- National Socialism, or Nazism, was the ideology of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP), which was founded in 1919 and ruled Germany in 1933-1945 under its leader Adolf Hitler. It was based on the following pillars:
- leadership principle: power is concentrated in the hands of an individual who de facto controls the functioning of the entire state;
- totalitarian state: the interests of individuals are subordinate to the interests of society, the state controls everything, including the private sphere of an individual;
- command economy: strategic businesses are controlled by the state, business activities are allowed to a limited degree, there are close connections between the economic elites and the political/party elites and the leader. The economy is entirely subordinate to the interests of the state;
- nationalism: the highest value is being a member of the nation, which is represented mainly by individuals of the same race, culture, language, and strives to seize the living space for that nation at the expense of other groups of inhabitants;
- biological racism and anti-Semitism: the conviction that people are not equal, expressed in justification for various forms of discrimination and escalating to take the form of planned pogroms and genocide. A feature of historical (Hitler’s) National Socialism is hatred of the Jews, escalating into a plan to eliminate all the Jews in Europe.
Neo-Nazism is a modern ideology that draws on the ideas and traditions of National Socialism. It aims to revive and to reintroduce it as a desirable political system. Efforts to promote this ideology are made by political parties and unofficial policial movements and groups, some of which pose a major security threat to individuals, groups of people, and the state itself. To achieve their goals Neo-Nazi groups use methods of targeted intimidation of their opponents and tools of political terrorism (the attacks in Oklahoma City, the attacks by a group called the Order). The modern Neo-Nazi movement is an international movement that overcomes some historical discrepancies and ambivalence by attempting to assert white supremacism and the defence of the Euro-American space against the influence of non-indigenous cultures and inhabitants. A part of the ideology is racism, which in the Czech Republic is directed mainly against Roma, foreigners, and Jews. Neo-Nazism also tries to deny the Holocaust and believes in a Jewish conspiracy, sometimes referred to as Z.O.G. (Zionist Occupation Government). The movement uses various forms of propaganda to try to appeal to young people: music, the Internet, the creation of a unique image. Some Neo-Nazi groups try to get into politics through political parties.
Neo-Nazis tend at times to be interpreted as the same thing as skinheads, a youth subculture which emerged in the 1960s in the UK as a racially diverse street movement united around the unique musical style of ska, a way of spending free time, and generational revolt. In the 1970s part of the movement adopted a racist, anti-Semitic, and Neo-Nazi profile. In the Czech Republic, skinheads became synonymous with the racist branch of skinheads, mainly owing to the influence of the music group Orlík. This band was one of the first to introduce the concept of skinheads, which rapidly became racist. At present the Czech Neo-Nazi movement is moving away from its skinhead image (bomber jackets, heavy boots, shaved heads), and the prevailing image draws on some Neo-Nazi clothing brands (ThorSteiner, Praetorian, Grassel) or the Black Block style that is typical mainly of the supporters of Autonomous Nationalism.
Autonomous Nationalism is a new concept on the European Neo-Nazi scene. It began forming in 2002 in Germany, from where it found its way to the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and Belgium. It does not differ from Neo-Nazism in terms of its ideological principles, what is different is its manner of appealing to the public, its image, and the informal structure of the movement. Groups of Autonomous Nationalists work independently of each other, thus preventing security forces from uncovering them and enhancing their own operating capacity. Their rhetoric in some respects resembles that of left-wing movements – coming out against capitalism, emphasising social issues, protesting against globalisation. The image also resembles that of left-wing autonomists: black jackets, hoods and trousers, masked faces – this Black Bloc style provides supporters of Autonomous Nationalism with anonymity at public demonstrations, prevents police and political opponents from identifying them, and makes it harder to take action against demonstrations of these marching groups. Autonomous Nationalists are also currently changing their musical style and the image of their posters and websites. In the Czech Republic the boundary between Autonomous Nationalists and other Neo-Nazi groups is not clear, and it is likely that among new supporters of the Neo-Nazi movement the popularity of Autonomous Nationalism, as a young and progressive movement, is going to grow.
