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POLITICS

Neo-Nazi clothes brand opens ‘Brevik’ shop

Clothing brand Thor Steinar, notoriously worn by neo-Nazis, has opened a shop in eastern Germany called Brevik - a name just one letter removed from that of the far-right terrorist who killed 77 people in Norway last year.

Neo-Nazi clothes brand opens 'Brevik' shop
Another Thor Steinar shop in Hamburg, closed in 2008, Photo: DPA

German daily Die Welt reported that complaints are flooding in from residents and politicians about the shop in the town Chemnitz, outraged at what appears to be a deliberate act of provocation by a brand commonly associated with the far-right scene.

“This scandalous choice of name has shown a new level of aggression, and violent right-wing tendencies from Thor Steinar,” said local politician Hanka Kliese of the centre-left Social Democratic Party.

The chain has defended itself by pointing out that it names all its branches after places in Norway and that they named their newest branch, opened last Thursday, after the village of Brevik, south of Oslo.

Indeed, the company previously had a shop called “Brevik” in Hamburg, though it was closed in 2008.

But critics say this is not enough to explain the choice of a name that is almost identical to that of Norwegian right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik, who shot dead dozens of teenagers on the island of Utoya and bombed Oslo city centre last year.

“Having a shop with this name is a catastrophe,” Katja Uhlemann, spokeswoman for Chemnitz council told The Local. “We are in contact with the company that rents out the building and are putting every measure necessary in place to get it shut down but it might prove difficult as it is a private rental company.”

“Legally, we have no power to shut the store down, but we can see from the closing of Thor Steinar shops in other towns that it is possible,” she added.

The rental company told local newspaper Die Freie Presse that when they first saw the sign above the door, their “blood ran cold.” They said they had not known the Thor Steinar company’s reputation.

Local politicians are particularly concerned about the damaging effect the shop may have on Chemnitz. Neighbouring town Zwickau is already in the media spotlight for having been home to a group of neo-Nazi mass murderers unmasked last year.

A protest is set to take place on Wednesday outside the Brevik shop – which lies in a student-populated area of Chemnitz – and has been planned by the local authorities in the hope that it will drive the company out of the city as soon as possible.

The Local/jcw

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POLITICS

Can German Chancellor Scholz create a Merkel-like buzz at the G7 in Bavaria?

The last time Germany hosted a G7 summit, then-chancellor Angela Merkel produced a series of viral images with Barack Obama, clinking giant mugs in a traditional Bavarian beer garden and communing against a verdant Alpine backdrop.

Can German Chancellor Scholz create a Merkel-like buzz at the G7 in Bavaria?

Her successor Olaf Scholz, hobbled in domestic opinion polls and of modest global stature, may struggle to match that convivial atmosphere when leaders gather again from Sunday.

The centrist Scholz, 64, assumed the presidency of the Group of Seven rich countries in January, just a month after taking office in Berlin.

Since then his handling of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, soaring inflation and energy supply complications have put his government to the test while sending his approval ratings plunging.

READ ALSO: Opinion – Scholz is already out of step at Germany – it’s time for a change of course

Scholz told parliament on Wednesday he was ready to seize the three days of talks at the Elmau Castle mountain resort – the same remote, picturesque venue Merkel chose in 2015 – to burnish Germany’s global image and the standing of the West.

“In Europe’s biggest security crisis for decades, Germany as the economically strongest and most populous country in the EU is assuming special responsibility – and not just for its own security but also for the security of its allies,” he said.

A series of summits in the coming days must show “that G7, EU and NATO are as united as ever” and that the “democracies of the world are standing together in the fight against (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s imperialism,” Scholz said.

READ ALSO: Germany tightens border controls ahead of G7 summit

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives at the EU summit in Brussels on June 23rd.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives at the EU summit in Brussels on June 23rd 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AP | Olivier Matthys

‘Merkel tradition’

Joachim Trebbe, a professor of political communication at Berlin’s Free University, said Scholz had a “huge opportunity” with the G7 to dispel any doubts about his leadership skills or resolve against the Russian president.

“At the start of his term and even when the war began, Scholz was quite reserved – perhaps a little bit in the tradition of Ms Merkel,” a
still-popular conservative the Social Democratic chancellor has sought to emulate, Trebbe said.

She also “tended to manage crises and didn’t pay much attention to informing the media at every step”.

Former US President Barack Obama and ex-German Chancellor Angela Merkel sit during a concert visit in Elmau (Bavaria) in June 2015 as part of the G7 summit.

Former US President Barack Obama and ex-German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a concert visit in Elmau (Bavaria) in June 2015 during the G7 summit. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

After accusations of foot-dragging, Scholz’s attempts at a reset were on display during a long-delayed visit to Kyiv last week, joined by the leaders of France, Italy and Romania.

A journalist from the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung travelling with the chancellor noted that he had a tendency to make gaffes under pressure – like “an old tap that either releases ice-cold or boiling water”.

‘Symbols’

His trouble finding the middle ground had led him to exercise too much caution when it came to sending weapons to Ukraine, or too little, as when on a visit to Lithuania this month he significantly overstated German arms deliveries.   

The chancellor, whose sometimes robotic style has earned him the nickname Scholzomat, has also found himself outflanked in his own unwieldy ruling coalition of his Social Democrats (SPD), ecologist Greens and liberal Free Democrats.

A poll this week showed that the Greens – with popular Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Economy Minister Robert Habeck, both credited with clearer messaging on Ukraine — were leading the SPD in voter intentions for the first time since July 2021.

Both parties, however, are currently trailing the conservative opposition, which has relentlessly criticised Scholz’s Ukraine and energy policies as too timid.

READ ALSO: Why has Germany been so slow to deliver weapons to Ukraine?

Trebbe said that initiatives at the G7 bearing Scholz’s imprint on issues including future political and economic support for Ukraine, climate
protection and strengthening democracies worldwide were crucial if he hoped to gain political tailwinds from the summit.

But he said the gathering was nearly as much about generating images, such as the instant meme of Merkel, arms outstretched, explaining her world view to a nonchalant Obama, draped in repose on a wooden bench.

“That’s where symbols of unity, common strategy and strong leadership are created,” Trebbe said.

“I’m pretty sure Scholz has a team of professionals ready to take full advantage of that aspect of the summit.”

By Deborah COLE

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