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Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Women give neo-Nazi scene a face-lift (Germany)

Men make up the majority of neo-Nazis, but emancipation has also forged new territory for women in right-extremist circles in Germany. A new book sheds light on female neo-Nazis

Women want to have their say. That slogan from the 1960's women liberation movement still echoes through to today. And it's a rallying cry that leaders from Germany's National Democratic Party, the NPD, have picked up on.

The NPD, which is not prohibited in Germany, uses women to lure people into the right-extremist movement, maintain authors Andrea Röpke and Andreas Speit. Their new book "Mädelsache! Frauen in der Neo-Nazi-Szene" ("Girls' Business: Women in the Neo-Nazi Scene") illuminates how women are used as ambassadors for the movement.

A mother of several children wins the hearts of people much more easily than a young man with tattoos chanting xenophobic slogans, said author Speit. "Many people think 'If women are part of it, it can't be so bad,'" he observed.

The strategy seems to work, as regional elections in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt this past March showed. NPD women reaped an impressive number of votes.

Wolves in sheeps' clothing

Röpke and Speit's book looks at the various right-extremist groups in Germany. It's a heterogeneous movement that includes a right-wing women's organization, as well as numerous rightist enclaves such as the National Women's Circle - an association linked to the NPD.

Other smaller groups or associations do not appear to be right-extremist at first glance. On the contrary, one could almost take them to be "granola heads" - save the environment hippies donned in handmade clothing or dirndl-like dresses, living cozily amongst their kind in rural communities.

But at second-glance, say the authors, one notices the Prussian rigidity with which the mothers raise their children. It's a harsh approach that glorifies discipline and German tradition. This breed refuses to use English words that have long found their way into colloquial German. "T-shirt" thus becomes "T-Hemd," "Weltnetz" (World Web) is used rather than "Internet," "Gemüsetorte" (Vegetable Cake) rather than "Pizza."

The danger of underestimation

That all may sound so "yesterday," but authors Röpke and Speit stress that one should not underestimate the power and reach of women within the right-extremist movement. They have a stabilizing function within their groups; they are particularly loyal in toeing the NPD party line; and they have a major impact on how children and youth are raised.

They also don't stay within their own extremist enclaves, but are often employed as social workers or caregivers in pre-schools or daycare centers. There, they can easily recruit members for the movement - one with no shortage of young people, Speit said.

The book "Mädelsache" illuminates just how underestimated these right-extremist women are, especially in their ability to appeal to mainstream society far better than men. But as moderate as the women may appear, the authors make clear their connections to organizations touting non-democratic, racist beliefs.