- Yeah. Thought I may as well throw this up, if only ’cause I reckon Anti-German Translation will link to it, and every time they link to my blog, I get a free bagel from Glick’s (but ssshhh, don’t tell anyone — it’ll like, totally blow my cover!).
It’s the story of a quack who’s gone to the dogs.
Or to put it another way: it’s the story of a nice middle class German boy who went to University, read too many books, joined a Marxist urban guerilla group, went to jail, left jail, became a right-wing ideologue, and is now back.
As an historical curio, Sydney-based neo-Nazi Welf Herfurth, along with Adelaide-based Holocaust denialist Uncle Fred Töben, flew Mister Mahler’s flag in Sydney a few years ago. Note that Uncle Fred is also in jail at present, having been sentenced in mid-August to three months’ imprisonment for contempt of court (Toben jailed as appeal fails, ABC, August 13, 2009). Finally, Herfurth’s kamerad Dr James Saleam has kindly made available some of Mahler’s writings in English, which are available here: http://home.alphalink.com.au/~radnat/mahler/index.html.
The Ideological Evolution of Horst Mahler: The Far Left-Extreme Right Synthesis
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism
Volume 32, Issue 4, April 2009
In the late 1990s, Horst Mahler, a former leader of the Red Army Faction and scion of the radical left, announced his affinity for the extreme right and joined the NPD—Germany’s principal far right party. Later distancing himself from party politics, he founded the Deutsches Kolleg, a far right think tank that promotes German nationalism. Although ostensibly now a rightist, Mahler has synthesized much of his original left-wing ideology into a far right Weltanschauung that features nationalism, anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism, with a strident critique of capitalism. As such, it has the potential to appeal to some segments of the contemporary anti-globalization movement, the international extreme right, and even Islamists.
Horst Mahler has emerged as one of the leading far right ideologists in Germany. During the 1970s, he attained international notoriety as a left-wing terrorist, but in the late 1990s, he made a political volte-face declaring his unabashed support for German nationalism. Although identified as part of the far right, he nevertheless retains a Marxian critique of capitalism, which he has interestingly syncretized with rightist themes, including extreme nationalism, anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia.
This article examines the ideological evolution of Horst Mahler. First, his early life is sketched. Next, his involvement with the Red Army Faction is examined, followed by discussion on the genesis of his political reversal while in prison. After that, his participation in the NPD is reviewed. Breaking away from traditional party politics, Mahler founded a nationalist think tank—the Deutsches Kolleg—whose major themes are discussed in the next section. His controversial pronouncements did not go unnoticed by German authorities and led to legal troubles which are covered in the following section. Finally, the conclusion explains how Mahler’s syncretic ideology is indicative of a broader trend in which various dissident movements are increasingly converging on a similar critique of certain aspects of globalization.
The son of a dentist, Horst Mahler was born on January 23, 1936 in Haynau in Lower Silesia. Mahler’s parents were both staunch Nazis, both during and after the period of the Third Reich. In 1949, Mahler was brought to West Berlin as a refugee from the Soviet zone. He received a scholarship to attend the Free University of Berlin (Freie Universität Berlin), where he was a member of a nationalist dueling Korps (schlagende Verbindung). However, eventually, the young Mahler began to have misgivings over German nationalism. Too young to be complicit with the Nazi regime, Mahler was emblematic of the so-called “skeptical generation” that developed its political consciousness in the 1950s. Growing up in that era, he confessed that the Nazi past dictated from an early age his shame of being German: “The essential, highly personalized problem was this: how did your parents behave [during the Nazi period]. The question had implications for us, namely, that whenever events occur that even in a distant way recall the twelve years [of Nazi rule], we must resist them.”
By 1956, Mahler openly identified with the political left by joining the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and also the more radical Socialist Student Union (SDS) (Sozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund) (SDS). He was later expelled from the SPD for his membership in the SDS, which the SPD prohibited in 1959, because of the SDS’s strident Marxism-Leninism. After graduation in 1964, Mahler started his own law firm which specialized in medium-size businesses. As he took more and more left-wing clients, Mahler lost his business customers, which effectively ended his mainstream legal career. Nevertheless, Mahler proved himself to be a keen defender of leftist activists. In 1966, the young Mahler was the first German lawyer to successfully lodge a complaint against the European Commission for Civil Rights. To better assist left-wing causes, he and some of his left-wing colleagues formed the “Socialist Lawyers’ Collective.” Increasingly, Mahler adopted the Bohemian life-style that was popular with the student left at that time.
On many occasions, Mahler prominently marched with student activists in demonstrations. One particular event that galvanized the political left was a demonstration that took place on June 2, 1967 against the visit of the Shah of Iran to Germany. A melee ensued during which German police fired into the crowd and killed Benno Ohnesorg, a twenty-six year old student. His death sparked outrage among student leftists which precipitated still more protests. Unrest continued to increase after April 11, 1968, when an attempt was made on the life of Rudi Dutschke, the leader of the SDS by a twenty-four-year old housepainter and reputed right-wing extremist, Josef Erwin Bachmann, who was supposedly influenced by the newspaper Deutsche Nationale Zeitung, an organ of the far right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) (Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands). At the Technical University, an emotional student meeting, organized by the SDS, was held and blame for the incident was laid on the shoulders of the right-wing Springer press organization, which dominated the press in Berlin and worked to keep public opinion against the student left. The protestors reasoned that the Springer Press had created an atmosphere which inspired Bachmann to make the attempt on Dutschke’s life. Demonstrations and riots accompanied with arsons and bombings occurred throughout West Germany. Eventually, in December 1968, Dutschke fatally succumbed to the wounds that he sustained. Out of this student unrest emerged the Baader-Meinhof Group.
