutional plotting, and police ordered a mass checking of cell phone data in Dresden to track the anti-fascist protesters. Although these revelations had a wide negative echo, even just weeks ago, Saxony's prosecution office was undeterred in asking for the voiding of the parliamentary immunity of Left Party officials partaking in the 2011 peaceful blockades, something CDU-FDP majorities across Germany's regional parliaments gladly supplied.

Still, that negative echo was enough for police to switch to a non-confrontational attitude at this year's events on 13 February. The result: there have been no riots at all while participants of the human chain also joined the blockades, the two major blockades weren't dissolved, and police cut short and routed back the neo-Nazi march (1,600-strong this year according to police) in front of the blockades.

There were changes at the official commemoration of the bombing of Dresden, too. At the cemetery, no wreaths were laid, to keep the NPD from laying one. At the commemoration of the city, the speakers included a survivor of the Polish city Wieluń, which was terror-bombed on the first day of the attack on Poland with 1,200 dead. However, the anti-fascists did more by organising a march of their own under the title "Traces of the Perpetrators", to visit forgotten sites of Nazi crimes and events in Dresden.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Feb 23rd, 2012 at 04:24:56 AM EST
Thanks for this excellent Diary, DoDo - I've become completely out of touch with German political culture.

It seems to me that the fire-bombing of Dresden was a war crime almost comparable to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and much greater in scale than the bombing of - say Coventry.  That is not to say Hitler wouldn't have bombed London to smithereens if he had had the capability to do so.

However in that context, it is important that neo-Nazis aren't allowed to hijack an otherwise understandable wish to commemorate a horrific event. Anti-fascists should therefore take the lead in organising such commemorations and building networks with progressive groups from other cities around the world (including the atrocities in Kigali in Rwanda) which have had war crimes committed against them.

To some extent,  just organising counter-demonstrations is allowing neo-Nazis to set the agenda and play to their strengths in street riots. Progressives should seek to take ownership of the humanitarian heritage of Dresden and similar events around the world - and not allow neo-Nazis to portray themselves as the victims of false propaganda or the inheritors of a legitimate sense of grievance.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Feb 24th, 2012 at 06:18:55 AM EST
It seems to me that the fire-bombing of Dresden was a war crime almost comparable to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and much greater in scale than the bombing of - say Coventry.

I remember reading that the sum total of the British victims of WWII terror bombing was an order of magnitude below the sum total of German victims. On the other hand, I don't think that a sum was even made for civilian victims of Nazi aerial bombing along the Eastern Front. (BTW closer comparison would be the 9/10 March 1945 fire-bombing of Tokyo.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Feb 24th, 2012 at 06:47:30 AM EST
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