Interview with Steven

I grew up in a village with 1000 inhabitants in a rather deserted, infrastructurally weak area in Thuringia. In the schoolyard we always exchanged cassettes and CDs - there were all sorts of music styles, including, at some point, right-wing extremist music. I wondered why they were such blatant lyrics, why people should be put on the wall and hung up (as the lyrics say), but it was more of a fascination than a deterrent. That was around the year 2000, I was about 13 years old. This music was actually my first contact (with the scene). The lyrics suggested: That is a kind of forbidden fruit we hear there. And music for an elite. That impressed me a lot at that time. The lyrics promised that we would reach a world that is a better world. If everyone would think like me or like us, then the world would be better off. From the present point of view a very naive faith. In the lyrics one has always heard: "You have to do something". One saw oneself in a final battle of our people, our nation, our race, as it were repeated again and again in the texts, and I actually wanted to actively shape something.

Whereby actually the complete youth culture in the place on the right was shaped: in the football club, in which I was and in which my father was the president, in the fire brigade association, in which I entered at that time, all young people in my place actually looked like one imagines classical skinheads, with bomber jacket and jumper boots. They did not go to demonstrations and were not really politically active, but we met on the village square, which was also the meeting place for young people, drank beer and always listened to this music.

At some point I was bored with this village marotte. People were drinking and listening to the music, but nothing really changed. Through a friend at that time I got to know a group that called themselves “Comradeship”. While before they were still pestering each other in the village, I was welcomed in Comradeship with open arms and really almost brotherly. I also found it fascinating what the people, who were all about as old as me, told me what demonstration they were at or where they wanted to go or where they would fly. I found everything very exciting and then I went more and more to this city, Zella-Mehlis in Thuringia, and was quickly accepted into the group. This was actually my "second" first contact. The people were different than the young people from the village. They actively did something. I could take part myself, try out the ideology and write political statements I got some texts that I found exciting. There I found a form of activism in which I felt very comfortable.

My appearance changed very quickly. I wanted to show everyone what I was thinking and ordered my first - compared to later - rather harmless scene shirts. One of them had "Odin instead of Jesus" on it or the other one had the band Screwdriver on it. Then I told my parents, I need new fire department boots, and they bought me these immediately, they just wondered why I put white shoelaces in the boots, they said, but perceived it more as a youth marotte and not as a scene code. When I was 14, I was ordained a teenager and drove with my mother to a well-known scene shop nearby, and she bought me at that time completely unsuspectingly Doc Martens steel cap shoes, a Harrington jacket and a Ku Klux Klan sweater. Those were the clothes that everyone, who saw themselves as skinheads or Nazis wore back then. That's how I went to this consecration ceremony.

That my parents recognized my ideological conviction came relatively late and by chance when I was 16 years old. We were on one of our few family holidays because my parents worked a lot, and my mother grabbed my Discman and my headphones on a whim and was suddenly horrified by the lyrics. Maybe she suspected something before, but there it fell from her eyes like scales. They then tried to talk to me and intervene. However, it was almost impossible to dissuade me, and also because I was sworn in by my comradeship: "Everyone from outside is against me, everyone out there is blinded anyway, and of course my parents are blinded, too". My father, for example, tried to say about the Shoah: "How can you like what happened there? I justified that back then and denied the Holocaust and found other answers. My parents simply didn't have the tools to talk to me about it. The only one who really tried quite profoundly to dissuade me from my ideology at that time was my great-grandmother. She saw me on TV when I was on a demo and was incredibly scared. I grew up with her and suddenly her great-grandson was a Neo-Nazi.

She then sat down at her table with me in her little kitchen and told me about her own youth. She was neither a member of the NSDAP party nor in the resistance, she simply told me her story, for example how a Jewish woman was dragged out of her house and across the street by the hair of her head on Reichspogromnacht in the neighboring town and finally her belongings were burned and she was deported. Or how her friends died either in the war or in the bombings. For example, she only found a foot in a friend's shoe after one of the bombings. I told her back then that I didn't like the fact that so many people have died, but I have justified it with the fact that the Germans were forced to go to war. My great- grandmother was really close to tears because I dismissed it in that way. From this point of view, I am incredibly sorry for how indifferent I was to her at the time, but I was so eager to justify it.