The Baader-Meinhof Group
The militant left in West Germany emerged from the student milieu in West Berlin in the 1960s. The radicalization of the German Left commenced around the time of the formation of the formation of the “Grand Coalition” in 1966, which included the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD). This political alliance alienated some of the more radical left-wing activists in Germany who viewed it as a compromise. Consequently, some activists and political groups looked for political expression through channels outside of parliament. Various elements of the left-wing opposition coalesced into the Ausserparliamentarisch Opposition (APO) or Extra-Parliamentary Opposition in 1968. Although officially non-violent, the APO attracted militant elements that were impatient with the pace of political change in West Germany. One such group was the Baader-Meinhof Gang, or as it would come to be known, the Red Army Faction (RAF) (Rote Armee Fraktion). Disillusioned with the German Left’s ability to effect radical change, some elements of the left opted for armed struggle.
On April 2 and 3, 1968, several German leftists, including Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, Thorwald Proll, and Horst Söhnlein, attempted to burn down a Frankfurt department store in protest of the Vietnam War. After they were arrested, Mahler, along with Otto Schily and Ernst Heinitz served as the lawyers for the defendants. All four of the defendants were convicted of arson and endangering human life for which they were sentenced to three years in prison. In June 1969, however, they were temporarily paroled under an amnesty for political prisoners, but in November of that year, the Federal High Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) demanded that they return to prison. Only Söhnlein complied with the order; the rest went underground and made their way to France, where they stayed for a time in a home belonging to the prominent French socialist and revolutionary, Régis Debray. Eventually, they made their way to Italy, where Mahler visited them and encouraged them to come back to Germany to form an underground guerilla group with him. On April 2, 1970, police stopped Baader for driving recklessly. Although he was let off with a warning, the traffic cop later recognized him on a wanted poster. An intensive search for Baader ensued and he was arrested in Berlin the next day.
Historians usually mark May 14, 1970 as the birth of the RAF. On that morning, a band of RAF members led by Ulrike Meinhof, broke Andreas Baader out of the German Institute for Social Questions located in Dahlem, a suburb of Berlin. The prison administration granted Baader permission to use the library at the Institute for research on a book he supposedly planned to write on the “organization of young people on the fringe of society.” During the melee, two security officers were shot and an elderly staff member was nearly killed. For the next eighteen months, the group was the object of the largest manhunt in West German history, which involved five thousand police officers. Baader, along with Ensslin, Meinhof, and Mahler, fled to East Germany and eventually made their way to Lebanon, where they trained with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The West German terrorists were seen by some as “intellectuals” who engaged in extensive ideological debates. Many of them were in fact university students, primarily, social science majors. Most of the RAF members actually came from the middle class, not the working class. A loosely-organized terrorist organization, at its peak, the RAF consisted of twenty to thirty cadres and up to 200 supporters, who provided refuge and logistical support. Although Baader was recognized as one of the group’s important leaders, he did not really evince much ideological sophistication. Rather as one observer put it, “he liked to defy for the sake of defying.”
Mahler was recognized as the group’s chief organizer, theoretician, strategist, and tactician. He is believed to have written a booklet—Concerning Armed Struggle in Western Europe—which included instructions for manufacturing weapons and forming commando groups. According to its analysis, the revolution could only be effectively led by an avant-garde composed of students. As a leftist, Mahler originally saw his struggle in class terms describing it not as “a war among nations but a war of classes, which will sweep all nations, social, cultural, and religious boundaries and barriers forever from the stage of history.” As time went by, the RAF would speak derisively of the working class in Germany, viewing them as compliant and kept in their place by fear of cheap foreign labor, the threat of unemployment, and the worry of recession. This was similar to the analysis of Herbert Marcuse, a prominent French left-wing philosopher, who lamented that the working class did not have much revolutionary potential in that it was generally content with its predicament. Thus in order to effect its goals, the left had to look elsewhere for support, viz. students.
Many left wing revolutionaries were greatly inspired by the Brazilian revolutionary Carlos Marighella and his concept of the urban guerilla. He is best-known for his book, the Minimanual of the Urban Guerilla, in which he propounded a strategy to move revolutionary violence from the countryside to the city. Marighella’s most original concept was that all revolutionary violence could be based in the urban areas and controlled by a small group of urban guerillas. Violence did not necessarily have to be structured or coordinated in order to provoke a crisis, and in doing so, create the atmosphere conducive for a revolution.
In the late 1960s, this strategy was put into practice in Uruguay by a group called the Tupamaros. Founded by Raul Sendic in 1963, the Tupamaros was composed primarily of students. In 1968 the Tupamaros launched a massive campaign of decentralized terrorism against the Uruguayan government. Their grand strategy centered on winning support from the middle class and the working class. However, their propensity for violence alienated many people. Both Marighella and the Tupamaros believed that people would flock to the revolutionaries once government repression was employed. However, the opposite was true, as the people wanted order, and as a result, actually supported the harsh counter-terror measures. Consequently, the left-leaning government was defeated in the election of 1971 and a right wing government came to power. Soon thereafter martial law was declared and a brutal counterterrorist campaign ensued. Despite its failures, many left-wing terrorist groups in the late 1960s and 1970s were heavily influenced by the Tupamaros and viewed their campaign as a model of urban terrorism.
