National Democratic Party of Germany
|National Democratic Party of Germany – The People's Union
Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands – Die Volksunion
|Founded||28 November 1964|
(En: German Voice)
|Youth wing||Junge Nationaldemokraten|
|European affiliation||European National Front|
|European Parliament group||None|
|Colors||Black, Red, Yellow;
Black, White, Red (historical)
The National Democratic Party of Germany – The People's Union (German: Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands – Die Volksunion, NPD), is a far-right German nationalist party. It was founded in 1964 as successor to the German Reich Party (German: Deutsche Reichspartei, DRP). Party statements also self-identify the party as Germany's "only significant patriotic force". On 1 January 2011, the far-right German People's Union (German: Deutsche Volksunion) merged with the NPD and the party name of the National Democratic Party of Germany was extended by the addition of "The People's Union".
The party is usually described as a neo-Nazi organization, and has been referred to as "the most significant neo-Nazi party to emerge after 1945". The German Federal Agency for Civic Education, or BPB, has criticized the NPD for working with members of organizations which were later found unconstitutional by the federal courts and disbanded, while the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, classifies the NPD as a "threat to the constitutional order" because of its platform and philosophy, and it is under their observation. The NPD rejects this depiction, viewing it an attempt to discredit their politics. An effort to outlaw the party failed in 2003.
Platform and philosophy
The NPD's political philosophy coincides with the notion of a third political position, an idea which developed amidst criticisms of both liberal capitalism and communism. The NPD also endorses certain beliefs about human nature. NPD leader Udo Voigt states that the philosophy of the NPD differs from both communism and social liberalism in that it acknowledges people as unequal products of their societies and environments, largely governed by what is called natural law. Voigt states that the party is also influenced by the views of modern ethologists such as Konrad Lorenz and Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt.
The NPD calls itself a party of "grandparents and grandchildren" because the 1960s generation in Germany, known for the leftist student movement, strongly opposes the NPD's policies. The NPD's economic program promotes social security for Germans and control against plutocracy, but it does not oppose private property. They discredit and reject the "liberal-capitalist system".
The NPD argues that NATO fails to represent the interests and needs of European people. The party considers the European Union to be little more than a reorganisation of a Soviet-style Europe along financial lines. Although highly critical of the EU, as long as Germany remains a part of it, the NPD opposes Turkey's incorporation into the organisation. Voigt envisions future collaboration and continued friendly relations with other nationalists and European national parties.
The NPD's platform says that Germany is larger than the present-day Federal Republic, and calls for revision of the post-war border concessions. At one point, a map of Germany was shown on the party website omitting the border that divides Germany from Austria. The NPD also failed to colour in the Oder-Neisse Line, the border which established the limits of federal Germany to the east and was agreed upon with Poland in 1990.
The 2005 report of the Verfassungsschutz federal agency contains the following description:
"The party continues to pursue a "people's front" of the nationals [consisting of] the NPD, DVU, and forces not attached to any party, which is supposed to develop into a base for an encompassing 'German people's movement'. The aggressive agitation of the NPD unabashedly aims towards the abolition of parliamentary democracy and the democratic constitutional state, although the use of violence is currently still officially rejected for tactical reasons. Statements of the NPD document an essential affinity with National Socialism; its agitation is racist, antisemitic, revisionist, and intends to disparage the democratic and lawful order of the constitution."
The NPD achieved success in the late 1960s, winning local government seats across West Germany. In 1966 and 1967, it won 15 seats in Bavaria, 10 in lower Saxony, 8 in Hesse, and several other seats. However, it did not then and has never since received the minimum 5% of votes in federal elections that allow a party to send delegates to the German Parliament. The NPD came the closest to that goal in the 1969 election, when it got 4.3 percent of the vote. An economic downturn, frustrations with the emerging leftist youth counter-culture and the emergence of a coalition government between the center-right Christian Democratic Party (CDU), the Christian Social Union (the CDU's present-day sister party), and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) helped pave the way for those NPD gains. The coalition government had created a vacuum in the traditional political right wing, which the NPD tried to fill. The historian Walter Laqueur has argued that the NPD in the 1960s cannot be classified as a neo-Nazi party.
Yet, when the coalition fell apart, around 75 percent of those who had voted for the NPD drifted back to the center-right. During the 1970s, the NPD went into decline, suffering from an internal split over failing to get into the German Parliament. The issue of immigration spurred a small rebound in popular interest from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, but the party only saw limited success in various local elections.
