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Film shines light on neo-Nazi music scene

Published: 11 Oct 2012 09:55 GMT+02:00

For much of this year, the German media has been awash with news of the National Socialist Underground (NSU), a neo-Nazi terrorist group thought to have murdered at least ten people over a decade. The NSU's existence only became public when two of their members committed suicide after police cornered them following a botched bank robbery.

Many media outlets treated the revelation as surprising new evidence of an armed far-right underground network, but one undercover journalist has been investigating the scene for years, filming footage from neo-Nazi concerts that showed a flourishing music scene and a growing readiness for violence.

Along with Ohlendorf, Thomas Kuban (an alias) made the footage into a documentary, which, other than being screened at the 2012 Berlin Film Festival, is yet to receive widespread attention. The title of the film, “Blood Must Flow,” is taken from a track repeatedly played at concerts.

Kuban spent six years dressing as what he called a “typical fascist pig” and wangling invites to secret concerts, where he secretly caught images of braying crowds and hundreds of arms raised in the Sieg Heil salute. He risked his life every time, Ohlendorf told The Local.

Seeing hall after hall of self-declared “Aryan warriors” chanting along with lyrics like “we shit on the freedom of this Jewish republic,” – Kuban and Ohlendorf hoped to help open Germany's eyes to homegrown extremism and the role music plays in recruiting young people to the far-right.

In fact, the film shows a thriving neo-Nazi music industry. Over 100 records are released each year from around 30 specialist record labels and there are countless online shops where merchandise is sold along with the music.

Hidden and ignored

But the scene remains largely ignored, and not one German television channel has opted to air the documentary despite its unsettling content. Ohlendorf says this has nothing to do with the often shaky camera work and questionable soundtrack, but to a lack of mainstream interest. “You have to ask what media outlets want, just to drive traffic?” he asked.

“People are more interested in religious extremism and would rather be distracted by that than concentrate on what's going on under their noses,” he explained. “When Muslims are made out to be the dangerous ones, then politicians are playing into the hands of neo-Nazis.”

In the film, Kuban can be seen at a number of Bavarian Interior Ministry press conferences, asking politicians what they are doing to stop neo-Nazis. Often they simply dismiss him and move the discussion on.

The police also feature heavily in “Blood Must Flow,” and Ohlendorf thinks that they are also being far too passive. “Often action from the police at these events is more of a token gesture,” he said.

This is evident in the film, where police officers are seen waiting outside concerts. “We'll wait until they do something illegal,” one says, as a crowd of hundreds roar along to a band urging them to kill Turks. “We'll just let them finish the party,” said another.

Door to the far-right

Ohlendorf believes that not only do the lyrics incite violence, the music is actively used to recruit young Germans for the far-right scene. “In villages, where there is often little else to do, recruitment starts with the offer of free beer and live music,” he said.

But what was perhaps more shocking for the 51-year-old director was the well-educated Germans that Kuban met on his travels. “It's not just skinheads at the concerts, but intellectual people whose involvement is threatening to bring neo-Nazism into the mainstream.”

“People have lost trust in the government and are starting to think politicians are only bothered about money,” he said. But he added that responsibility should not just be passed off onto the state - the police and the public should also raise awareness and “take control of their own destiny.”

After revelations about the extent of the NSU murders broke last year, many editorials argued that, when it came to fascist activity, the country suffered from a “blindness in the right eye” - as the German phrase has it. But Ohlendorf thinks this eye has never really been open. Moves to ban the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party are yet to come to fruition, but even that – the “legitimate” political face of neo-Nazism - is just one head of the hydra.

“Banning the NPD is just one aspect, but what is important is how we combat day-to-day far-right violence,” he says.

He sees one positive model in the Berlin police force, whose zero-tolerance policy on extremism is a model that police forces and intelligence authorities should adopt in the rest of the country.

Anti-fascist jester

During the filming, the pair also met a group of vigilantes who managed to stop an annual far-right festival from being held in their village.

“There are lots of engaged citizens, but there needs to be more who stand up against racism,” says Ohlendorf. Prevention, he added, was vital, and should start as early as possible. Ohlendorf spent the summer touring schools with his film, and discussing it with pupils. “Generally the film was well-received, but in most schools there were one or two who watch the film and say 'yeah, but..foreigners,' ” Ohlendorf explained.

Meanwhile, Kuban remains undercover after receiving death threats from neo-Nazis who found out they had been secretly taped. He still disguises himself in a mustard-yellow suit, wig, and sunglasses when he goes to press conferences.

“The outfit was supposed to provoke a reaction,” said Ohlendorf. “It's meant to give him the role of a jester, who was the only person in a royal court allowed to tell the truth. His outfit made him into a lighthouse shining on the fact that there was a huge deficiency of information on neo-Nazis.”

Kuban explains in the film that setting foot in the concert venues never stopped being terrifying. If anyone in the audience spotted the cables inside his coat, he could well have been beaten up, or worse. But this was, he and Ohlendorf felt, a necessary risk.

For Ohlendorf, ignoring the far-right has only served to create an environment in which underground networks like the NSU can grow. Without action, new groups could easily emerge to take their place.