Mahler proposed the creation of a German urban guerilla movement based on the model of the Tupamaros in Uruguay. Mimicking the Tupamaros, the RAF conducted numerous armed robberies to procure weapons and finance their campaign. In an effort to codify their revolutionary approach, the RAF released an ideological text titled Das Konzept Stadtguerilla (The Urban Guerilla Concept). Published in April 1971, the small tract provided a justification for armed struggle against the West German government. The tract detailed government repression against left-activists and voiced common cause with Third World liberation movements and revolutionaries in other parts of the world, in particular, those in China, Latin America, Algeria, and Vietnam. The U.S-led war in Vietnam had a catalyzing effect on the left both in the U.S. and in Europe. Although the West German government was only indirectly involved in the prosecution of the Vietnam War by way of U.S. military bases that were located on German soil, the RAF believed that by attacking the German government, it could undermine the war effort. Mahler identified the U.S. and NATO as “the heart of the imperialist-feudal system.” The West German government was identified as an integral part of the system without which U.S. imperialism could not be successfully waged.
As their struggle continued, the Palestinian cause featured more and more prominently among RAF members, who framed that issue in the context of a larger anti-imperialist struggle. The Middle East was seen as a vital strategic, military, and economic region for the forces of imperialism. Around that time, the Federal Republic of Germany had the highest concentration of Palestinian students in Europe in large part to the government’s generous subsidies in granting stipends to Arab students. Al Fatah, the armed branch of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), managed to infiltrate and dominate some Palestinian student organizations and establish ties with left-wing organizations. In June 1970, Mahler, along with Hans-Jürgen Bäcker, Monkika Berberich, Brigitte Asdonk, Manfred Grashof and Petra Scheim, flew to Beirut and made their way to an al Fatah training camp. Palestinian assistance to German left-wing terrorists usually took the form of training and offering safe havens. While in Lebanon, however, the Arab terrorists took a dim view of the permissiveness of their German counterparts.
Although stridently anti-fascist, over time, the RAF evinced an increasing anti-Zionism that veered closely to anti-Semitism. For example, some RAF members, including Mahler, expressed approval of Black September’s murder of Israeli athletes at the Summer Olympic Games held in Munich in 1972, as it was described as a courageous anti-imperialist commando raid. To demonstrate their solidarity with the Palestinians, some left-wing radicals, for example, the Tupamaros—West Berlin, attacked Jewish targets—including synagogues—on the anniversary of Krystal Nacht. RAF leader, Ulrike Meinhof, once described anti-Semitism as a manifestation of anti-capitalism in the sense that people resented their dependence on Jewish bankers (or as she put it, “Money Jews”). She argued that the people did not hate Jews qua Jews, but rather Jews as capitalists. Furthermore, she sought to exonerate the working class from the culpability of the Nazi genocide, claiming that they were not aware of the final solution. Increasingly, members of the RAF cast Zionism as a form as racism, which was actually consistent with the Zeitgeist among Third World liberation movements during that period and culminated in the UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 announced in 1975 which determined that Zionism was a form of racial discrimination. According to the journalist Jillian Becker, members of the RAF were “Hitler’s children” in the sense that they were, on the one hand, reacting against the recent past and sought to compensate for it and, on the other hand, subconsciously identifying with the Nazi era. Often evoking Germany’s Nazi past, the RAF maintained that U.S. imperialism was merely a continuation of fascism, albeit in another guise. In a sense, the RAF saw its activities as a way to expatiate guilt for Germany Nazi past.
During the early 1970s, the RAF stepped up its campaign and bombed U.S. military bases, police stations, and offices of the Springer Press. By doing so, it brought down the wrath of West German authorities who mounted a massive manhunt for RAF fugitives. Mahler, along with Monika Berberich, Brigitte Asdonk, and Irene Georgens, was arrested in an apartment on October 8, 1970. In May 1972, German authorities launched “Operation Watersplash” in an effort to round up RAF members still on the lam. On June 1, 1972, police arrested Holger Meins, Andreas Baader, and Jan-Carl Raspe after a shootout. Shortly thereafter, Gudrun Ensslin and Ulrike Meinhof were arrested as well. Despite these setbacks, the RAF idea lived on, as new members picked up the banner of the organization and continued to carry out sporadic acts of terrorism. Using their lawyers as conduits, leaders of the RAF were able to direct some terrorist operations while incarcerated in prison.
Increasingly, the RAF became preoccupied with securing the release of its imprisoned comrades, or a “freeing the guerilla movement,” rather than effecting its political goals. The death of Holger Meins on November 9, 1974 following a hunger strike to protest prison conditions sparked a renewed campaign of left-wing terrorism in Germany. On November 10, the president of the West German Supreme Court, Günter von Drenkmann was assassinated in his home. The June 2 Movement claimed responsibility. On April 25, 1975, six members of the Holger Meins Brigade seized the West German embassy in Stockholm, where they took twelve hostages and demanded the release of twenty-six political prisoners in Germany. An accidental explosion of the guerillas’ arsenal, which resulted in the deaths of two guerillas and one hostage, ended the incident. By 1976, most of the leadership of the RAF was under arrest and in prison. However, the June 2 movement and various “Red Cells” continued their sporadic attacks.