Fascism was a sythesis of organic nationalism (biological determinism, nationalism as a political ideology) and anti-Marxist (syndicalistic) socialism, a revolutionary movement resting on the rejection of liberalism, democracy, and Marxism. In the concept of Fascism, man is a creature of society, he only really exists if he is shaped by society. Fascism is a totalitarian ideology in the sense that all man’s actions are subordinate to the state – nothing outside the state can have any value.
Neo-Fascism draws on the tradition of Italian Fascism in particular, or that of regimes in other countries. Neo- and Post-Fascists try to distance themselves from Nazism, condemning exclusive nationalism, racism, and anti-Semitism. Thanks to its emphasis on conservative values they find common ground with radical religious groups (Clerical Fascists).
The development of the Neo-Nazi movement
The Neo-Nazi branch definitively formed itself out of the skinhead movement at the start of the 1980s. The singer for the band Skrewdriver, Ian Stuart, together with other Neo-Nazi bands, founded the organisation Blood and Honour (the battle motto of the Hitler Youth) which served as a platfor for organising Neo-Nazi concerts and publishing white-power musical recordings. After Stuart’s death, an organisation was founded called Combat 18 (18 meaning “A.H” from the positions of the letters in the alphabet - a code for the initials of Adolf Hitler). These organisations did much to popularise Neo-Nazism and contributed to its spread from Britain to Europe and America.
In many countries of the world, countless large and small organisations have formed and hundreds of racist bands and militant Neo-Nazi movements emerged. Music and the Internet have together been the most important channels of communication, influencing and shaping young Neo-Nazis and hooligans, and serving to transmit propaganda, mediate meetings, and procure financial resources. Football stadiums are also a place where young people encounter older Neo-Nazis and hooligans and imitate their behaviour and style of dress.
In most countries concerts given by racist bands take place in secret, concealed as private events. The texts of these bands’ songs directly encourage racially and ideologically motivated violence, express hatred, and celebrate representatives of the Third Reich, and so on. Norse mythology also occupies an important role in their texts. Musical recordings, videos, and print materials are distributed through Internet servers from countries with more liberal legislation governing freedom of speech, such as Denmark and the United States. Neo-Nazis continuously commit racially and ideologically motivated violence. It is the strength and power derived from aggression that is appealing to many young people. They strengthen their self-confidence even further by carrying out nighttime assaults on heavily-outnumbered and usually randomly-selected targets that fit their category of undesirables (this can include dark-skinned citizens, political opponents, or representatives of various subcultures like punk, non-racist skinheads, hip hop, hardcore, skateboarders and so on, and also the homeless, homosexuals, Jews, and anyone else who objects to their words or their physical violence).
The Neo-Nazi branch of the skinhead movement established itself in the Czech Republic not long after the Velvet Revolution. Racism was popularised among young people by Orlík and Bráník, two bands that published their recordings officially and thus prepared the ground for real Neo-Nazi organisations and opinions. The development of a militant Neo-Nazi movement was also significantly influenced by the presence of latent or sometimos even overt racism on the part of Czech society. At the start of the 1990s racist skinheads were often viewed as ‘decent boys, trying to maintain order’ and justifiably attacking ‘thieves and noncompliant Gypsies’.
In the 1990s two Neo-Nazi organisations operated in the Czech Republic: first, Bohemia Hammer Skins, and later a Czech branch of the international Neo-Nazi organisation founded in the UK, Blood and Honour. Amidst little interest from the state authorities or the media, these organisations created distribution networks for the spread of racist and Neo-Nazi music, Nazi symbols, souvenir objects and clothing. Disguised as private events, Neo-Nazi meetings and concerts were organised at which Nazism was openly propagated, Neo-Nazi materials were distributed, and international contacts were made.
According to the civic association Tolerance and Civil Society, more than two dozen people lost their lives to racist violence during the 1990s, and to date (09/2009) the figure is more than 30 people killed for reasons of race, political conviction, nationality, or related reasons. The inertia shown by the police and the courts temporarily changed after an international scandal occurred in 1997, when Neo-Nazis murdered a Sudani student named Albdelradi. The police carried out a number of raids and arrested top activists in the Neo-Nazi movement, which in practical terms resulted in shutting down the Czech branch of Blood and Honour, which had picked up from the earlier activities of Bohemia Hammer Skins.
