Party Convention of German Neo-Nazis on Hitler’s Birthday

Of all days, Germany’s neofascists AfD Party Congress was held on Hitler’s birthday – 20 April. And the AfD’s Lower Saxony division wanted to have their meeting in a location with a distinct history such as at a nearby concentration camp. Protest rallies were announced against that event.

Even today, Adolf Hitler’s birthday is still an occasion for celebrations inside Germany’s neo-Nazi circles. However, Germany’s most powerful neo-Nazi party – the AfD – played dumb. Its Lower Saxony platoon vehemently denies that the specific date of Hitler’s birthday was selected on purpose. Its state party congress took place between 19 and 21 April 2024 in a small town called Unterlüß – in the Celle district.

Still, the AfD claims it had nothing to do with the “Führer’s anniversary”. When asked by local media about the Führer’s birthday, a spokesman defended the date – rather cunningly – by saying it is a day like any other. This is hard to believe as Germany’s neofascists are well-aware of the significance of the date they had set.

Worse, people have pointed out that the place the neofascist party has selected for the AfD convention has a particularly unsavoury past. It is a village where arms manufacturer Rheinmetall has been producing military equipment since 1899. The company was formerly also known as Reichswerke Hermann Goering when arming Hitler’s Wehrmacht. The location was not selected without a hideous agenda in mind.

Today, among other things, ammunition and tanks for the Ukraine are produced there. And in February 2023, a ceremony for a new factory was celebrated in Unterlüß, where artillery shells and components for rockets are to be assembled.

Historically, Hitler’s murderous war machinery was also well-presented in the town of Unterlüß. 

The German industry – in cahoots with Hitler’s Nazis and the SS – was running a concentration camp called “the Tannenberg camp” as the KZ-Außenlager Unterlüß. As such, the camp was a branch of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Needless to say, through the hands of Hitler’s SS, several hundred forced labourers – including Jewish prisoners who transferred from Auschwitz – were subjected to brutal treatment by SS guards. Many of them tortured and murdered. 

Sheepishly, the party with plenty of neo-Nazi linksAfD – seeks to justify the choice of the location and the date with so-called “practical criteria”. A party spokesman even wheeled-out problems the party had in finding a location. Always playing the victim, an AfD apparatchik spoke of “incitements” against the AfD and that there have been “massive threats” against operators of venues the AfD had selected.

Contradicting the neofascist party’s claims, the director of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp and the Mittelbau-Dora memorial, Jens-Christian Wagner, says that it is likely that the AfD deliberately chose the date. After all, historical revisionism is part of the DNA of the AfD. 

One of the main protagonists of revisionism is the AfD’s chief-ideologist – Björn Höcke – who once called for a 180 degree turn-a-round on how to understand Germany’s Nazi past. That would make the SS the victim while Jewish concentration camp inmates would suddenly be war criminals. In other words, what the AfD is doing – as so often – is a well-targeted historical and ideologically aimed provocation. It is more than obvious that the AfD’s right-wing extremists chose the conference venue on purpose. The party – as well as the history teacher Björn Höcke – knew of the significance of the place – KZ “Unterlüß” as being part of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. 

After all, it is the place where the Nazis committed serious crimes against humanity. Of course, the AfD’s selection is a deliberate attack on the memory of those who had to suffer in those Nazi camps.

Given recent anti-far-right rallies in Germany with millions of participants, an anti-far-right alliance of 34 initiatives has joined the Südheide network against right-wing extremism that has been calling for the protest rally against the AfD. 

The local setup of the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) in Lüneburg was also mobilizing against the AfD.

At the AfD’s party congress, its state board was re-elected. Yet, observers expect a power struggle within the AfD as two factions – the reactionary and the outright neofascist – battle with each other. 

The AfD’s current chairman, member of Germany’s federal parliament, and known petty criminal – Frank Rinck – is set to be replaced by his former deputy Ansgar Schledde. Currently, party apparatchik Schledde is in the pickles for illegal financing campaign. Paradoxically, the AfD prides itself to represent “law-&-order”.