The fall of 1977—Der Deutscher Herbst (The German Autumn)—was the high point of the conflict between the RAF and West German authorities. On October 13, 1977, four Arabs and three Germans—including a woman—hijacked the Lufthansa Boeing 737 in Morocco and ultimately settled in Mogadishu. The hijackers intended to use the passengers as blackmail to release RAR members from prison. A special counterterrorism squad—the Grenzschutzgruppe 9 (GSG 9)—flew in from Bonn, along with two British Special Air Service men, stormed the plane and ended the crisis, which resulted in the death of three hijackers and the wounding of a fourth. None of the captives were killed in the ordeal. Just a few hours after the episode, Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, and Jan-Carl Raspe committed suicide at the Stammheim Prison where they were incarcerated. Ulrike Meinhof had hanged herself earlier. On October 9, the RAF announced that they had killed Hanns Martin Schleyer, the president of the Employers’ Association of West Germany and also president of the Federation of German Industry whose body was later discovered in the town Mulhouse near the French-German border. A month earlier, members of the RAF had kidnapped Schleyer and held him for ransom, threatening to kill him if imprisoned RAF members were not released. A former SS-officer who served under Rheinhard Heydrich in Czechoslovakia during World War II, the leftists saw Schleyer as emblematic of the Federal Republic’s Nazi past.
As to be expected, the West German government took the RAF very seriously. The example of Weimar was often invoked by the media and leading politicians as an historical analogue insofar as the new West German democracy was again threatened by anti-democratic forces. In order to avoid the “mistakes of the past,” the government responded forcefully and resolutely to the RAF disproportionate to the violence that the latter unleashed. To combat terrorism, the German government created a massive security apparatus. Arguably, the RAF managed to keep the extreme left from being effective on the political spectrum, as its violence did much to the discredit the far left in Germany. The terrorists became a liability to the more respectable German left. In fact, left-wing critiques of the RAF were probably the most scathing of all.
The RAF greatly overestimated its support from among the German populace. Members had the mistaken notion that revolutionary violence would spark a national conflagration that would drive the masses to its cause. In 1992, with the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the RAF issued a communiqué announcing cessation to violence against “representatives of business and the state.” Finally, in March 1998, the group formally announced its disbandment, explaining that the concept of the urban guerilla was no longer relevant in contemporary German society.
For his RAF-related activities, Mahler faced several criminal trials. Otto Schily, who would later go on to serve as Germany’s Minister of the Interior from 1998-2005, defended Mahler during his 1971 trial for demonstrating in front of the Springer Press. The following year, Mahler was tried for his part in the Baader rescue, along with Irene Goergens and Ingrid Schubert. Once again, Schily served as his defense counsel. Mahler was found guilty for membership of an illegal organization. In the fall of that year, Mahler was also tried for bank robbery along with other RAF members. In yet another trial in 1974, Mahler was convicted of forming a criminal organization. All totaled, Mahler was sentenced to fourteen years in prison for his various convictions. To make matters worse, he was dismissed from the bar in 1974.
While in prison, Mahler appeared to have a genuine change of heart with respect to terrorism, commenting that he refused “to justify the murder of unarmed civilians, massacres, [and] kidnappings, as a form of anti-imperialist struggle.” “Acts like these” Mahler opined “are crimes against the revolution.” Mahler finally broke with the RAF in 1974. As he saw it, the radical left in Germany failed to develop a mass following as the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre counseled the left to do. Disillusioned by the violence of the RAF, in the aftermath of the events of 1977, he described the campaign of the RAF as a sign of weakness of the German socialist left insofar as it resorted to violence rather than seeking to develop power through legitimate and politically constructive means. In 1978, he dismissed the charges of his fellow RAF inmates that they had been tortured in prison, describing the allegations as a “propaganda lie” intended to “morally blackmail” the left and “legitimate the brutal form of struggle” employed by the guerillas seeking to extort the release of their imprisoned comrades. Instead, Mahler recommended that his comrades accept the consequence of their actions without making specious complaints. When German radicals kidnapped Peter Lorenz, a high-ranking official in the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and pressured the West German government to release certain prisoners, Mahler refused to be included in the exchange.
Mahler was eventually released on parole in the early 1980s. Seeking to once again practice law, Mahler hired Gerhard Schröeder, a former associate, who would go on to become the German chancellor in 1997, to serve as his lawyer. Schröeder helped Mahler regain admission to the bar in 1988, which allowed Mahler to restart his legal business in Berlin. He would go on to use his legal skills to defend Germany’s most prominent far right political party.
Far right political parties emerged in Germany at the time of the creation of the Federal Republic in 1949. However, the “Economic Miracle” of postwar Germany produced a broad legitimation of the new Federal Republic. As a consequence, extreme right parties were effectively marginalized in the electoral arena. With the economic slump in 1966, though, a new party, the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) (Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands), marked a return of the electoral extreme right in Germany. The party was founded in November 1964 by Adolf von Thadden, Fritz Thielen, and Waldemar Schütz in Hanover as an umbrella organization of several extreme right and conservative parties. In the 1969 Bundestag election, the party received 4.3 percent of the vote—the best result that an extreme right party achieved in a national election in postwar Germany; however, by 1972, its success had come to an abrupt end. But, by the 1990s, several trends, including concern over immigration and economic problems in the East, contributed to the sporadic success of far right parties. For example, in 2004, the NPD entered the Dresden parliament with 9.2 percent of the votes cast in the election. Currently, the party has about 6,000 members and publishes a monthly periodical called Deutsche Stimme. In 1996, Udo Voigt took over the reins of the NPD.
