Invasion of the eco-Nazis


German Nationalists are settling villages and towns in Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in order to spread their hateful ideology among local communities.

With the recent rise of Pegida, an openly xenophobic movement, and the extreme-right Alternative for Germany party, the phenomenon of supremacists settling in former East Germany is attracting renewed attention from the media, politicians and watchdog groups.

A report published last year by the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, a human rights organisation funded by the German Interior Ministry, said that ideologues with fascist sympathies have unassumingly moved into sparsely populated towns and hamlets in a long-term attempt to create nationalistic strongholds. By taking up jobs as farmers, social workers or teachers, they hope to win new converts to their cause.

"They subvert village structures and spread Nazi propaganda over the garden fence," explained Anne Schmidt, the author of the study.

The press was quick to dub them "Ökonazis" ("eco-Nazis"). But despite the attention they are attracting, the phenomenon is far from new.

"This has been going on since the 1920s. It was part of völkisch ideology, that was racist and antisemitic as well," explained Robert Lüdecke, press representative for the foundation.

This ideology was based on the principle of blut und boden - the primal, unbroken connection between German soil and German blood. According to Mr Lüdecke, these ideas had a renaissance in the early 1990s.

Nowadays, neo-Nazis and other far-right families have bought up land in relatively obscure places like Lübtheen, Güstrow (an area associated with the far-right NPD) and Benz-Briest. "They are buying houses in these areas because they are cheap and they are inviting other comrades from all over Germany to settle there. And they say, let's become neighbours, you can also work for the NPD, and we'll raise some sheep and pigs and chickens."

In Lower Saxony, nationalist settlers have gained a foothold in an area known for environmentalism. "This is a way that neo-Nazis try to get in. It's like a door-opener for them. It's a lifestyle that's mainstream and modern for everyone. They work for the fitness of the clean German body. They also do weapons and resistance training in forests."

Mr Lüdecke said that antisemitic conspiracy theories hide behind their criticisms of capitalism, urban life or even genetically modified food.

By cultivating good relations with their neighbours - villagers have been known to receive gifts of eggs and goat's milk from the neo-Nazis next door - national settlers are often able to stay under the radar. "These are long-term projects. They're preparing slowly without being recognised. They don't want the revolution tomorrow. It would be OK for them if it came in 200-300 years," Mr Lübecke explained.

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