Title: The Beast Reawakens
Author/Artist: Martin Lee
Publisher: Little, Brown
When the Red Army Faction described the West German state as fascist, liberals and conservatives alike were unanimous in denouncing the accusation as leftist rhetoric. More than that Ulrike Meinhoff, Andreas Baader and others engaged in armed struggle were denounced as ‘Hitler’s Children’. West Germany had been de-Nazified, had it not? The new model, democratic West Germany was shorn of authoritarian aspirations, the ‘tiny minority’ of Nazi fanatics had been punished. Germany was safe and clean and well-behaved.
The most important point to emerge from Martin Lee’s book is that de-Nazification was a cursory, superficial affair. There were too many other interests at stake for it to have been otherwise. Even before the building of the Berlin wall the occupying forces on both sides of the newly-emergent Cold War were busy recruiting Nazis to positions of power and influence. Regardless of ideology, the Americans and the Russians needed members of the Nazi military and political machine. The Nazis had intelligence networks, safe houses, knowledge, all too valuable to ignore.
So it was that men such as Otto Skorzeny, Otto Remer and Reinhard Gehlen escaped punishment was were soon able, like thousands of other Nazis, to resume their activities. Some, like Skorzeny and Gehlen, developed extensive contacts with American Intelligence. Skorzeny, the man who had rescued Mussolini after his capture by partisans, was allowed to escape to fascist Spain, where he provided the CIA with help and information over the years. Gehlen, another high-ranking Nazi, established the West German intelligence service, which was soon a major employer of thousands of displaced Nazis.
It wasn’t just Americans who adopted hard-line Nazis to their cause, the Soviets were just as assiduous in employing Nazi war criminals. Within the post-war Nazi scene groups such as Otto Remer’s ‘Socialist Reich Party’ – the successor to Hitler’s NSDAP – adopted a ‘neutralist’ foreign policy which opposed American domination of West Germany. This avowedly neo-Nazi party was soon being funded by Moscow, who had actually reduced funding to the German Communist Party because the fascist SRP was so much effective.
It would be bad enough that these people walked away from the Hitler regime unscathed, but as this book clearly shows, they lost no time in rebuilding a new, post-war Nazi movement. Supplying money, contacts, intelligence and ideology these old-guard fascists set about creating fascist movements and parties throughout Europe, North America and beyond.
Whilst some of them shed the trappings of Third Reich nostalgia to create ‘pan-European’ or ‘Euro-nationalist’ variants of Nazis, others persisted in keeping a more rigid ideological line. Despite internal schisms and faction fighting, the fact remains that these fascist veterans exerted an influence right through from the immediate post-war years to the current day.
Whilst the book is focused primarily on the German experience, from Skorzeny et al through to Michael Kuhnen, Christian Worch and others, it also looks at the American far-right, the emerging ‘National Bolshevik’ Red-Brown alliances in Russia and the at the South American influence of Klaus Barbie and his cohorts.
In all the book makes for interesting but pessimistic reading. The forces of anti-fascism are barely mentioned, and at times the author gives the impression that a neo-Nazi conspiracy exists which we cannot hope to fight. It’s a familiar line and the debt to Searchlight is clearly acknowledged.
What does become clear, however, is that at times the forces of fascism have clearly depended for their continued existence on powerful allies within state agencies – particularly the intelligence services (the same type of people in fact, that Searchlight view as their allies in the fight against fascism).
Today the biggest dangers arise not from the ideologically pure neo-Nazi sects, but from those groups who have adapted to the militant anti-fascist movement and have, or are in the process of, re-casting themselves as racist populist parties in the mould of the French National Front of the Austrian Freedom Party.
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