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Forty years ago, the President of the Federal Republic of Germany (then West Germany) Gustav Heinemann was asked if he loved his country.
"I do not love the state," President Heinemann replied. "I love my wife."
It was a sign of how reluctant Germans were back then (even the country's president) to display patriotism.
Times have changed. Today Germany celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Federal Republic, which rose out of the ashes of the Third Reich.
Beneath a leaden sky the solemn, black-clad crowd moves slowly towards a modest grey headstone. At one end of the grave, a flame casts light on the black lettering that is engraved on the marble. At the other end, an elderly soldier bends down to place flowers before standing to salute.
From all over Austria, people are here to pay their respects to their fallen hero. But the solemnity of the occasion is cut with tension. Beyond the crowd of about 300, armed police are in attendance. They keep a respectful distance but the rasping bark of Alsatians hidden in vans provides an eerie soundtrack as the crowd congregates in mist and light rain.
We’ve been warned that despite a heavy police presence journalists have often been attacked at these meetings. If trouble does come then the mob look ready to fight. There are bull-necked stewards and young men who swagger aggressively.
This is a neo-Nazi gathering and in the crowd are some of Austria’s most hard-faced fascists. Among them is Gottfried Kussel, a notorious thug who was the showman of Austria’s far-right movement in the Eighties and Nineties until he was imprisoned for eight years for promoting Nazi ideology.
Today he cuts a Don Corleone figure as he stands defiantly at the graveside. His neo-Nazi acolytes make sure no one comes near him and our photographer is unceremoniously barged out of his way.
Ominous-looking men with scars across their faces whisper to each other and shake hands. These are members of Austria’s Burschenschaften, an arcane, secretive organisation best known for its fascination with fencing, an initiation ceremony that includes a duel in which the opponents cut each other’s faces, and for its strong links to the far right.
Incredibly, standing shoulder to shoulder with these hard-line Nazi sympathisers are well known Austrian politicians. At the graveside, a speech is made by Lutz Weinzinger, a leading member of Austria’s Freedom Party (FPO), who pays tribute to the fallen.
This is a gathering in memory of an Austrian-born Nazi fighter pilot, who during WWII shot down 258 planes, 255 of them Russian. Such was Major Walter Nowotny’s standing at the time of his death in 1944 that the Nazi Party awarded him a grave of honour in Vienna’s largest cemetery, close to the musical legends Mozart, Brahms and Strauss.
But in 2005 that honour was revoked and his body moved to lie in an area of public graves. The decision infuriated the far right and made their annual pilgrimage an even greater event.
Today, the anniversary of Nowotny’s death, also coincides with Kristallnacht, the ‘night of broken glass’ in 1938 when 92 people were murdered and thousands attacked across Germany as stormtroopers set upon Jews in an outpouring of Nazi violence.
Some 70 years on from that infamous pogrom, the world faces a similar financial crisis to the one that precipitated the rise of Hitler and, in chilling echoes of Thirties Europe, support for far-right groups is exploding. Hitler’s birthplace has become the focus for neo-Nazis across the world.
And so I have come to Austria to investigate how Fascism and extremism are moving, unchecked, into the forefront of its society.
Last September, Austria’s far right gained massive political influence in an election that saw the FPO along with another far right party – Alliance For The Future (BZO) – gain 29 per cent of the vote, the same share as Austria’s main party, the Social Democrats. The election stirred up terrifying memories of the rise of the Nazi Party in the Thirties.
And just as the Nazis gained power on the back of extreme nationalism and virulent anti-Semitism, the recent unprecedented gains in Austria were made on a platform of fear about immigration and the perceived threat of Islam. FPO leader Heinz Christian Strache, for example, described women in Islamic dress as ‘female ninjas’.
Emboldened by the new power in parliament, neo-Nazi thugs have desecrated Muslim graves. Recently, in Hitler’s home town of Braunau, a swastika flag was publicly unveiled.
Originally posted by Elemensa
As children we're told of how the "german bastards bombed london to bits" and how our ancestors died trying to keep the Nazi scum from our borders.
But for many of the new destination countries in Europe, the transformation has been profound and sudden. Take Greece, for example: Until 20 years ago, the country was one of the most ethnically homogenous in Europe, with as much as 98 percent of the population identified as Greek. But after a 15-year immigration boom, one out of every ten residents in Greece -- and almost one in five in the center of Athens – is now foreign born. The vast majority came from neighboring Albania, but there are growing numbers of West Africans, Chinese, Pakistanis and Arabs too, and almost all are illegal residents. Likewise in Italy, over the last 20 years the number of foreign-born legal residents has grown from around 300,000 to more than 2 million. In Spain, which has received waves of immigrants from North Africa, there are some 4 million legal and illegal newcomers, combined making up about 10 percent of the population.
Originally posted by andy1033
reply to post by Elemensa
Britain is hardly anyone to talk. Britain had concentration camps in africa long before ww2, in the 19th century. Britains crimes are so great, but because it is uk, and we speak english in the west the uk's crimes are all forgotten.
Ireland should never forget the crimes and so should india and africa never forget what uk did to them.
So no one in uk can ever talk about germany.