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Oct 12, 2004 1:15 pm

Electoral Maps

Having raised some questions about the relationship between history, geography and partisan support in the US last week, the same questions are being raised in Germany. Two German states, Saxony and Brandenburg, have seen a rise in support for Rechtextremismus–reactionary right political groups. The success of the DNP in recent elections raised the specter that fascism was on the rise in Germany. The social conditions appear to mimic those of the early 1930s: deindustrialization, poor economic growth, unemployment. German politicians feared that the same circumstances might lead to an oppressive turn in the country.

I don’t think that the Bundesrepublik will make the same mistake as Weimar. The major parties, where necessary, are forming coalitions with each other in order to shut out extremists (this would include communists as well as ultra-nationalists). In Cologne, the Christian Democrats even attempted a coalition with the Greens.

The truth is that Rechtextremismus has been limited to the eastern states of Germany–those that made up the former DDR. Recent elections in North Rhine-Westpahlia did not show growing support for fringe political parties. One NY Times report notes how a city in the Ruhr has resisted extremism, even as the residents question the leadership of the Social Democrats whom they have followed for decades. In parts of Germany where the Christian Democrats dominate, residents question its leadership. Support for the major parties is wavering, but most voters are looking to smaller parties that are not on the fringes: notably the Greens and the FDP. Together, these smaller parties are joining coalitions with larger parties in order to solidify the center of the political spectrum.

The appeal of Rechtextremismus appears to be limited to the children of the children of the people who came under Soviet domination. These “children of the myth” were not denazified in the same manner as West Germans. Instead, they were told that attaining communism solved the problems that caused Nazism; the content and psychology that led to Nazism were not dealt with. Current partisan divisions were formed by the failure of commemoration in one part of Germany versus another. Consequently, they have no problem expressing their political concerns with the fullest aggression.

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