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January 16 in Magdeburg and the Crisis of Neo-Nazism


Every year on January 16, Magdeburg commemorates the destruction of the city during World War II. The extreme right also regularly uses the anniversary for its revisionist purposes: whether it is a vigil, a poster campaign or a "funeral march" - neo-Nazis transfigure the victims of the bombing into martyrs and stage a commemoration of the dead in the spirit of National Socialism. In 2023, however, there will probably be no large-scale neo-Nazi demonstration in Magdeburg.

The decision not to hold a larger "funeral march" is due to the continuing crisis of organized neo-Nazism in the form of parties such as the NPD, the "New Strength Party" and the "Third Way. In recent years, they have all lost resonance in the milieu of the extreme right, even if the "Third Way" does have a regional organization. The decisive factor for the end of the large-scale neo-Nazi mobilization to commemorate January 16 is the disintegration of the political structure that had organized and carried out the extreme right-wing event in various forms over the past two decades.

The "Initiative honorable remembrance" was originally supported by the comradeship "Fortress City Magdeburg" and the NPD. These had political and organizational contacts in the nationwide neo-Nazi scene, which made a broad mobilization possible, also with regard to the time leading up to the annual neo-Nazi march in Dresden. Last but not least, the loss of contemporary witnesses of the Nazi perpetrator generation, who appeared in Magdeburg to authenticate the neo-Nazi historical image through their personal testimony, considerably reduced the attractiveness of the demonstrations for the scene. The stagnation or the disappearance of a specifically right-wing extremist youth culture, from which neo-Nazism could reproduce itself generationally, is another cause for the glaring weakness in mobilization for right-wing scene events. For this year, therefore, we can rather expect small and symbolic actions from the regional neo-Nazi scene in the region, which will be disseminated in social media formats as video clips.

A partial loss of significance of neo-Nazi historical revisionism in its classic forms due to contemporary history is thus evident. However, historical revisionist interpretations of National Socialism, which also have their source in neo-Nazism, are now coming to light openly and with great scope in other extreme right-wing milieus, as shown, for example, by the relativization of the Shoa in the Querdenken scene. And: The crisis of neo-Nazism cannot be equated with a crisis of the extreme right. Within the extreme right, there has merely been a shift in the political balance. A large part of the followers and political resonance previously served by neo-Nazism is now to be found in the political forefront of the AfD, which in its view of history and its interpretation of National Socialism has come closer to the positions of neo-Nazism in terms of rhetoric and content in recent years.

David Begrich/Pascal Begrich

This article already appeared on January 5, 2023 on the homepage of the Bündnis gegen Rechts Magdeburg.