The platform of the NPD demands the reinstatement of Germany’s 1937 borders. For years, NPD leaders have cast doubt on the Nazi Holocaust, depicting it as a fabrication to bring guilt to the German people and stymie their nationalist aspirations. The NPD has interfaced with some American far rightists, most notably, the late Dr. William L. Pierce, the founder of the neo-Nazi National Alliance.
In 1998, after remaining politically dormant for many years, Mahler revealed his new political beliefs and announced his support for the NPD. In an article titled “Truth Revealed, or the Legacy of the Generation of 68” he wrote for a right-wing newspaper called Junge Freihet, he drew a connection between the generation of 1968 and the development of a new German völkisch ideology:
The 1968 generation destroyed tradition and religion as world-shaping conceptions…and brought our people a step nearer to maturity. The ground is now ready for completing this enlightenment, which will simultaneously mean their surmounting. We experience this result of the cultural revolution of 1968 as Hell, since also with tradition and religion our moral substance has departed…As a cultureless Volk we live in a second Stone Age. It requires some effort of thought to really extinguish the mental vacuum—this condition of absolute negativity, which threatens to destroy us now as humans and as a Volk—and recognize as something positive, and in this sense as an historical service of the 1968 generation…. Let us be warriors of thought! Let us argue together—for God and our forefathers’ country!
Since reunification, right-wing violence has been a serious concern of the German government, especially in Landers in the east. In 1999, the German federal government requested that the country’s highest court consider a ban against the NPD for its connections to neo-Nazi skinhead gangs. Soon thereafter, both houses of parliament—the [Bundesrat] and the Bundestag—announced their intentions to ban the party as well. In an interesting twist, the German Interior Minister, Otto Schily, led the effort to ban the NPD. His old comrade, Mahler, represented the NPD in the court proceedings, which began in 2002. In a case of tit-for-tat, Mahler called for the banning of Jewish organizations in Germany. Ultimately, the case against the NPD failed on procedural grounds. In March 2003, the Federal Constitutional court ruled that the evidence submitted against the NPD was tainted insofar as it included testimony from paid informants who had infiltrated the party and whose identities the government refused to disclose. Eventually, Mahler decided to break with party politics and instead focus his efforts in the realm of ideas. To that end, he and Reinhold Oberlercher founded the Deutsches Kolleg.
European extreme right intellectuals have appropriated the strategy of the late Marxist Antonio Gramsci, who advanced the concept of “cultural hegemony.” According to Gramsci, the countries of the West developed strong civil societies whose populations viewed the state as a natural outgrowth thereof. Consequently, in order to attain political power, revolutionaries would have to establish a strong presence in the realm of culture before obtaining political power.
Describing itself as the “thought organ” of the German Reich, the Deutsches Kolleg advocates an social and economic plan that would, inter alia, eliminate unemployment by excluding foreign workers; end homelessness; eliminate traffic chaos; win the war against drugs; smash organized crime; rescue the environment; reestablish state sovereignty; improve the health system; revive the German culture; and rebuild Central (read East) Germany. Mahler and his colleague, Reinhold Oberlercher, have sought to move the NPD’s economic platform in a more socialistic direction, seeking to replace the “immoral cancer-like accumulation” system of capitalism with an economy that would “serve the ecology of the folk and land of the Germans.” A brief review of the Deutsches Kolleg’s major themes is in order.
Anti-Americanism has a long-pedigree in Germany, extending back many decades, both on the political left and the right. The Deutsches Kolleg’s critique of America follows in the tradition of rightists, such as Oswald Spengler, Julius Evola, Count Keyserling, and Francis Parker Yockey. As these critics pointed out, America never developed a culture-bearing aristocracy. By contrast, traditional European society was viewed as organic and naturally hierarchical, which was romanticized in Germany in the concept of the Volksgemeinschaft, or the national community. The American political tradition made no reference to a fatherland, but rather, to a creed centered on ideals and founding documents. American national identity was in large part based on a creed, rather than ethnicity. As the European right saw it, American individualism, rather than liberating people, left them deracinated, alienated and atomized. Like the political left, the right also developed a critique of capitalism; however, this critique was not based on the tenets of scientific socialism, such as what Karl Marx produced; rather, it was more of a cultural critique of capitalism. And of course, capitalism was supposed to have reached its apogee in America where it often took the most dehumanizing form in which money was the ultimate yardstick for every measure.
Why did America take such a different trajectory from that of Europe? According to Mahler this divergence could be traced back to the earliest days of the European settlement of North America. The Puritans conceived the North American wilderness as a new Israel, a land that was pure and uncorrupted. As a nation, America was supposed to have held a suppressed enmity toward the lands from which its settlers originated, which they saw as corrupted. For their part, some Europeans looked upon Americans as the detritus of Europe. Mahler criticizes America on religious grounds, as its sectarian Protestantism was seen as a pale shadow of European Christianity. American Protestantism, with its strong Calvinist influence, emphasized individual prosperity and had little interest in the inner life of the soul. Through Martin Luther, the German people eventually succeeded in “Germanizing” the Christian faith. However, eventually, the Reformation went astray onto the paths of Anglicism, Calvinism, and Puritanism, which identified strongly with the Jewish Old Testament. This transformation reached it apogee in America, where Puritanism eventually laid the groundwork for the development of a Judeo-American Imperium which sought to control the world economy through a ruthless system of global capitalism.