In the 2004 state election in Saxony, the NPD won 9.2% of the overall vote. The NPD currently sends 8 representatives to the Saxony state parliament, the Landtag, having lost 4 representatives in the 2009 elections. The NPD maintained a non-competition agreement with the German People's Union (DVU) between 2004 and 2009. The third white nationalist-oriented party, the Republicans (REP), has so far refused to join this agreement. However, Kerstin Lorenz, a local representative of the Republicans in Saxony, sabotaged her party's registration to help the NPD in the Saxony election.
In the 2005 federal elections, the NPD received 1.6 percent of the vote nationally. It garnered the highest percent of votes in the states of Saxony (4.9 percent), Thuringia (3.7 percent), Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (3.5 percent) and Brandenburg (3.2 percent). In most other states, the party won around 1 percent of the total votes cast. In the 2006 Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state election, the NPD received 7.3% of the vote and thus achieved state representation there, as well.
The NPD had 5,300 registered party members in 2004. Over the course of 2006, the NPD processed roughly 2,000 party applications to push the membership total over 7,200. In 2008, the trend of a growing number of members has been reversed and NPD's membership is estimated at about 7,000.
The 2001–2003 banning attempt
In 2001, the federal government, the Bundestag, and the Bundesrat jointly attempted to ban the NPD in a trial before the Federal Constitutional Court, the Bundesverfassungsgericht, the highest court in Germany with the exclusive power to ban parties if they are found to be "anti-constitutional". However, the case was thrown out in 2003 after it was discovered that a number of the NPD's inner circle were in fact undercover agents or informants of the German secret services, like the federal Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz. They include a former deputy chairman of the party and author of an anti-Semitic tract that formed a central part of the government's case. Since the government assemblies were unwilling to fully disclose their agents' identities and activities, the court found it impossible to decide which moves by the party were based on genuine party decisions and which were controlled by the secret services in an attempt to further the ban. “The party was, in part, responding to the government's dictates”, the court said. “The presence of the state at the leadership level makes influence on its aims and activities unavoidable”, it concluded.
Horst Mahler (NPD), a former member of the far left terrorist organisation Red Army Faction, defended the NPD before the court. In May 2009, several state politicians published an extensive document which they claim proves the NPD's opposition to the constitution without relying on information supplied by undercover agents. This move was intended to lead up to a second attempt to have the NPD banned.
Merger with DVU
At the 2010 NPD party conference at Bamberg it was announced that the party would ask its members to approve a merger with the German People's Union (DVU). After the merger on 1 January 2011, the party name of the NPD was extended by the addition of 'The People's Union'. Between 2004 and 2009 the two parties had agreed not to compete against each other in elections. However, on 27 January 2011, the Munich Landgericht (regional court) in a preliminary injunction declared the merger null and void.
World War II and Holocaust commemoration controversies
On 21 January 2005, during a silence in the Saxon state assembly in Dresden to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi Auschwitz extermination camp, twelve members of the NPD walked out in protest. The NPD stated that was upset that a moment of silence was being held for those who died in the Auschwitz camp and that none was being given for those who died during the bombing of Dresden in World War II, with the anniversary of both events falling relatively close to each other. Holger Apfel, leader of the NPD in Saxony and deputy leader of the party nationwide, made a speech in the Saxon State Parliament in which he called the Allied forces of the United States of America and Britain "mass murderers" because of their role in the bombing. His colleague, Jürgen Gansel went on to describe the bombing itself as a "holocaust of bombs".
Voigt voiced his support and reiterated the statement, which some controversially claimed was a violation of the German law which forbids Holocaust denial. However, after judicial review, it was decided that Udo Voigt's description of the 1945 RAF bombing of Dresden as a holocaust was an exercise of free speech and "defamation of the dead" was not the purpose of his statement.
Activism and controversy
The NPD's strategy has been to create "national free-zones" and circumvent its marginal electoral status by concentrating on regions where support is strongest. In March 2006, musician Konstantin Wecker tried to set up an in-school anti-fascist concert in Halberstadt, Saxony-Anhalt two weeks before the state elections. The NPD argued that because of politics, the date and the in-school venue, the concert "was an unacceptable form of political campaigning." In protest, the NPD vowed to buy the tickets and turn up en masse at Wecker's show, which led local authorities to cancel the event. The Social Democrats and the Greens were outraged by the decision, which the Central Council of Jews in Germany called "politically bankrupt".