When I got into the scene and especially into camaraderie, I moved further and further away from my old friends and withdrew further and further from my family, because in camaraderie, as I myself called it then, I found my "chosen family", which actually meant everything to me. It's hard to say what was more interesting for me: political activism, ideology or the group. From the present point of view, I see it as an amalgam, as something that is fused into itself. The ideology and the group form a whole. We have reproduced this group idea from the National Socialism: "You are nothing, your people are everything", or: "Public interest before self-interest. Even now I would say that I never again had such a group feeling as I did then. I don't want to trivialize time with that. It welds together to understand itself as a community of destiny that is in a defensive struggle. I would have died for the people at that time. If day X, as we called it then, had come when the current system would have collapsed and there would have been fights or wars, I would have run into it with a roar. For that and for the group, for this comradeship, I would have given everything. But it wasn't until I left that it became clear what was really behind this group. That the group and the friendships only lasted as long as the political activism did. The best friends and comrades were the ones who later threatened me with death and who would still threaten me now if I came to certain areas. I didn't want to or couldn't understand that at that time - I was stunned and bewitched by this group and by the ideology.

Just as you have to see the exit as a long process, you have to see the entrance in a similar way. It takes an even longer process. That's how it worked for me: I joined this comradeship, we met every Friday for the comradeship evening. That was one of my most important events of the week. We sat either with a friend in the attic or with an old Nazi in the arbor. The comradeship evening was like this: There was an agenda and there was a comradeship leader who moderated the evening. First, we greeted each other, then we gave short lectures on a topic we had chosen ourselves - what we had just read or what we had been thinking about.

The topics were mostly focused on historical National Socialism, for example: What did the SS Division Dirlewanger do, or how did the Russian campaign in World War II go, or also a lecture on Michael Kühn, a well-known Neo-Nazi in Germany at the turn of the century.

Then we mostly talked about what is going to happen in the near future - what demonstrations, what actions can we take? e.g. flyer campaign or write new articles for our website. After that we had a good weekend and celebrated - we were drunk all the time during the weekend - except when we went to demonstrations. In the beginning we went twice a month to a demonstration.

At some point we went to demonstrations several times every weekend - one was mostly organized by ourselves and the other one was to support other right-wing extremists.

I did an apprenticeship as a butcher, but I was actually a Nazi 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I always thought about what still had to be done, even while I was at work. I was relatively ambitious in what I did, networked a lot and therefore already had a certain reputation. Apart from the comradeship evenings or the parties and concerts with right-wing extremist or Neo-Nazi bands, there were also cultural events. For example, we went together to important monuments for us, such as the Kyffhäuser Monument or the Hermanns Monument and took a look at them: What significance this has for us, what significance e.g. solstice celebrations have for us. Then at Christmas we held so-called Jul feasts, instead of the Christian celebration, because we rejected Christianity because of its Jewish roots. So the social life took place in this scene.

We financed ourselves partly by membership fees, so each person paid 20 euros per month and we also got support from parties such as the NPD, which did not support us with money but with contributions in kind. We were able to print flyers for them, or they gave us a car or arranged demonstrations together with us. But most of the money was raised through right- wing extremist concerts. We regularly organized these concerts. Sometimes every other week, sometimes every fourth and sometimes every sixth weeks. We charged 10 to 15 Euro entrance fee and of course we raised money by selling drinks. That was the biggest source of income ever. Even at small concerts it was from several hundred to several thousand euros. The biggest concerts I have witnessed have delivered six-digit amounts. A part of the money flows into the "underground work", where nobody really knew, so at least I did not know, what happens with this money. Only years later could I explain to myself that of course networks like the NSU could also be financed with this money.

But I personally did not earn any money with these sources of income. I worked during the whole time. For me it was also important that the money goes into political work.

