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German Workers Freedom Party

German Workers Freedom Party

LEADERS: Friedhelm Busse; Lars Burmeister

YEAR ESTABLISHED OR BECAME ACTIVE: 1979

ESTIMATED SIZE: 400 listed members, dropping to 200 members after its banning

USUAL AREA OF OPERATION: Germany, chiefly the Berlin area

OVERVIEW

The German Workers Freedom Party or the Liberal Workers Party (Freiheitliche Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, or FAP) was founded in 1979. It operated mostly in the Berlin area with an estimated four hundred official members. A neo-Nazi group, the FAP declared that, like Adolf Hitler's Nazis, it would exterminate dissidents after seizing power. Members railed against Jews, people of color, and foreigners while greeting one another with a raised right arm and a Heil Hitler salute.

The German government prohibited membership in FAP in 1995 after declaring the group to be unconstitutional, racist, anti-Semitic, and subversive. Despite the ban, the group is still in existence, albeit underground.

HISTORY

The FAP began in 1979. Like other neo-Nazi groups, FAP sprang up in response to Germany's economic woes. It remained small and comparatively inactive for many years. In 1988, FAP gained a dynamic new leader, Friedhelm Busse, who possessed stellar Nazi qualifications and a flair for public speaking. FAP then became one of the most visible fascist groups in Germany.

Following German unification in 1990, many former East Germans struggled to find a place in the new Germany. They blamed immigrants, particularly Turks, for their problems. Some of these Germans joined right-wing political groups, including FAP. The organization's estimated membership, which ranged from 220-400 in its heyday, does not include thousands of FAP supporters. FAP members may have been involved in an arson attack in Moelin in November 1992 that killed three Turks and led the German government to promise to clamp down on right-wing extremism.

In August 1993, FAP provoked a nationwide outcry when it gathered about 500 rightwing extremists in the southwestern German city of Fulda to celebrate the anniversary of the death of Hitler's former deputy, Rudolf Hess. The demonstration prompted the German government to seek a ban on FAP. As a political party, FAP could only be prohibited by an act of the Federal Constitutional Court, and it took some time for the political machinery to move against FAP. Meanwhile, in 1993, FAP members smashed seventeen gravestones and daubed swastikas and "FAP" on twenty-six other gravestones in a Jewish cemetery in the village of Wriezen, north of Berlin. In 1994, Busse attempted to bring together under one banner different neo-Nazi groups in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg but the organizational meeting was broken up by a police raid and the arrest of Busse for distributing pro-Nazi materials. In the wake of the Hess celebration, left-wing extremists began targeting FAP members.

LEADERSHIP

FRIEDHELM BUSSE

The long-time head of the FAP was Friedhelm Busse. He was born on February 4, 1929, in Bochum das Licht der Welt outside of Munich, Germany. Busse was one of the youngest members of the Hitler Youth during the Third Reich. In the 1950s, he joined the Bund Deutscher Jugend (BDJ), an elite U.S. Central Intelligence Agency-trained paramilitary organization composed largely of ex-Hitler Youth, Wehrmacht, and SS personnel in West Germany. In the event of a Soviet invasion, Busse's group was assigned to go underground and engage in acts of sabotage and resistance. However, instead of focusing on foreign enemies, Busse's group of ex-Nazis drew up a death list that included future Chancellor Willi Brandt and other leading Social Democrats (then West Germany's main opposition party) who were to be executed in the case of a national security emergency. In October 1952, the West German press discovered that American intelligence was backing a neo-Nazi death squad. The scandal resulted in a serious loss of U.S. prestige and the dismantling of the BDJ.

Busse went on to direct several West German neo-Nazi groups. Typical of neo-Nazis, he advocates the overthrow of the democratic German government and denies that the Holocaust occurred. He became the head of FAP in 1988, but received a prison sentence of eight years in 1995 for defying a ban on an earlier pro-Nazi group and having in his possession copies of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, which is banned in Germany. Busse then lost the FAP post. Following his release from jail, Busse became involved with the National Democratic Party, the most radical of several German far-right political parties and one that targets immigrants and refugees. Although he is popular with neo-Nazis, especially skinhead youth, observers believe that Busse's headstrong nature and image as an inflexible Nazi will prevent him from uniting and leading Germany's radical right.