The NPD was going to sponsor a march through Leipzig on 21 June 2006, as the 2006 World Cup was going on. The party wanted to show its support for the Iranian national football team, which was playing in Leipzig, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. However, the NPD decided against the demonstration; only a counter-demonstration took place that day, in support of Israel. During the World Cup, the party's web site stated that due to the prevalence of people of non-German descent on the German national football team, the team "was not really German".
Later in 2006, the party designed leaflets, which said "White – not just the color of a jersey! For a true National team!" This leaflet was never mass-distributed, but copies were confiscated during a raid on the NPD's headquarters, when authorities had been hoping to find material linking the party to Nazism. Patrick Owomoyela was later informed about the poster after it was noted that the image depicted a footballer wearing a white jersey with Owomoyela's number on it. Owomoyela, of Nigerian descent, had played for the German national team in the years before the World Cup and proceeded to file a lawsuit against the party. The party was able to delay the procedures but in April 2009 three party officials (Udo Voigt, Frank Schwerdt and Klaus Bieler) were sentenced for Volksverhetzung (Voigt and Bieler to 7 months on probation, Schwerdt to 10 months on probation).
In November 2008, shortly after the 2008 United States Presidential Election, the NPD published a document entitled "Africa conquers the White House" which stated that the election of Barack Obama as the first African-American President of the United States was the result of "the American alliance of Jews and Negroes" and that Obama aimed to destroy the United States' "white identity." The NPD claimed, "A non-white America is a declaration of war on all people who believe an organically grown social order based on language and culture, history and heritage to be the essence of humanity" and "Barack Obama hides this declaration of war behind his pushy sunshine smile." The NPD also stated that the extensive support for Obama in Germany "resembles an African tropical disease."
In September 2009, another incident involving the NPD and a football player of the German national team was reported. In a television show of a regional channel, NPD spokesman Beier called midfielder Mesut Özil a "Plaste-Deutscher" ("Plastic German" or "ID Card German"), meaning someone who is not born German, but becomes German by naturalisation, particularly for certain benefits. The German Football Association announced that they would immediately file a lawsuit against the NPD and their spokesman, if requested by Özil.
During Operation Cast Lead in 2009, the NPD planned a "holocaust vigil" for Gaza in support of the Palestinians. Charlotte Knobloch, the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said "joint hatred of everything Jewish is unifying neo-Nazis and Islamists." Knobloch claimed German-Palestinian protestors "unashamedly admitted" that they would vote for the NPD during the next election.
On 23 September 2009, four days before the federal elections, German police raided the Berlin headquarters of the NPD to investigate claims that letters sent from the NPD to politicians from immigrant backgrounds incited racial hatred. The NPD leader in Berlin defended the letters saying that "As part of a democracy we're entitled to say if something doesn't suit us in this country".
The 2011 banning attempt
In 2011, authorities were reportedly trying to link the party, and specifically 30-year-old national organization director Patrick Wieschke, to the "so-called Zwickau terrorist cell". This raised the possibility of another effort to outlaw the party. The cell had been implicated in a string of murders and the November robbery of a savings bank in Eisenach. Authorities were also pursuing a gun case against Ralf Wohlleben, former deputy chairman of the party's branch in Thuringia, though the latter case was reportedly unlikely to translate into a national-level challenge to the party's legal standing. The likelihood of success of renewed banning attempts has been questioned, given the Office for the Protection of the Constitution has over 130 informants in the party, some in high positions, raising the question of whether the party is effectively controlled by the government.
2012 Thor Steinar clothing controversy
In June 2012, several NPD members of Saxony's parliament attended the parliament's sittings wearing clothing from Thor Steinar, a clothing brand that is popular amongst neo-Nazis; the legislature responded by saying that such provocative clothing was not permitted to be worn in the parliament and demanded that the NPD members remove and replace their attire; the NPD members refused, resulting in the members being expelled from the parliament and banned from attending the next three parliamentary sittings. The NPD members denied accusations that they wore the shirts as a deliberate provocation.
The 2012 banning attempt
German officials tried to outlaw the party again in December 2012, with the interior ministers of all 16 states recommending a ban. The Federal Constitutional Court is yet to vote on the recommendation. In March 2013 the Merkel government said it would not try to ban a far-right political party.
