The rise of the far right comes with a myriad of xenophobic tendencies driven by a desire to protect what locals view as their natural heritage. Law enforcement officials and politicians are at a loss with how to handle the rising acts of violence in response to the increasing migration rates around the globe. Even countries such as Germany, with its strong liberal institutions, are no exception. Recent discoveries there make the problem even more troubling than before.
On Monday, October 25, 2021, German authorities intercepted a group of roughly 50 right-wing vigilantes patrolling the German–Polish border. They were found armed with pepper spray, bayonets, machetes, and batons. When interrogated, the members of this group informed law enforcement officers that they had traveled from all over Germany to patrol the area in search of migrants seeking to enter the country from Belarus. Consequently, German law enforcement increased its presence in the area to deter these groups from engaging in vigilantism.
All vigilantes arrested by German authorities were following a call to action by the “Third Path,” a neo-Nazi group that originated as a splinter cell of the National Democratic Party. It is a smaller political organization, amassing just a few hundred members across the country. According to Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, this is intentional. The point of the Third Path, per the writings of its founder, is not to expand its membership base, but to engage in political activism. It follows a platform similar to Hitler’s playbook, down to the “rigorous funding of families with many children to preserve and develop the biological substance of the German people.” Members of this deeply racist and anti-Semitic group believe themselves trapped in a self-perceived set of struggles: political, cultural and community-based. Commonly practiced non-political solutions to these struggles involve, but are not limited to, assisting the homeless—only the Germans, of course—and organizing martial arts tournaments. Although small, the group travels well and is known for engaging in street violence throughout many German cities and towns.
Germany’s rise in anti-immigrant and refugee tendencies is no doubt a concerning situation to behold. It is no secret that the country is in the midst of a severe refugee crisis since 2015. Many far-right parties have subsequently leapt at the opportunity to seize the fear and xenophobia in order to solidify a dependable support base. Several key points that can be taken from this story. The first is that fear of immigrants is still a prevalent issue in far-right parties today. To members of these groups, migrants or refugees of any background or creed pose a significant threat to the aspects of life that they hold dear. These individuals fear attacks on their loved ones, most importantly, members of their female population. It is common for women to be infantilized or stripped of personal choice in these groups or, more importantly, used to further advance a far-right group’s political agenda. Whether or not their female compatriots agree with this perceived sentiment, however, is the subject of another conversation altogether.
The actions performed by the Third Path are also influenced by populist ideals. First and foremost, the notion of the common German citizen against the feared foreign refugees is a textbook example of the people versus its enemies. Second, nativism is represented in the party’s powerful protective urge to insulate what it views as the “German way” from any foreign interlopers who dare come to taint it with their different ways of life. Lastly, and despite its small size, the party wields the authority to position its issues of preserving the German lineage in the public limelight. The party has become increasingly professionalized over the past few years, finally reforming itself to the point of eligibility for the German electoral process, though the members running on that platform have yet to see electoral success.
The uncovered patrol efforts conducted by members of the Third Path party is a direct result of populist concerns over national heritage and perceived victimization of the German way of life and hereditary identity. These concerns can range from economic anxiety, the misogynistic infantilization of women, acts of vigilantism, and political activism. It remains to be seen whether these efforts will be effective in the distant future, but clashes over the presence of refugees at German borders will certainly continue for a long time to come.
Kaitlyn Hays has over six years of experience in American Foreign Policy. She is currently pursuing her M.A. in European and Eurasian Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs where she specializes in Russia and International Security.
Photo: “III. Weg a.jpg,” by Superikonoskop licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.