Friday, November 15, 2013

Extreme Communities - Jamel, Germany

With Nazism officially being banned in Germany, as it is throughout much of Europe, you might think that it would have been relegated to a thing of the past these days, an unfortunate chapter in history. After all, Nazism has largely been discredited in the eyes of almost everyone.


But, it is no secret that there are always a few idiots, right? And Germany has had a few incidents where there have been vivid reminders of bad memories, where old prejudices seem to rise back up to the surface, to say the least.

Unbelievably, however, there is one town in Germany where Nazism is hardly a thing of the past. It is a village where straight arm salutes and Nazi symbols can be relatively easily found, and where a racist regime that fell nearly seventy years ago after the capital city of the "Thousand Year Reich" was reduced to rubble seems somehow not that long ago, and not nearly as discredited as it is everywhere else.

Welcome to Jamel.

Jamel is a part of the municipality of Gägelow, in what used to be East Germany. Germany is still a relatively prosperous country, and probably the one that is in best shape presently in the struggling European continent. In the region, there is considerable economic struggles, with high unemployment and few prospects. Perhaps, then, it is less surprising that this region is one where formerly discredited and seemingly unmentionable neo-Nazism has suddenly been making news as of late.

In this small village, neo-Nazis have apparently found a home.

Outright shows of Nazism has been outlawed n Germany for a very long time now, yet these residents manage to avoid such outright symbols and ties. The message is clear enough, but it is done with just enough subtlety that the authorities really cannot do anything about it, other than get irritated and monitor the community.

This town has some strange goings on, with a banner reading "Happy Holocaust", and with half the population supporting extreme right wing parties. There is a homemade sign reading:

"Braunau am Inn 855 kilometres"

Braunau am Inn was the birthplace of Adolf Hitler.

It may all seem almost like a joke, but, according to Mary Pappenfuss of Newser:

"No one's laughing if it's "a joke." A VBS TV reporter out to discover how crazily right wing a neo-Nazi German town is stumbled upon an outdoor cooking grill emblazoned with the words "Happy Holocaust." The small town of Jamel in northeastern Germany is known as a place where Hitler salutes are sometimes spotted, where outsiders are chased away, and where strange shooting practices take place in the woods. At least 50% of the population supports neo-Nazis or the National Democratic Party."

Is everyone in Jamel a neo-Nazi?

No, actually. But no one can deny that neo-Nazis have made a concerted effort to make this town exclusively for neo-Nazis and their sympathizers. Tony Paterson of the United Kingdom's journal, "The Independent" reports on the Lohmeyers, one of the few remaining families that have not left Jamel, despite the takeover by neo-Nazis:

"Horst and Birgit Lohmeyer are the exception in Jamel. Six years ago, the couple moved from Hamburg to their secluded house on the edge of the village, hoping for a life of rural bliss. Their expectations were soon shattered. "A few months after we arrived, the far right started driving out the locals and buying up the houses en masse," said Mrs Lohmeyer. "They want to turn this place into a Nazi-only village.""

But right wing extremism is hardly a minor matter in Germany. Violence by right wing extremists is sharply on the rise, and the extrem right wing National Democratic Party (NDP) has gained seats in the local parliaments of Saxony and Mecklenburg-Verpommern. And more people polled (1/5th, according to fairly recent surveys) say that they would like a strong leader, a Fuhrer, to take care of the nation's problems. Many Germans cite immigrations, specifically by those from Muslim nations, as the leading problem.

Right in the middle of all of this, literally and figuratively, is Jamel. Maximillian Popp of Spiegel Online International reported in his article, "Right-Wing Extremism: The Village Where The Neo-Nazis Rule":

"Jamel is an example of the far-right problem that has plagued Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania for years. The rural region, once part of communist East Germany, has a poor reputation in this regard -- the NPD, which glorifies the Third Reich, has been in the state parliament since 2006 and neo-Nazi crimes are part of daily life. In recent months, a series of attacks against politicians from all the democratic parties has shaken the state. Sometimes hardly a week goes by without an attack on another electoral district office, with paint bombs, right-wing graffiti and broken windows."

Of course, in these trends, Germany is hardly alone. Look at the rise of the Golden Dawn in Greece, or the anti-Semitic comments by prominent members of the Hungarian government. In fact, there have been quite a few trends like this common to several European nations.

Yet, it seems particularly troubling given Germany's history. And it also makes you wonder how an entire town seems almost to have gone to the neo-Nazis. How and why did this happen? Yes, extremism has always existed in Germany, as elsewhere. But given the nation's not that distant past, how can Nazism be on the rise? And who is responsible for Jamel's transformation from an idyllic village in tranquil surroundings into a neo-Nazi hellhole?

Once again, Tony Paterson of the United Kingdom's journal, "The Independent" reports:

"The man behind Jamel's transformation into a model neo-Nazi village is a local demolition contractor and NPD politician called Sven Krüger, who was elected a local councillor in the region of north-west Mecklenburg in 2009. Mr Krüger, who has a string of convictions, makes little secret of his political beliefs. His demolition company logo shows a sledgehammer shattering what appears to be a Star of David. Mr Krüger and his supporters usually celebrate Hitler's birthday and the summer solstice by holding a large party at which banned Nazi-era songs are sung. A neo-Nazi wedding held on his premises in the summer attracted more than 400 far right supporters. In August state prosecutors searched his premises and confiscated photographs of German Jewish community members that appeared to have been used as targets for shooting practice."

Now, Jamel is, predictably, a far right wing pilgrimmage site, seen by neo-Nazis as a liberated zone of sorts. Jamel keeps slipping further and further into the hands of extremists.

Perhaps Mayor Uwe Wandel best expresses the worry of many, as says he's appalled by how far these right-wing structures now extend. "I'm afraid of a second, third, fourth Jamel," he says.

Below are some of the links and articles that I used in writing this blog entry:

Here is another interesting article on the town ("Right-Wing Extremism: The Village Where The Neo-Nazis Rule" by Maximilian Popp), this one from a German publication, the Spiegel Online International, from January 3, 2011:

An article ("Germany's Neo-Nazi Underground") from the BBC, dated December 6, 2011:

Here is an article (Jamel, Neo-Nazi Village, Shocks Germany")  in the Huffington Post, by David Rising, from February 7, 2011, about Jamel:

Here is another interesting article on the town ("Right-Wing Extremism: The Village Where The Neo-Nazis Rule" by Maximilian Popp), this one from a German publication, the Spiegel Online International, from January 3, 2011:

Another article from the Spiegel Online International, this one from September 4, 2007 ("Right-Wing Rot: A Village in the Hands of Neo-Nazis" by Philipp Wittrock):

An article (Germany's neighbours from hell")  by Tony Paterson of The Independent, a British publication, from October 19, 2010:

Mary Papenfuss of Newser reports "Neo-Nazi Town Home of "Happy Holocaust" BBQ", September 6, 2011:

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