Out of the remnants of Prague’s Blood and Honour there gradually emerged a new, unregistered group called National Resistance [Národní odpor], whose members, alongside organising concerts and demonstrations, have altered tactics and are striving to get into the mainstream political scene. Their non-violent public image is intended to win enough support for various disparate groups (as well as the aforementioned National Resistance, the National Alliance and the Patriotic Republican Party) and to establish a political party which, through its populist and moderate rhetoric, should enable Neo-Nazis to enter into communal and parliamentary party politics. The gradual formation of coalitions and merging of smaller groups gave rise to the National-Social Bloc Party, which attempted to take part in the 2002 parliamentary elections. The Ministry of the Interior did not permit them this name and the party registered instead as the Right Alternative. Their attempt to establish themselves on the political scene ended in failure: Neo-Nazis failed to significantly change the style and rhetoric of their activities, and were unable to articulate serious social issues in an intelligible way that would appeal to the disgruntled strata of the population. The only participants at public events organised by the Right Alternative were racist skinheads. After some shake-ups in the leadership, the party was ultimately unable to obtain the financial resources to pay the election fee, and in the end did not take part in the 2002 elections.
Another blow that paralysed the Neo-Nazi movement for several years was a police raid of Patriots directed against the organisers of Neo-Nazi concerts. The Czech Neo-Nazi movement thus went into a temporarily slump in 2002-2004.
Activities renewed in late 2004 and early 2005. National Resistance works on the basis of ‘leaderless resistance’. This concept involves decentralising the movement into local groups, which are linked in a cooperative network, but have no central leadership. Through this organisational structure the Neo-Nazi movement prevents police infiltration and achieves greater mobilising power, and until around 2007 it was one of the driving forces in the Neo-Nazi scene. It is directed at recruiting new members, organising white-power music concerts, and distributing propaganda through the Internet (www.odpor.org).
At the end of 2004, National Resistance was followed in the political scene by a newly founded group, National Corporativism, which introduced some new themes that border on nationalism, Neo-Fascism and Neo-Nazism, and which makes no secret of its political ambitions. The membership base and the base of supporters of National Corporativism overlap with other extreme right-wing groups, so it forms a kind of bridge between a legal political party (Workers’ Party) and an openly Neo-Nazi group (National Resistance), from which it draws the base ranks of its personnel. National Corporativism was gradually consumed by internal conflicts, and the dominating tendencies were towards forming links between National Resistance and the newly founded Autonomous Nationalists. In April 2008 National Corporatism shut down, and its leaders encouraged supporters to join the Workers’ Party.
The Autonomous Nationalists, which in 2007 took over from the activities of the Kladno Nationalists (founded in 2005), are for the time being the youngest Neo-Nazi group active in the Czech Republic. It represents a generation of new Neo-Nazi activists focused primarily on image and political propaganda. Their ideology, and their concept of free, independent cells that reject a central management, were both adopted from National Socialism. In 2008 the Autonomous Nationalists had at least ten active regional cells, and were directly responsible (together with National Resistance and the Workers’ Party) for the escalation of racially motivated verbal and physical aggression targeting, in particular, the Roma population in the Czech Republic.
A typical feature of the new generation of Czech Neo-Nazis is their effort to establish international contacts. Cooperation with Slovak Neo-Fascists has traditionally been maintained ever since Czechs and Slovaks were members of the same federal state. However, in the past two years efforts to establish regular contacts with German Neo-Nazis – unregistered Autonomous Nationalists, Free/National Resistance, and the NPD (Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands), a legal political party – have been much more successful. Neo-Nazis from both countries regularly support each other at their public gatherings, and Czech activists have adopted a number of new methods from their German counterparts. The Czech Neo-Nazi scene notably copies German examples, whether this involves the concept of Autonomous Nationalism or the involvement of unregistered and, not unusually, militant Neo-Nazi groups and political parties. Neo-Nazis try to overcome the historical conflict of the Nazi occupation of the Czech lands by advancing the concepts of a white Europe and a Europe of nations, according to which the European geographic space should be opened up for the original white population, and non-indigenous minorities should be assimilated or removed.
