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NAZIS

Teachers ‘need help to fight youth extremism’

Attempts to prevent young Germans from getting into right-wing extremism are failing because of poor coordination and sporadic financing say experts.

Teachers 'need help to fight youth extremism'
Photo: DPA

Though all German children discuss the Third Reich as part of their school curriculum, not enough is being taught about modern ideas of human rights and discrimination – and teachers are often poorly equipped to counteract the extreme right wing’s aggressive recruiting of young people, the experts said.

“Short term projects which are time-limited from year to year are not enough,” said Eva-Maria Stange, a member of Saxony’s state legislature. “We need a stable structure.”

The November revelation of a neo-Nazi terror cell – three people are suspected of killing a policewoman and at least 9 people with a migration background between 2000 and 2007 – has heightened calls for authorities to do more to prevent young people from being lured into a life of extremism.

Finding solutions will take some effort, said the experts who have called for a consistent, large-scale effort to coordinate a fight against extremism among youth.

Freiburg University of Education sociologist Albert Scherr said there should be a federally funded foundation that spearheads anti-discrimination education efforts. Scherr said schools should incorporate more human rights and anti-racism education into the core curriculum.

Hans-Gerd Jaschke, an expert on right-wing extremists at the Berlin School of Economics and Law also said a rethink of how children are educated both in and out of school is necessary.

“The education in schools is very much fixated on the theme of the Third Reich and National Socialism,” he said, calling for more extensive training of teachers.

But the tentacles of the extreme right also extend into leisure activities such as sports teams, where funding has been cut by 20 percent over the years, Jaschke said.

“The strength of the right scene is the weakness of democratic youth work that is the responsibility of the state,” he said.

The key to winning this fight, said Thomas Krüger, president of the Federal Agency for Civic Education, could be better coordination.

“We must systematically identify important prevention projects and fund them sustainably,” he said. “Federal and state governments must cooperate more closely and better coordinate the finances and contents of their programs.”

The Local/DPA/mdm

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NAZIS

German justice contaminated by Nazis in post-war years

Germany's justice system was still filled with former Nazis well into the 1970s, as the Cold War coloured efforts to root out fascists, according a damning official inquiry presented Thursday.

Professors Friedrich Kießling and Christoph Safferling present their report
Professors Friedrich Kießling and Christoph Safferling present their report "State Security in the Cold War". Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Uwe Anspach

In the 600-page collection of findings entitled “State Security in the Cold War”, historian Friedrich Kiessling and legal scholar Christoph Safferling focused on the period from the early 1950s until 1974.

Their research found that between 1953 and 1959, around three in four top officials at the federal prosecutor’s office, which commissioned the report, had belonged to the Nazi party.

More than 80 percent had worked in Adolf Hitler’s justice apparatus, and it would take until 1972 before they were no longer in the majority.

“On the face of it they were highly competent lawyers… but that came against the backdrop of the death sentences and race laws in which they were involved,” said Margaretha Sudhof, state secretary at the justice ministry, unveiling the report.

“These are disturbing contradictions to which our country has long remained blind.”

‘Combat mission’

It was not until 1992, two years after Germany’s national reunification, that the last prosecutor with a fascist background left the office.

“There was no break, let alone a conscious break, with the Nazi past” at the federal prosecutor’s office, the authors concluded, stressing “the great and long continuity” of the functions held and “the high number” of officials involved in Hitler’s regime.

Chief federal prosecutor Peter Frank commissioned the study in 2017. The federal prosecutor’s office is one of Germany’s most powerful institutions, handling the most serious national security cases including those involving terrorism and espionage.

With more than 100 prosecutors, it is “the central actor in the fight against terror,” the report authors said, underlining its growing role in the decades since the September 11th, 2001 attacks in the United States.

The researchers were given unfettered access to hundreds of files labelled classified after the war, and found that rooting out alleged communists was often prioritised over other threats, including from the far right.

“In the 1950s the federal prosecutor’s office had a combat mission – not a legal but a political one: to pursue all the communists in the country,” the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung said in a summary of the report.

‘Recycling’ Nazis

The fact that West Germany widely used former officials from the Nazi regime in its post-war administration had long been known.

For example, Hans Globke served as chief of staff and a trusted confidant to former conservative West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer between 1953 and 1963 and was responsible for recruitment to top posts.

However, Globke had also been a senior civil servant in the Nazi-era interior ministry and was involved in the drafting of the 1935 Nuremberg race laws that imposed the first dramatic restrictions on Jews.

In recent years, systematic digging into the past of key ministries and institutions has unearthed a troubling and previously hidden degree of “recycling” of Third Reich officials in the post-war decades.

A 2016 government report revealed that in 1957, more than a decade after the war ended, around 77 percent of senior officials at the justice ministry had been members of the Nazi party. That study, also carried out by Safferling, revealed that the number of former Nazis at the ministry did not decline after the fall of the regime but actually grew in the 1950s.

Part of the justification was cynical pragmatism: the new republic needed experienced civil servants to establish the West German justice system. Furthermore, the priorities of the Allies who won the war and “liberated” the country from the Nazis were quickly turned upside down in the Cold War context.

After seeking to de-Nazify West Germany after 1945, the aim quickly shifted to building a capitalist bulwark against the communist threat. That approach often meant turning a blind eye to Germans’ previous involvement in the Third Reich.

In recent years, Germany has embarked on a twilight attempt to provide justice for concentration camp victims, placing several former guards in their 90s on trial for wartime crimes.

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