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#WhiteWash 3 – The German Right: Taming The Bear

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#WhiteWash 3 – The German Right: Taming The Bear
Part 3 of an investigation into the resurgence of Nazis, covering the rise of the new German right

The haunting end of World War 2 saw Hitler's Nazi Germany dismantled after its military was dismembered in the final battles. After the horrifying exposure of the scale of the concentration camps and mass genocide, deeply cynical 'reparations' began, with the United Kingdom and United States harvesting what then amounted to ten billion dollars (now around one hundred billion) in scientific developments and German patents. The unacknowledged truth of World War 2 is nobody won and no moral victory can ever be claimed from it.

Germany, rather uniquely in the world, knows its history better than anyone else. The one hope we can all hold is that the sense of responsibility taught in German schools has been sufficiently powerful to prevent the most significant domino in Europe from falling once again to the most dangerous tyranny.

Now an economic superpower once again, Germany's losses during the second world war were substantial. Around seven million people were killed, equating to around 8.5% of the population, the cities had been severely damaged by Allied bombing, and the country's agricultural output had dropped to around a third of its pre-war production.

Following the Potsdam Conference, the only face to face meeting of Joseph Stalin and Harry Truman, the Allies ceded a quarter of Germany's territory to Poland and the Soviet Union. In the resulting period a huge percentage of the German population was moved and it is officially acknowledged around 2 million people died in the process. An attempt was made to recreate what remained of the country as a pastoral and agricultural nation, in which only light industry was permitted. Large factories were either dismantled or destroyed and millions of prisoners of war were used as forced labour by both the USSR and the Allies.

In 1945, the Allied forces began a program of denazification - a US initiative to rid German and Austrian society, culture, press, economy, judiciary, and politics of any remnants of Hitler's ideology. They removed Nazi influencers and members from positions of power and embarked upon an effort to disband and render useless any remnant organisations. While the phrase denazification, which originated from the Pentagon, was originally designed to cover a narrow field of activity, it soon grew to cover more general actions. However, due to the rapid commencement of the Cold War with the USSR, the US lost interest in the program and its application became hapzard and the monitoring lapse. By its abolition in 1951 denazification was broadly regarded as having been ineffective and, in fact, had caused such resistance in the reforming Germany it had become counterproductive.

By 1947 it had become increasingly obvious to the Allies and the Germans the economic recovery of Europe as a whole was going to be dependent on restarting German industry. By rescinding occupation directives, the Allies introduced currency reforms and began to tackle the significant issue of hyper-inflation. The Marshall Plan, as the European Recovery Plan became known, saw five years of planned investment in the European economy and technological recovery. The value in today's terms was over fourteen billion dollars in loans to Germany during 1949, despite protests from other European countries. This, combined with the replacement of the occupation currency with the Deutsche Mark saw the beginnings of recovery proper, with living standards, exports, and food production improving while the black market and unemployment rates reduced. It was this course of action which led to the creation of the Soviet controlled East Germany, what was considered a “puppet state.”

By 1950, the UK and France finally conceded the approach was working and followed what had been a US lead. Under a newly formed democratic government, Germany's full resurgence was swift and effective – by the mid-1950s, the unemployment rate in the country was so low an influx of Turkish immigrants was used to fill the growing labour market.

During its regrowth, Western Germany did not shy away from its history and became to determined to teach its youth and prevent a return to dark history. Even now, standard text books for teenagers challenge the country's young to shoulder the burden of the nation's past. Subsequently a strong identity and sense of responsibility is broadly impressed across the country and, while it has been established there is no real sense of personal guilt for the Nazi period, Germans grow with a strong notion they must thwart any revival of the ideology. It is more common in recent years, however, for those working in education to argue the system is faltering. With justification.

Darkly, the rise in new Nazi groups has been most notable since the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the former Soviet state of Eastern Germany was re-integrated. And, in 1991, the government's educational-monitoring agency urgently called for the Nazi topic to be subject to an “intensive and thorough treatment” in schools.

The scars left by the Nazis and Germany's forced division have never truly healed and, though the Swastika remains banned, signs of old populism have been growing – ironically fuelled by immigration which once filled a buoyant labour market and exploded with the return of substantial communities once absorbed into the USSR.

By 2017 Alternative for Germany (AfD), the new face of the far-right, had become the third-strongest party in the country after those in Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition. According to one market research company, TNS Emnid, the AfD has the backing of up to eleven percent of potential German voters, making it the third-strongest party in the country. According to the weekly Sonntagstrend, a survey conducted for German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, the support has inched up by as much a percentage point some weeks. At the same time, Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) along with its Bavarian sister party Christian Social Union (CSU) – who operate together as a single entity in the federal government - fell a number of percentage points while the Social Democratic Party (SPD) also made gains.

The AfD have been focusing their efforts on the Russian-Germans - those who were exiled to Siberia and Kazakhstan by Stalin in 1941 – up to 2.5 million of whom drifted back to their homeland after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 90s. They are recognised as one of Germany’s largest immigrant groups and retain strong family and cultural links to Russia, yet they are buying into the AfD's anti-immigration message en-masse. One AfD candidate, Albert Breininger, a Russian-German himself, recently told the Financial Times: “The CDU/CSU has moved so far to the left that they have simply betrayed their values. The CDU abandoned us and the AfD became our new political home.”