Americans are described as a deracinated people—“uprooted Europids”—who nearly exterminated American Indians and enslaved eleven million blacks. Seafaring powers, such as Great Britain and the United States, according to Oberlercher, do not have a sense of rootedness, the absence of which engenders no faith, but rather “sanctimoniousness and hypocrisy.” According to Mahler, Americans, who trace their ancestry to immigrants, are of a “bigoted spirit” and not martial. Thus, to mobilize them to fight wars, America must demonize its foreign enemies.
What should become of the American republic? Oberlercher would like to see the North American continent devolve into a number of ethnic “folk states” the largest of which would be a German America. Echoing Karl Haushofer and Francis Parker Yockey, Mahler exhorts Russia to join Germany so that it can free Europe from the United States. Not surprisingly, Mahler also believes that the proper solution is for the United States to be dissolved. He describes the country as an “ahistoric construct, whose core consists of the rootless (asocial) individuals from Western Europe, whose invasion of the New World was without right or law.” As Mahler explained, from the beginning of its history, America “has been characterized by corruption, predatory capitalism, mind-control, false democracy, hypocrisy and bigotry [and] continually shifts its domestic violence outward.” Diametrically opposed to the American monstrosity is German idealism, which stands as the greatest obstacle to the global ambitions of the “East Coast”—a euphemism for a powerful combine led by powerful Jews with establishment gentiles in a subordinate role. It is not a big step from anti-Americanism to anti-Semitism. Jews are often implicated as the string-pullers behind the American leviathan.
Race and Anti-Semitism
Race figures prominently in the current rightist worldview of Mahler. The Volksgemeinschaft is frequently invoked meaning a highly romanticized and abstract image of the German nation in which the people share a common history and sense of destiny. Contemporary European rightists have adopted a less offensive variant of racism sometimes referred to as “neo-racism” in which racial and ethnic particularism is framed not as invidious racial supremacism, but rather cultural identity and self-determination. Mahler defends racism, in the sense that he recognize racial differences, and, as he sees it, even the superiority of certain races. He contrasts so-called “German” racism, which is supposedly magnanimous, with “Jewish” racism, which is malicious. According to Mahler, while the former recognizes racial differences and helps “the lower races to a life commensurate with their particular nature free of slavery,” the latter seeks “to enslave all non-Jewish people.” Not unlike some Afro-centrists, Mahler implicates Jews in the African slave trade, going so far to charge that an estimated 100-150 million lost their lives in the process.
For many years, Germany had the most liberal asylum policies in Europe. Consequently, Germany attracted the largest proportion of refugees in Europe. Mahler sees Third World immigration into Germany as an existential threat to the nation deliberately orchestrated by International Jewry and the United States in an effort to balkanize Europe. That, he claims, is why the U.S. has recommended that Turkey be admitted into the European Union. Massive Third World immigration into Germany is presented as a deliberate effort to weaken the communal bonds of the native people. The resulting amalgam of people would be defenseless in the face of a well-organized Jewish conspiracy bent on global domination.
Keeping with his leftist past, Mahler occasionally invokes Marx, who condemned Jews as usurers and rapacious capitalists. He uses a selective reading of Marx to justify anti-Semitism, as Mahler once opined, “Marx wrote [that] humanity must liberate itself from Judaism. It’s not the Jews we must kill, it’s their God, Yahweh.” Further, Mahler points out that Marx once alluded to a “final solution” of the Jewish Question. Mahler implicates “Jewish financial capital” in a global conspiracy against Germany, an integral part of which is supposedly, Paul Spiegel—the chairman of the Central Council of the Jews in Germany—whom Mahler identifies as the shadow treasurer of the conspiracy. Given his newfound admiration of German tradition and his strident critique of Judaism, it is not surprising that Mahler reappraised his view of the Third Reich as well.
On the Third Reich
As Mahler explained, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, Germany “filled the world with wonder [and] was capable of politics in the highest degree.” Germany’s aggression in World War II is defended as a justifiable effort to requite the injustices of the Versailles Treaty. What is more, Germany is lionized as saving Europe from both “Asiatic despotism” from the East and the “dictatorship of Capital” from the West. Mahler praises the “heroic” struggle of the Wehrmacht in World War II and condemned the conspirators, led by Colonel Claus von Staufenberg, who attempted to assassinate Hitler on July 20, 1944. Defending Hitler’s decision to fight to the bitter end, Mahler exclaimed that Germany’s heroic defeat allowed her the historic right to a “glorious resurrection.” In that sense, Hitler acted in accord with the “World-Spirit,” which was realized in the Volksgemeinshaft. Although the conspirators may have acted under worthy motives—i.e., sparing German blood—they nevertheless acted against this World Spirit, and, by doing so, shamed the German Reich. The anti-Hitler conspirators preferred to consign the German people to be “slave[s] of the plutocrats” and became venerable heroes only to the “collaborators who [were] in cahoots with the enemies of the Reich.”