National Resistance and Autonomous Nationalists succeeded within two years in making a victorious return to the political scene, thanks to important reciprocal cooperation with a legal political subject, the Workers’ Party, which was founded in 2003 by members of the Republican Youth (‘prep schools’ for Sládek’s Republican Party or SPR-RSČ), including people in contact with National Resistance. This political party was publicly unremarkable until 2007, it when it formed coalitions with other extreme right-wing subjects. By consciously linking itself with National Resistance and Autonomous Nationalists the Workers’ Party gained numerous supporters, voters, and media attention, which paid off in the regional elections in 2008: for the first time ever, it surpassed the magic threshold of 1% in some regions. At this time the party was already acting outside the boundaries of legality, and its verbal attacks on Roma, foreigners, Jews, and homosexuals were taking the form of physical violence occurring after public gatherings of the party. Under pressure from public opinion, the government submitted a proposal to dissolve the Workers’ Party. In March 2009 the Supreme Administrative Court stated that the government’s four-page proposal did not adequately substantiate or prove that this political party is a threat to the basic values of the democratic rule of law. The Workers’ Party used the favourable verdict to increase its visibility, which it tried to use to its advantage in the elections to the European Parliament, where surpassing the 1% limit would mean that a state financial subsidy of 750,000 would go into the coffers of a party that describes itself as a party of National Socialists.
The increase in public activity by the extreme right in 2007-2009 is the result of the long-term underestimation of this situation by state administration and the police. Their lack of interest in uncovering violent and organised crime gave Neo-Nazis a feeling of impunity and the conviction that their struggle on behalf of the white race, directed primarily against the Roma minority, foreigners, the Jewish community, and anti-racist activists, is generally legitimate. The growth in confidence of Czech Neo-Nazis cultimated in organised pogroms against Roma living in socially-excluded localities, including an arson attack against a Roma family in Northern Moravia. The Roma reacted to this security situation and to the fact that the state administration was unable to ensure their safety with a new wave of emigration, headed mainly to Canada, where they applied for asylum. As a result of Neo-Nazi violence, in the summer of 2009 Canada reinstated visa requirements for all Czech citizens owing to the growth in the number of applications for asylum.
The ideology of Neo-Nazis
Members of Neo-Nazi groups regularly read Nazi print materials and attend ideological meetings, racist concerts, and political demonstrations.
Neo-Nazis believe in the ‘biological supremacy’ of the white or ‘Aryan’ race. They divide people into a hierarchy of races, with Germans at the top as the ‘creators of culture’, and with Jews at the bottom endas the alleged destroyers of culture. Czech Neo-Nazis are not bothered by the fact that, according to the racist theories adopted from Nazi Germany, Slavonic peoples are also considered to be an ‘inferior and subservient race’. While frequently attacking Roma, they overlook the fact that according to their own theories the Roma belong to the IndoEuropean – Aryan – race.
In the view of Neo-Nazis the mixing of races is a major offence. Because every society is to a large degree multi-cultural – made up of members of different ethnic or otherwise defined groups – even the current state of society is unacceptable to Neo-Nazis. For this reason, in the extreme case they want to evoke a ‘holy racial war’ or a ‘white revolution’ and by means of violence ensure the rule of the ‘white race’. In more moderate form they present society with numerous more palatable solutions, which nonetheless have a common basis in biological Darwinism, racism, and xenophobia.
Racial hatred is usually linked to xenophobia, targeting anyone who is different in any way. Xenophobia tends to be manifested as aggression against a specific ethnic group – in the Czech Republic this is mainly the Roma. Following the model of German Nazis, supporters of the extreme right direct their irrational hate against the Jews. There is a very widespread, paranoid belief in a worldwide Jewish conspiracy whose objective is to control the world and destroy Aryan culture. For this reason Neo-Nazis are obsessed with ‘uncovering Jewish plots’ and they explain most world events in the terms of this ‘theory of a Jewish-Masonic conspiracy’. One manifestation of this conspiracy, according to Neo-Nazis, is the so-called Auschwitz Lie – Jews allegedly made up the entire Holocaust, the gas chambers, and the mass exterminations, in order to hold Germany and the world public to ransom. Denials of the Holocaust are always motivated by irrational anti-Semitism and latent or overt racism, but Neo-Nazis try to present their view as though it were ‘serious historical research’.