In the 1990s, around three-quarters of Russian-Germans supported the CDU/CSU. This support was documented in a study by the Interior Ministry study and seemed to indicate the voting was a symbolic gesture of gratitude to then Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who opened Germany’s doors to them at the end of the Cold War and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. However the AfD have capitalised on the changed landscape following Kohl's death and Merkel's third term. They perceive the debts to what is now Merkel's ruling party are paid.

According to the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration, Russian-German support for the conservative bloc has now plummeted to less than half. Their report concludes: “Traditional affiliation to the CDU/CSU is clearly fading while a tendency to vote for smaller parties is growing.” They believe almost five percent of the huge community now supports the AfD, while this is more broadly believed to be a significant underestimate. One political scientist at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Achim Goerres, has pegged the figure as high as a fifth.

It's not hard to see how this shift has happened. And the clue is in the Russian-German protest after a woman from their community accused three North African men of rape in 2016. It transpired these were false accusations but the damage was done - the all too familiar fake news and alternative media outlets had changed the course of a community. The same signs seen in the tainted Brexit and Trump campaigns (see Alternative War) are clearly visible.

Voting patterns in 2016 local elections also seem to confirm Goerres' higher estimate of the support for the AfD, and this also gives rise to more clues the Russian offensive which won in the UK and the US is ongoing in Germany itself. In south-western Germany, one town with a significant Russian-German population saw the AfD capture a quarter of the vote while the CDU lost half of their support. According to the Financial Times: “The AfD’s best result in the town was in the suburb of Haidach, where nearly half the 8,500 residents have a Soviet family background and more than 50 per cent voted for the party.”

The AfD approaches the issue of immigration with a now all too familiar rhetoric. “Russian-Germans have often come from countries with Muslim populations, like Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan, they have experienced Islam and they don’t want it here,” Breininger told the Financial Times. “They want to preserve Germany’s western Christian culture.”

The Merkel government has been deeply – and rightly – concerned about the susceptibility of the AfD's new voter base to Russian media manipulation which is, to say the least, sympathetic to the far-right narrative. In fact, the CDU manifesto includes promises to increase pensions for ethnic German immigrants, save Germany's “rich cultural heritage” through measures including more deportations, and pledges to increase police numbers by the thousands. The AfD, however, has gone further in response.

The far-right party has fielded seven Russian-German election candidates and translated all of their campaign material into Russian. On top of this, they have set out a number of Kremlin friendly policies – including an end to economic sanctions against Putin's Federation. Unsurprisingly, the AfD is broadly endorsed by Putin's media outlet RT and a number of far-right candidates from abroad who are also Kremlin-backed - including Nigel Farage, who spoke at an AfD rally last week with the party's leader, Frauke Petry.

Petry is no stranger to extreme rhetoric herself. A few years ago she broadly attracted condemnation when she called for German border police to shoot at refugees entering the country illegally. Even the police union chief came out against this comment, saying firing upon refugees would be a suspension of the rule of law – police spokesperson Joerg Radek responded by saying: “No policeman would be ready to fire...We have already seen that over the course of German history and we don't ever want to go down that road again.”

At the time, Petry's remarks were also described as “an unacceptable mobilisation of public opinion against refugees”, by Social Democratic Party (SDP) chairman Thomas Oppermann. “The last German politician who condoned the shooting of refugees was Erich Honecker”, he said, referring to the man behind the creation of the Berlin Wall.

The AfD leader's comments were made at the same time Angela Merkel was setting out her pans for Syrian refugees to return home when the conflict in the region is over – a plan made impossible by Russia's intervention in support of the Assad regime which has prolonged the fighting. “We need...to say to people that this is a temporary residential status and we expect that, once there is peace in Syria again, once IS has been defeated in Iraq, that you go back to your home country,” Merkel told Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party members at a conference.

In spite of these efforts, Petry's AfD continues to gain ground with alarming momentum. Only last week, as election day nears, Sigmar Gabriel, the German foreign minister, starkly warned the public voting for the AfD could put “Nazis back in the Reichstag.”

Speaking with online outlet T-online, Gabriel did not pull his punch, telling reporters: “If we're unlucky, then these people will send a signal of dissatisfaction that will have terrible consequences. Then we will have real Nazis in the German Reichstag for the first time since the end of World War Two.”

With the UK and US in deliberately induced turmoil this is the reality of our times, decades after the world learned the lesson taught by Hitler.

With disinformation rife across Europe, from Germany to Catalonia, and the first big tests of hybrid warfare counter-measures taking place – including the first round of Cybrid 2017, a European Defense test scenario aimed at preventing disruption of EU strategic decision making – Germany's position is precarious.

Merkel's party has been hacked well in advance of the election (again see Alternative War) and all that now awaits is a dump of leaked information, designed to sway the electorate further to the right. The same thing which won Trump his presidency and Brexit it's vote to disrupt and isolate the United Kingdom. The same moves which failed in France and provoked Merkel and Macron in moving the EU to accelerate measures deigned to enhance unity and ensure a joint defence, both of them calling Putin out without holding back.

Germany, rather uniquely in the world, knows its history better than anyone else. The one hope we can all hold is that the sense of responsibility taught in German schools has been sufficiently powerful to prevent the most significant domino in Europe from falling once again to the most dangerous tyranny.

The unacknowledged truth of World War 2 is nobody won and no moral victory can ever be claimed from it.

*You can contribute this ongoing, independent investigation directly by supporting this column here at Byline

##WhiteWash, #Nazi, #Russia, #Germany, #Merkel, #Elections, #Frauke Petry, #Putin, #AfD, #RT, #Disinformation, #EU, #Far-Right, #Immigration

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