Party leaders of NPD
- Friedrich Thielen 1964–1967
- Adolf von Thadden 1967–1971
- Martin Mussgnug 1971–1990
- Günter Deckert 1991–1996
- Udo Voigt 1996–2011
- Holger Apfel 2011–present
- Far right in Germany
- Politics of Germany
- List of political parties in Germany
- Frank Rennicke
- List of National Democratic Party of Germany politicians
- Verfassungsschutzbericht 2010. Ministry of the Interior, Germany. 2011. p. 67. "Die ethnisch homogene „Volksgemeinschaft“ stellt für sie das Kernelement dar."
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- "Rechtsextremismus". Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung . 2006–2008. Retrieved 23 August 2009. "Auch zeigte sich die NPD nun bereit, mit radikalen Kräften aus dem parteiungebundenen Spektrum zusammenzuarbeiten. Formal gilt nach wie vor ein Unvereinbarkeitsbeschluss der NPD-Mitgliedschaft mit der Mitgliedschaft in verbotenen Gruppierungen. Faktisch jedoch setzt sich die NPD mit ihrer Strategie bewusst über die offizielle Verlautbarung hinweg. Die NPD wolle in Zukunft mit denjenigen zusammenzuarbeiten, die dazu bereit seien, "als politische Soldaten zu denken und zu handeln", so die neue Strategie."
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- Rechtsextremisten thematisieren die internationale Fianzkrise Verfassungsschutz MV, 2 December 2008
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- Party program, p. 13. ("Deutschland ist größer als die Bundesrepublik! ... Wir fordern die Revision der nach dem Krieg abgeschlossenen Grenzanerkennungsverträge.")
- Map of Germany on NPD's website http://www.npd.de
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- David Duke. "My Awakening: A Path to Racial Understanding". Free Speech Press. Retrieved 17 September 2007.
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- Walter Laqueur (1996). Fascism: past, present, future. Oxford University Press. p. 110. ISBN 978-0-19-509245-5. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
- Kerstin Lorenz, ehem. Landeschefin der Republikaner in Sachsen, tritt in die NPD ein! http://www.wno.org/newpages/par46b.html
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- Spiegel[dead link]
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- Hooper, John (19 March 2003). "German court rejects attempt to ban neo-Nazi party". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 19 May 2010.
- State politicians introduce document about NPD |tagesschau[dead link]
- "German neo-Nazi parties 'consider merger'". The Daily Telegraph (London). 4 June 2010.
- Von Frank Jansen (27 January 2011). "Rechtsextreme Parteien: Fusion von NPD und DVU ist unwirksam – Politik – Tagesspiegel" (in (German)). Tagesspiegel.de. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
- Hannah Cleaver, "German ruling says Dresden was a holocaust", Telegraph.co.uk, 12 April 2005.
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- NPD-Chef Voigt zu Bewährungsstrafe verurteilt, sueddeutsche.de, 25. April 2009
- German pol decries ‘Jewish-Negro’ alliance, Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), 11 November 2008 (retrieved on 5 December 2008.)
- Jewish group mulls charges over neo-Nazi Obama slurs, BreitBart.com, 10 November 2008.
- Calls for prosecution after German politician says Obama win 'a declaration of war' by Jon Swaine, Telegraph.co.uk, 11 November 2008.
- Racism Rears Its Head in European Remarks on Obama by Craig Whitlock, Washington Post, page A15, 11 November 2008 (retrieved on 5 December 2008).
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- Bartsch, Matthias et al. (alpha list), "Germany Faces Tough Battle to Ban Far-Right NPD", Der Spiegel, 12/07/2011. Trans. from the German by Christopher Sultan. Retrieved 8 December 2011.
- "Infiltrating the Far-Right: German Intelligence Has 130 Informants in Extremist Party – SPIEGEL ONLINE". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
- "German far-right deputies expelled over clothing", BBC News, 13 June 2012. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-18429463. Accessed on 17 June 2012.
- "Germany seeks to ban far-right party". 3 News NZ. 6 December 2012.
- Berlin Won’t Join Effort to Ban Far-Right Party March 20, 2013 New York Times
- NPD web site (German)
- NPD English site[dead link]
- Party Platform of the NPD (PDF) (German)
- History of the National Democratic Party (English)
- NPD Russia
- Critical documentation of the NPD in the local Parliament of the German state of Saxony (German) (English)
- BBC news: Poll boost for German far right (English)