Germany’s top Jewish leader is furious at the government for failing to go the extra mile to ban the country’s biggest neo-Nazi party.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government will not submit a petition to the Supreme Court supporting proceedings to ban the extreme-right National Democratic Party of Germany, it was announced this week.
For the time being, this leaves the Bundestag alone in its efforts to ban the NPD, an anti-foreigner, antisemitic party that has some 5,800 members, according to recent estimates.
The membership numbers belie the fact that the NPD tries to influence a broad swathe of the population — especially disaffected youth — with its patriotic rhetoric. While some say court proceedings would only bring more attention to the neo-Nazis, others — like Dieter Graumann, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany - insist that the authorities must show brawn against anti-democratic movements like the NPD.
“The decision of the Federal Government is disappointing and politically completely wrong,” Mr Graumann said. “They chose hesitation and procrastination over courage and determination.”
Some lawmakers from opposition parties are now trying to gather enough support in the Bundestag to have a ban voted in, joining the Bundesrat, which decided in favour of a ban in December.
What irks many is the fact that the NPD, by virtue of having representatives two state legislatures, gets taxpayer cash. In 2011 they received about 1.32 million euros.
In 2003, the Supreme Court cancelled a probe aimed at banning the NPD after finding that government informants themselves had incited many of the illegal acts being investigated. Observers today warn that another failure would be devastating.