Extreme right organisations maintain lists of ‘Jews and their minions’ and it is significant that these lists tend to contain the names of people and organisations actively engaged in combating racism, Nazism, xenophobia, and intolerance. ‘Jewish origin’ is not essential. Neo-Nazis subject ‘undesirables’ to verbal assaults, usually abounding in vulgarisms. Fully in the spirit of racism and intolerance Neo-Nazis are opposed to migration, which they blame for the deterioration of the economic situation. Their hateful outbursts against asylum-seekers and foreigners unfortunately resonate with the wider strata of the xenophobically-inclined public. Another target of hatred, verbal assaults, or worse is the so-called ‘trash’ of society, which neo-Nazis define as drug addicts, homosexuals, and the mentally and physically disabled.
Neo-Nazis summarise their ideology in short, easy to remember slogans, which they encode to increase their confidentiality. The most typical slogan is ‘14/88’: ‘14’ signifies 14 words – ‘We must secure the existence of our race and future for white childern’ (based on the Czech translation the Czech reference is sometimes to 10 words – ‘My musíme chránit existenci naší rasy a budoucnost bílých dětí’); ‘88’ is the code for the Nazi greeting ‘Heil Hitler’.
It is significant that Neo-Nazis – at least in public – do not call things by their proper names: they call racism ‘patriotism’, xenophobia ‘the longing for the wellbeing of the nation’, irrational aggression against randomly-selected individuals is ‘keeping order’, and stoking racial hatred is referred to as ‘spreading national awareness’. This allows them to appeal to a portion of society.
A typical Neo-Nazi ...
There is no such thing as a typical Neo-Nazi. Neo-Nazi subculture comprises a group of people who differ significantly among themselves, but are united by their effort to assert the ideas of National Socialism, inclinations towards racism and anti-Semitism, not unusually an inclination for violence, but also a heightened interest in history, politics, and public affairs.
The pathway to a local extreme right group usually leads through personal, family contacts or friends, or contacts made at school. Recently, likely owing to the influence of the new media, the age at which young people first experience contact with the Neo-Nazi movement is falling towards the first or second grade of high school.
It would be an incorrect underestimation of the Neo-Nazi sub-culture to regard all Neo-Nazis as socially immature, emotionally deprived, primitive individuals. For several years the movement’s members have been successful at finding work in state administration and in the police force; the movement is skilled at manipulating every form of mass media to their advantage; it is gaining political support from the non-Neo-Nazi public; it is financially independent, and it is succeeding at appealing again and again to emerging generations by providing clear responses to questions and solutions to everyday problems.
Among the supporters in the Czech Neo-Nazi movement we find side by side people with vocational education, university students, law school graduates, and graduates of universities abroad. Some Neo-Nazis are unemployed, but many of them are successful businesspeople, and they manage to combine their business lives with work for the extreme right. Some Neo-Nazis make no secret of their political ambitions and are trying to emerge as a real political opposition.
Women are playing an increasingly important role in the Neo-Nazi movement. In the past two years they have gone from being the indistinctive partners of their male counterparts to become genuine political activists. They thus represent another significantly distinct qualitative change within the Neo-Nazi movement. With the gradual generational turnover, an increasing number of children are being born into families which do not conceal their sympathies for the Neo-Nazi movement, thus influencing their future perception of intercultural coexistence in the border regions of the Czech Republic.
In the course of approximately two decades of public activity by racist and Neo-Nazi groups in the Czech Republic, several new generations of political activists have emerged. The founders of the movement are now almost 40 years old, some of them continue to be active, and some support their younger colleagues in other ways. The new generation gives the extreme right a new boost with their language and IT skills, and they form an essential manpower base, a driving force, and to some extent even a group prepared to commit physical violence on behalf of the ideas of National Socialism. It cannot be said that Neo-Nazis ‘grow out of it’. It is possible that some supporters will leave their given extreme right group relatively soon, but there are dozens of activists who remain in the Neo-Nazi movements for more than five years, and there is an entire generation of people united in their adult lives by the idea of a racially pure and white Europe.
Agentura EU pro základní lidská práva (Fundamental Rights Agengy) – sborníky, publikace, srovnávací studie na téma rasismus, antisemitismu a netolerance. http://fra.europa.eu/fraWebsite/home/home_en.htm
Archiv občanského sdružení Tolerance a občanská společnost
Archiv občanského sdružení In IUSTITIA
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