Jessica Ware

jessica.ware@thelocal.com

twitter.com/jesscware

Watch a clip from Blood Must Flow here:

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

12:29 October 11, 2012 by herr_james
brave man. well done!

total admiration for this guy's willingness to enter the wolves' den and try to hold a mirror up to our society. interesting to see the intellectual element involved— this is not just attracting poor thugs.

nationalism is certainly not unique to germany. this poisonous message is flowing everywhere. it fills the cracks in societies built on a materialism that can only ever offer quality of life for some, not all.

it is a sign of the times when hate is the most accessible path to joy.
13:55 October 11, 2012 by StoutViking
When a Jewish-American journalist infiltrated into a Neonazi cell in the 90's, no one made such a big fuss about it...

Wake me up when Luni gets another sentence. I'll ship him a Made in Israel soap on a rope.
17:10 October 11, 2012 by IchBinKönig
'it fills the cracks in societies built on a materialism that can only ever offer quality of life for some, not all.'

Why turn this into a social justice, welfare rant? Its the neo nazi scene. I don't think they are much interested in the new iPhone. But I guess that's how you've been conditioned to see all problems, from a purely socialistic bent. Where a lack of 'free' money and services makes violence and anti-social behaviors understandable and acceptable.
19:23 October 11, 2012 by herr_james
aw, gee thanks— being trolled by IBK really makes me feel like i'm part of the local family now...

of course you're right. nationalism has never been related to social justice (not my terms, btw), welfare or ranters. how could anyone living in berlin see some sort of connection between these things and thriving nazis? oh, wait...

it makes much more sense to draw a line from new iphones to free money and services, string it to a bow of "accepting anti-social behaviours" (again, do not recall mentioning anything about acceptance) and fire barbs of "being conditioned", or "socialist" at me. oh ouch. and so much more relative to the topic... how?

so i guess you worked real hard for your money to be so justified in your anti-social behaviour?

fyi: obviously neo-nazis love the iphone —duh! android is too open-source. fool.
16:34 October 12, 2012 by henry1544
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
19:10 October 12, 2012 by Berliner1978
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
21:34 October 12, 2012 by gtaglia
There seems to be a lot of effort devoted to making neo-nazi groups appear to be much larger and more dangerous than they are. These people have the right to believe and say whatever they please, regardless of how much they deviate from the "norm". The pressures to have everyone educated in the same theories, to think alike, act alike and support the present power structure are destroying personal liberty. independent thought and society in general.
08:39 October 13, 2012 by nightynight
The far right is a sign of a healthy, free society, and will always be with us. Despising the German republic is a valid opinion - urging people to kill Turks isn't.

I am dismayed by reading some of the comments here against Muslims - do the commenters realise that they sound just as narrow-minded as the worst kind of liberals?
02:44 October 14, 2012 by Valkyrie1944
Have you German journalists not learned from your history?

Nazism was never a right wing movement, but a Leftist national socialist struggle against the Soviet model.

Any attempt by the State, or by actors in an attempt to influence the State to infringe on the liberty of free peoples, is by definition Left Wing.

You missed the lesson of World War Two: It is noble to fight evil by all means available to the total destruction of Leftists.

It pains me that I did not learn this lesson from my German-born mother, but from my American-born father who saw combat on Okinawa, and later served in the Occupation of Germany, and from my own service in Germany from 1982-1988.

Gott und Volk.
12:35 October 15, 2012 by b-c
@Berliner1978:

They would turn to romanis, jews, homosexuals, communists/anarchists etc, instead. The list is long. But you were just trolling about something obvious, right?

@Valkyrie1944:

I suggest you read about marxism, how fascism came about and what it stands for, what a state is. Maybe not focus so much on what is "left" or "right". If you really believe the nazis were leftist you have a lot to learn. Doesn't matter what military service you or your dad did (I don't see your point there) - you are still politically very very confused.
03:54 October 17, 2012 by wendyb
This has nothing to do with lack of free money or social services. It stems from atheism. These young people have no solid foundation in their lives. They have turned away from God and the Bible and there is no telling how deeply rooted this behaviour can go. Take it seriously. Probably not too many took Hitler seriously in the beginning.
10:23 October 17, 2012 by Firmino
Neo-nazism caused by atheism? Now I've heard it all. First of all, what makes you say these people are atheists? Second, lots of far right and violent movements were also fiercely Christian.
10:39 October 20, 2012 by soros
For those of us who can still read a whole book, cover to cover that is, Eric Hoffer wrote an interesting analysis of what brings individuals to fanatical mass movements, Left, Right, Islamic or other: The True Believer (1951). His observations are still relevant and suggest that such people will always be with us because they always have been.
16:34 October 29, 2012 by Beachspirit
Germany has ignored its past for the most part it seems. Ignoring elements like this for decades has turned into a large problem and its spreading. I guess we have to wait for them to start knocking off foreigners in large masses, before the government deals with this problem.

Germans are good from history for blaming foreigners for their problems.
15:21 November 2, 2012 by Floriansamsel
soros: great comment - thanks!

As a matter of fact, the stupid and ignorant will never die out. They just believe what they want to believe in. Period.
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