Meanwhile, the most prominent politician of the AfD – Björn Höcke – presents himself as being naïve. A neo-Nazi Führer who knows nothing of Adolf Hitler’s birthday! 

In addition, the AfD’s “Führer” and candidate for this state’s election – to be held on September 1st – is forced to answer to the Halle Regional Court. 

The reason for his court appearance is his use of the Nazi-slogan, “Everything for Germany” [Alles für Deutschland] in two speeches (read: hate speeches). The slogan was coined by the top leadership of Hitler’s violent street-fighting thugs called “Sturmabteilung” or SA. Hitler’s paramilitary combat squad enforcing Hitler’s Nazi party ideology played a decisive role in Hitler’s rise to power with the generous help of Germany’s conservatives. It is for the reason of Germany’s Nazi history that the use of the Alles für Deutschland slogan is prohibited in Germany.

Yet, Höcke continues to assert that he did not know anything about the origin of the slogan. Interestingly, he did not mention his very own neo-Nazi past. That was a time when he wrote under the name Landolf Ladig

The neo-Nazi turned AfD-Führer also claimed to have modified his speech to “everything for our homeland, everything for Saxony-Anhalt, everything for Germany”. In short, Björn Höcke shouted the illegal SA-slogan to his adoring supporters. The story continues when in December 2023, Höcke shouted only the first part of the Nazi slogan, “Alles für…” encouraging his audience to complete the Nazi slogan by continuing with “…Germany”

Furthermore, Björn Höcke must also answer for his use of insignias of unconstitutional and terrorist organization – Hitler’s SA.

In recent televised debate against the Thuringian conservative CDU candidate Mario Voigt, Höcke claimed only to have “freely translated” Donald Trump’s slogan “America First” into German for his campaign speech. This is, yet another, lame duck excuse for a history teacher and court-certified fascist. When asked about his Nazi slogan, he quickly and shrewdly assured TV-viewers that he did not know that it was an SA slogan. 

Certainly, neither German history teachers nor German neo-Nazis would know anything about the SA.

Back in Unterlüß, the AfD’s party congress took place in a local community hall called “Bürgerhaus Südheide in Unterlüß”. People from all over northern Germany were expected in Unterlüß on Saturday, 20 April for an anti-AfD rally ran under the motto, “together against the right – for a diverse society!”. In the 3,700 strong village of the neo-Nazi party congress, 1.500 anti-far-right protesters had already registered in the days before the rally. No less than 34 local anti-far-right organizations have supported the anti-right-wing extremist rally. Meanwhile, the local Trade Union Confederation had posted a hashtag “#noafd” on Instagram and published directions to the location of the anti-far-right rally.

Similarly, Germany’s environmental party – The Greens – also supported the rally under the motto, “stand up for diversity and human dignity”, announcing – on Instagram – a joint arrival at Lüneburg train station on the day of the rally. Members of the IG Metall union would also be present. Thorben Peters – state chairman of “Die Linke” party – has listed democratic organisations that would take part in the anti-AfD protest. These range from human rights groups to local youth associations, to the famous “Grandmas Against the Far-Right”, and to the reputable “VVN-BdA”.

They all agree that the AfD’s party congress on Hitler’s birthday in the immediate vicinity of one of Bergen-Belsen’s satellite concentration camps, must be challenged. 

Historians have outlined the special role of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in the Nazi’s concentration camp system. Part of all this was the Tannenberg concentration camp in Unterlüß

In the end, Germany’s democratic organizations and institutions have set in motion a powerful assembly of anti-far-right groups rallying against Germany’s most popular far-right party – the AfD – currently still sitting at 17% to 19% of voter support.

Born on the foothills of Castle Frankenstein, Thomas Klikauer (PhD) is the author of a book on the AfD.

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