German far-right extremists are using the ecological movement, long associated with “cuddly, left-leaning greens,” to win over a new generation of supporters. An environmental magazine, Umwelt und Activ (Environment and Active) is even thought to be a “camouflage publication” for the far-right National Democratic party (NPD), says the Guardian.
Gudrun Heinrich of the University of Rostock has written a study about “brown ecologists,” a reference to the Nazi brown shirts (so-called from the color of their uniforms) and their modern-day adherents. Two German publications, Der Spiegel and the Süddeutsche Zeitung have recently published articles about the “organic brown fellowship” (“Braune Bio-Kameradschaft”) and the “infiltration [Unterwanderung] of organic farming by the far right.”
Political scientists say that the far-right is seeking to take the ecological movement back from the left and, in particular, from the Green party, which became politically prominent in the 1980s. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung points out, even while the Nazi party was killing thousands in concentration camps, it was also promoting animal rights and the conservation movement. SS leader Heinrich Himmler was a member of the Artaman League, an agrarian movement founded in 1923 and dedicated to “blood and soil” ruralism; it was influenced by the ideas of Willibald Hentschel, who sought to renew racial purity through selective breeding and polygamy. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung notes, “Nature has never been reserved for the Greens.”
Throughout the Mecklenburg region in the north (a now impoverished state of the former East Germany) and elsewhere, there are “hotbeds of far-right eco-warriors” who have been seeking to establish communities to give new life to the Artaman League. These “settlers” engage in all manner of “DIY” and back to the land endeavors, from producing “German honey” (“Deutschen Honig”) to growing their own fruits, vegetables, wheat and more.
Hans-Günter Laimer, a farmer in Lower Bavaria who once ran for election as an NDP candidate and who has been linked to Umwelt und Aktiv, is dismissive of the concerns raised, saying that “What is the difference between my cucumbers and those of someone from the Green party?”
To many Germans seeking to support local farmers and “reject genetically modified food, pesticides and intensive livestock farming,” it is indeed “disturbing” to find that little differentiates “a supposedly well-meaning, leftist Green from a far-right eco enthusiast.” Delia Micklich, the manager of Biopark, which investigates potential members before certifying them as organic farmers, says that she cannot reject people based on their political affiliations, however much she dislikes their ideology.
In Der Spiegel, Christian Pfaffinger reviews the 3/2011 issue of Umwelt & Aktiv: Intermixed with gardening tips and children’s songs, under the heading of “Homeland Security,” is a discussion about how German people die out “biologically and mentally” (“biologisch und geistig”) when they “breed with people of other ethnic origins.” Members of the NPD populate the magazine’s editorial staff and are among its writers; its first issue in 2007 quotes directly from the NPD’s environmental program; its ads include some for the NPD publisher Deutsche Stimme (“German Voice”), such as a publication entitled “Rasse, Evolution und Verhalten – Eine Theorie der Entwicklungsgeschichte” (“Race, Evolution and Behavior – A theory of evolution”).
The concern about far-right eco-adherents is great enough that the state of Rheinland Pflaz’s department of rural enlightenment has produced a brochure entitled Nature Conservation versus Rightwing Extremism, which “aims to help organic farmers resist the infiltration of fascists into their ranks and to be able to respond to any far-righters they might encounter.” As Professor Heinrich comments,
“We have to get used to the fact that the term ‘bio’ [organic] does not automatically mean equality and human dignity.”
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