Nevertheless, Mahler takes issue with certain aspects of Hitler’s conception of the Volksgemeinschaft, which according to Mahler, took the form of a Leviathan. According to Mahler’s reasoning, the politics of National Socialism developed not unlike the behavioral patterns of the struggle for survival in the animal kingdom. Consequently, Nazi Germany embarked upon a policy of imperialism that ultimately led to its demise in a ruinous world war. His limited criticism of the Third Reich notwithstanding, in recent years, Mahler expressed his refusal to accept the mainstream historiography of the Holocaust.
Mahler’s embracement of Holocaust denials should be seen in the context of the [Historikerstreit] or “historians’ debate” of the 1980s, which re-evaluated the Nazi past and attempted to develop a German national consciousness derived from a historical identity outside the “shadow of Auschwitz.” The debate centered on whether or not the Third Reich was “unique” or rather, another example of totalitarianism not unlike Stalinist Soviet Union or Mao’s Red China. According to the prominent German historian Ernst Nolte, German National Socialism was informed to a large degree by a fear of Bolshevism and the depredations of the Russian Revolution. According to this reasoning, the barbarity of the Nazi regime was “defensive” in that it was borne in the fear of Bolshevik oppression.
After reading the research of the so-called revisionist historians, Mahler came to the conclusion that the “Holocaust dogma [was] the greatest lie of world history.” Mahler contends that the “Auschwitz Lie” had been fabricated by Jews to morally disarm the German people and ultimately, destroy them. Seeking to refute the historiography surrounding the Holocaust, which was established during the Nuremberg Military Tribunal and the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial, Mahler has made common cause with numerous revisionists, most notably, Ernst Zündel.
Since the mid-1970s, Ernst Zündel has gained notoriety as Canada’s largest purveyor of anti-Semitic and Holocaust denial material. As a young German expatriate, Zündel immigrated to Canada in 1958 and established himself as a successful commercial artist. Zündel’s legal problems first began in 1983 when he was prosecuted in Canada for disseminating Holocaust denial literature. Throughout the years, he has faced numerous charges stemming from these activities. In 2000, he moved to the United States and married Dr. Ingrid Rimland, a German-American woman who has also been involved in promoting Holocaust denial. In February 2003, agents of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) arrested Ernst Zündel in Sevierville, Tennessee, where he shared his residence with his wife. According to the INS, Zündel overstayed his visa and, consequently, faced a deportation hearing. Nearly two weeks after his arrest, U.S. authorities deported Zündel to Canada. In a controversial decision, a Canadian Federal Court Justice, Pierre Blais, ruled that Zündel constituted a threat to national security and on March 1, 2005, Canadian authorities deported Zündel to Germany whereupon German authorities quickly charged him with inciting racial hatred and defaming the memory of the dead.
Mahler sought to defend Zündel in his trial in Germany. Zündel’s defense team also included three court-appointed lawyers, who wanted to pursue a different defense approach that would focus more on due process rather than politicizing the trial. Explicitly rejecting the legitimacy of the Federal Republic, Mahler explained that he believed his client would be convicted irrespective of their legal strategy and instead used the opportunity to prolong their “freedom struggle.”
On the first day of Zündel’s trial on November 8, 2005, Judge Ulrich Meinerzhagen ruled that neither the disbarred Mahler (as a result of his endorsement of Holocaust denial, Mahler was again disbarred in several German cities) nor Sylvia Stolz (Mahler’s legal protégé), could serve on his defense team. Officially, Mahler acted only as an assistant to Stolz, and not Zündel’s attorney. Judge Ulrich Meinerzhagen retorted that it appeared that Mahler’s influence was considerable. For his part, Zündel made it clear to the court that he wanted Stolz to represent him. Mahler and Stolz wanted to introduce evidence that, inter alia, impugned the mainstream historiography of the Holocaust, the legal status of the Federal Republic, and other materials related to the “Jewish Question.” With his patience clearly visibly tried, Judge Meinerzhagen ordered the police to remove Mahler from the courtroom, whereupon Stolz finally agreed, but under protest that the decision had been coerced, to relieve him from his duty as her assistant. At that point, Mahler took a seat in the public area of the courtroom, which caused a ruckus and, as a result, Judge Meinerzhagen threatened to lock the public out of the trial.
During the trial, Stolz invoked a 1944 German statute, which prohibited aiding the enemy, and which carried a possible sentence of death. Mahler insists that the German Reich did not end with the surrender of the Wehrmacht on May 8, 1945. Moreover, the defense team argued that inasmuch as Germany never formally concluded a peace treaty with the victorious allies, the statute still remained in effect. Using this line of reasoning, Stolz warned that the German Reich was still the rightful government of Germany. Consequently, under the 1944 Reich law for treason, those in the court conceivably faced the death penalty for convicting Zündel under various hate speech provisions codified in contemporary German law. On February 15, 2007, the German court convicted Zündel of fourteen counts of incitement of racial hatred and sentenced him to five years in prison, the maximum penalty for denying the Holocaust in Germany.
In recent years, Holocaust denial has found fertile ground in the Middle East. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad went beyond previous rhetorical attacks on the United States and Israel when, on December 14, 2005, he suggested that the Holocaust was a myth. A year later, Ahamdinejad addressed a conference promoting Holocaust denial that was convened by the Iranian foreign ministry which was attended by sixty-seven participants from thirty countries. Mahler planned to attend the conference, but the German government withdrew his passport, thus preventing the trip. The Interior Ministry of Brandenburg announced that it would gravely damage Germany’s honor in the world if Mahler participated in the conference. Still, Mahler wrote an open letter to Ahmadinejad in which he praised the Iranian president for publicly endorsing Holocaust revisionism and providing a venue for the revisionists to meet. Expressing his gratitude, Mahler exclaimed, “You Mr. President have opened the gates to the truth. For this deed the nations will be eternally grateful and remember you as the deliverer from Jewish enslavement.” He suggested to Ahmadinejad that in addition to examining the Holocaust, that he put together a project to study why Jews had been persecuted some many times throughout history. Always pushing the envelope, Mahler gave unbridled praise to the 9/11 hijackers.