The subject of violence is a very important one. The numbers of those killed by Neo-Nazis show that there was violence everywhere in Germany. I myself was violent until I was about 18 years old. This was "only" directed against political opponents, i.e. against the left. We regularly fought each other at city festivals or at the Men's Day, for example. At demonstrations I was also violent against the police. There it went against the authority of the state itself. But violence always plays an important role in the extreme right-wing or in the Neo-Nazi scene, because violence is always understood as legitimate violence.

I think it is important to distinguish between different forms of violence. It is not just about physical or psychological violence, which everyone knows, for example, to put pressure on people and fights. There are also two other, much more subtle forms of violence. If, for example, certain groups want to present themselves as moderately as possible, such as the identitarians wants to now, they are exercising structural violence. This refers to violence that does not primarily target individuals, but structurally suppresses people through power relations. Racism, for example, is structural violence. Ideological violence is the least respected. By this I mean that it is a matter of slowly transforming a society. One ties in with social prejudices and uses them in a socio-political sense. The goal is a shift in norms that is achieved with language. Certain phrases and statements - at first tabooed and not sayable - slowly become more and more sayable in social discourse and with the involvement of right- wing actors: If, for example, in connection with refugees, one only uses words that creates images of a natural catastrophe and speaks of refugee "waves" and "streams", then one dehumanizes the fugitives on the one hand and also gives the impression of being at the mercy of an overriding power here of uncontrollable nature, against which one has to defend oneself "naturally". This ideological violence, i.e. the slow transformation of social values and conventions and agreements, is often forgotten, but they are exercised by all right-wing actors. Right-wing actors achieve a clear norm shift with ideological violence: verbally, one always goes a bit further than what is socially recognized on average, then one just row back a little, then one goes a little further and back again a little. This means that each time the headscarf of Muslim women is discussed rather than the victims of racism being heard.

The ideological violence intervenes in the discourse. It leads to many more people, who have never themselves become violent when joining the right at some point. The fact that masses of people, for example in Saxony, have taken to the streets against refugees in recent years and attacked them is the result of ideological violence. There, one can trace very precisely how right-wing extremists have gradually secured large parts of these infrastructurally weak spaces and how they have also been met with people's understanding. It becomes particularly clear in those areas where there were active Neo-Nazi structures for a long time, because here most of the attacks happened, and especially the attacks on Refugees and their accommodations. There, the work of these groups has borne fruit.

That is why I feel partly responsible for the crimes that took place there. Even though I was not at an anti-refugee demonstration in 2015/2016, but I have been involved in this social climate for a long time.

In other words, the tactic of persuading people to take part in a demonstration was a thing of the past. We understood demonstrations mainly as proof of power. We can paralyze a city

- Berlin has been a good example - you can do a round in Berlin even though there are so many counterdemonstrations. But success is not measured by concrete numbers of participants. We are only allowed to walk around on the outskirts of some industrial district, but we don't reach the people in that way. That is why we have tried to influence people and draw their attention to ourselves through more subtle actions. Actually, this can be done in the context of what the identitaries are doing now. Back then, we tried to draw attention to ourselves through actions that were as media-rich as possible. The concept was still in its infancy, but by spreading our message through the media, we drew attention to ourselves. That is ideological violence, that is a form of mass control that too many people fall for.

The big media houses also play a shady role here. One example is Frohnmaier's portrait in the Süddeutsche-Zeitung magazine. I really wonder why it should be enough to accompany a right-wing extremist for a year and a half to find out that he is not a monster at all. Right- wing extremists and neo-Nazis are not monsters. That, of course, is a mistaken idea. But nonetheless I'm not giving that person any more attention. I don't have to spread it through my medium and print it in my newspaper to give them even more attention than what they should have. In this way I serve and support the media strategy of rights, which has also changed significantly in recent decades.

Actually, the right-wing media were still relatively marginal ten years ago. Now there are right-wing media publishers, who have their stand at book fairs, and there is no good reason for me to allow this to happen. It is not a question of denying people a discourse, but to whom their concern is to exploit the discourse and to win it over. They are not interested in a democratic exchange of positions, but in devaluing others and spreading their opinions.

They no longer even need their own media for this as other media, that have a huge reach, print it for them. Media that see themselves as left-liberal or conservative, but still reproduce right-wing positions.