How to Kill an Idea: An American’s Observations on the NPD Party-Ban Proceedings

On January 17 the Second Senate of the German Federal Constitutional Court will announce its decision on the federal states’ application seeking to ban the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD).

It is not the purpose of this essay to detail the history, ideology, and political profile of the NPD. A number of English-language sources do that job well, including the reports collected at Spiegel Online’s English-language archive covering the NPD. It might be enough here to say that the NPD is widely viewed in Germany as an extreme right-wing or neo-Nazi political party that has enjoyed some electoral success at the state and local level, while also being linked to hate-motivated crimes and disruptive street protests. That is one portrayal. Another, perhaps more damning depiction, comes from Timur Vermes’ provocative best-seller Er is Wieder Da (2012). The novel tells the disturbing, satiric story of Hitler’s miraculous reappearance in Berlin in 2011 and his easy (re)ascendance to prominence in Germany. In Vermes’ story the revived Hitler has a chance to meet the NDP leadership in present-day Berlin. Rather than an ominous threat to the free democratic basic order, Hitler discovers a parodic and impotent gaggle of out-of-shape losers. Vermes’ description of the party’s headquarters makes the point: “The wretched little house stood shuddering in a gap between two apartment buildings like a child’s foot in his father’s slippers. The building alone looked hopeless and overwhelmed … ‘NPD Party Headquarters’ was scrawled above the door-bell in such small text that one would have to assume that it was the result of cowardice in the face of the party’s enemies ...

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