Reaction to 9/11
Shortly after the attacks, some of the more radical elements of the extreme right appeared to admire—indeed envy—the audacity of the Islamic terrorists involved in 9/11. Mahler proclaimed that the attacks marked the beginning of the end of the “Judeo-American” empire. He lauded the hijackers as “suicide commandos” who “struck at the heart of [the] monster and paralyzed it for a day.” The attacks, according to Mahler, were part of an “anti-capitalist world revolution” aiming to smash the “USA, including its global Jewish influence apparatus.” For Mahler, the events of 9/11 were part of a larger global struggle, which commenced with the promulgation of the Balfour Declaration in 1917. The real significance of the attacks, in his estimation, was that they demonstrated that United States was vulnerable and could not control all events in the world.
Echoing other far right conspiracy theorists, Mahler later speculated that the Israeli Mossad may have had a hand in the 9/11 attacks. However, he contended that even if that were true, that it would ultimately prove to be counterproductive insofar as 9/11 set in motion various developments that would not rebound to the favor of Israel and the United States. His provocative comments did not go unnoticed by the German government.
The Federal Republic of Germany’s response to extremism includes limiting the diffusion of certain ideas and opinions. In Mahler’s case, he was accused of condoning an illegal act. In an interview on the ARD television network, Mahler said that the 9/11 attacks were “cruel” but “justified” and that the perpetrators had his full sympathy. Furthermore, he argued that the attacks on America were legal under international military law. Ever defiant, speaking in a Hamburg court in January 2003, Mahler described the United States as “the bloodiest and most imperialist power the world has ever seen.” He defended the Arab hijackers commenting that they had a right to inflict retribution on the United States. In January 2005, Mahler was sentenced to nine months in prison for spreading anti-Semitic propaganda and inciting violence in a leaflet that was handed out at an NPD rally in 2002. Mahler appealed the conviction, but Germany’s highest administrative court upheld the original decision in August 2006. He began serving his sentence in November 2006. Furthermore, his license to practice law was withdrawn in 2004.
At first blush, Mahler’s conversion may seem odd and ideologically inconsistent. However, as the esteemed historian Walter Laqueur observed, there are striking similarities between the anti-Americanism of the far left and the extreme right. For his part, Mahler sees no contradiction between his leftist past and his current rightist orientation as he explained, “In the old days [1960s] our principal enemy was American imperialism. And today it still is: American policy is to balkanize Europe in order to render it non-competitive.” Furthermore, Mahler averred that the labels ‘left’ and ‘right’ no longer applied today. As he sees it, globalization is now the dominant issue and “the only power that can stand up to globalization is the nation.” Actually, there had been previous efforts by some elements of the extreme right to reposition fascism as a left-wing movement insofar as both ideologies are revolutionary in orientation.
In a bizarre exercise of historical revisionism, the Deutsches Kolleg once recast the campaign of the RAF as nationalist in orientation, and in a not so cryptic way, drew parallels between that revolutionary group and the Waffen-SS (the armed branch of the SS, which was essentially the praetorian guard of the Nazi regime), but in a favorable light. Hanns Martin Schleyer, whom the RAF castigated as a Nazi and eventually murdered, was condemned for betraying the German nation!
The Waffen-SDS (Red Army Faction) took up the armed struggle and despite all tactical misjudgments and judicial mistakes, also hit legitimate targets of any national struggle of liberation. This manifested itself in assassinations of military personnel of the occupying power, in attacks against German collaborators and in the murder of a person [Schleyer] who had betrayed the national revolutionary Volksgemeinschaft to the interests of a class.
Seen from this perspective the RAF launched an armed struggle, which included assassinations of military personnel of the occupying power—the United States—and also German collaborators. Rudi Dutschke, the young the leader of the Socialist Student Union (SDS) and left-wing martyr, was compared to Hitler and lionized as a charismatic leader who called for a renewal of the German Volk under socialism.
Mahler’s present Weltanschauung contains several themes that resonate with a seemingly disparate collection of dissidents who arrive at a critique of globalization, capitalism, the United States, and Zionism, albeit for different reasons. For example, both the extreme right and militant Islam charge that a Jewish conspiracy is undermining their societies. A new synthesis has been created centered on the narrative of a U.S.-Israeli alliance. The Israeli-Jewish hand is seen as pulling the strings of the American leviathan. Just as bin Laden has conflated the United States and Israel under the rubric of the “Zionist-Crusader” alliance, so has the international extreme right reified the notion of the United States government hopelessly under the control of a Jewish cabal in the acronym “ZOG” (Zionist Occupation Government). Mahler’s synthesis of anti-imperialism, anti-Americanism, and anti-Semitism makes for a radical political force, the viability of which is less than certain. Nevertheless, it demonstrates an interesting fusion of seemingly contradictory positions that resonate in some dissident quarters in an era of globalization.