Upon its banning by the court on February 24, 1995, German authorities raided the offices and homes of dozens of members. The police confiscated fascist books, flags, and World War II weapons and made many arrests for violating the constitutional ban on glorifying Nazism. The police also impounded the bank statements of the group and froze FAP accounts. German authorities received some criticism for being slow to act against neo-Nazis. In the case of FAP, some members managed to elude police.

PHILOSOPHY AND TACTICS

FAP aims to restore Nazi rule in Germany. The Nazis, or National Socialists, came to power in 1933 because they promised to end the Depression and put Germans back to work. Led by Adolf Hitler, the Nazis promised political stability and the restoration of Germany's former glory. To achieve these goals, the Nazi state exterminated those people that it regarded as defective or less than human, including the mentally disabled, physically disabled, Jews, homosexuals, and gypsies. The state also eliminated political opponents, especially communists. The Nazis created a hierarchy of nationalities and aimed to force "lesser" people like the Russians and the other Slavs to become slaves for the Aryan master race.

FAP is a neo-Nazi organization. It wants to create a Germany just like the Germany of the Third Reich. Like the Nazis of old, FAP's tactics are violent. FAP documents indicate that its leaders planned to shoot all enemies after taking power in Germany. FAP members have launched attacks on immigrants, especially Turks. They are responsible for the arson deaths of homeless in hostels. Typical of neo-Nazis, FAP members glorify the virtues of Hitler and deny the existence of the Holocaust. The organization disregards human rights, defames democratic institutions, and is anti-Semitic as well as anti-foreigner.

OTHER PERSPECTIVES

In a 1993 speech to FAP faithful, Busse declared his plans for the nation once neo-Nazis took control of Germany. He stated, "There will be no concentration camps … but rather work camps where enemies of the German people, especially foreigners, will perform useful tasks."

FAP has no apparent supporters in the German government. The official request to ban FAP followed a 1993 report by Interior Minister Manfred Kanther that concluded FAP "rejects liberal democratic order, disparages democratic institutions and fights democratic parties in a way which demonstrates that they should be banned from political life." Chancellor Helmut Kohl said in 1993 that FAP's violence against foreigners "shamed" Germany, that the attacks threatened internal security and that "the state and we all must stand up resolutely against these murderous attacks and this whole outrageous behavior." Berlin mayor Eberhard Diepgen added his voice to the anti-FAP chorus by declaring in 1995 that, "This offspring of the National Socialists has been a burden to the image of German democracy."

KEY EVENTS

1993:
FAP provoked a nationwide outcry when it gathered to celebrate the anniversary of the death of Hitler's former deputy, Rudolf Hess.
1993:
FAP members smashed seventeen gravestones and daubed swastikas and "FAP" on twenty-six others in a Jewish cemetery.
1995:
The German government banned FAP for being unconstitutional, racist, anti-Semitic, and subversive.

SUMMARY

Germany has an abundance of neo-Nazi groups. In 1995, when FAP was banned, twenty-nine openly neo-Nazi groups continued in existence. The banning of FAP simply sent its members into such right-wing extremist organizations as the National List and the National Democratic Party. In 1997, two former FAP members were arrested for attempting to set up a "werewolf" group similar to the Nazi underground organization that battled Allied forces in occupied Germany in April 1945. One of the men was an unemployed roofer while the other was a casual laborer.

The neo-Nazi organizations grow at a pace with Germany's economic woes. As they did in the 1930s, unemployed and underemployed Germans scapegoat minorities for their troubles. Although opposed by the vast majority of Germans, neo-Nazism has proven impossible to stamp out. FAP apparently continues in existence, though in a severely weakened state. It had an estimated 230 members in 1995, at the time that its current head, Lars Burmeister, was arrested in Norway on a German warrant.

SOURCES

Books

Lee, Martin A. The Beast Reawakens. New York: Little, Brown, 1997.

Periodicals

"Germans Outlaw Neo-Nazi Group." Evening Standard (London) February 24, 1995.

"Germany Bans Two Neo-Nazi Groups, Police Carry Out Raids." Deutsche Press-Agentur February 24, 1995.

"Germany to Ask Court to Ban Neo-Nazi Party." Agence France Presse September 15, 1993.

"Jewish Cemetary Desecrated by Neo-Nazis in Eastern Germany." United Press International September 8, 1993.

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