An Overview Of Neo-Nazis And Ultranationalists Who Greatly Influence The German Extreme Right

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September 12, 2023

Germany's political extreme right is a rather fragmented spectrum. The ultranationalist party "Alternative for Germany" (AfD) is currently gaining momentum within the country's political landscape. The ever growing "new right" movement is shaped as intellectual and sophisticated, under the larger National Socialist worldview. This is embodied inter alia by the Identitarian movement, while more traditional neo-Nazi groups persist.

The groups have been characterized by internal instability, as seeking equilibrium and common denominator between the politically-nuanced groups has been difficult. In the past, groups on the far political right remained stagnant, failing to adapt to meet the zeitgeist or grow in membership. Increasingly, however, the German far right is becoming an important player, infiltrating the political landscape and seeking unity and integration of groups within the broader movement.

An effective and influential leader of the German political right understands the need to shift the paradigm and to encourage an ideologically-nuanced and flexible dynamic. They also seek to establish and foster a consolidative platform that bridges between various political denominations within the movement. In addition, growing the numbers of supporters demands community outreach, transparency, and making concrete offers aimed at filling the vacuum where established parties and policies fail to garner trust and support.

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This report provides an overview of figures who have played a vital role in influencing and shaping the current landscape of Germany's political right, wand who greatly contributed to the growth of their own parties both in numbers and influence.

Alexander Deptolla

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Alexander Deptolla is the founder and organizer of the prominent German Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) sports club "Kampf der Nibelungen" which has previously organized annual large-scale MMA competitions, attracting neo-Nazis from across Europe and beyond. It thus simultaneously serves as a networking platform, also organizing camps and co-sponsoring neo-Nazi festivals and other events.

Deptolla maintains a wide-ranging network within the space of neo-Nazis martial arts clubs and apparel labels throughout Europe, with several sponsorship collaborations in place. "KdN" is Germany's neo-Nazi MMA exporter, having established a merchandise brand and collaborations. Affiliates and collaborators include apparel label "White Rex" founder and commander of the "Russian Volunteer Korps" Denis Kasputin, alias "Denis Nikitin"; "Pride France," and "Legio Hungaria."

He is the deputy chairman of the neo-Nazi party "Heimat Dortmund," formerly "Die Rechte Dortmund", which consolidated with "Die Heimat", formerly "National Democratic Party" (NPD).

Since February 2022, Alexander Deptolla leads a video podcast/video project titled "Wie gesagt!" ("As said!") where he periodically discusses issues pertaining to the neo-Nazi scene, including legal issues, and interviews neo-Nazi figures. His existing influence and standing in the Dortmund community allowed him to run as a candidate for Dortmund city council.

Deptolla is one of the principal figures on the scene, responsible for nationwide projects such as solidarity campaigns and fundraising.

Sascha Krolzig

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Sascha Krolzig is chairman of the neo-Nazi party "Heimat Dortmund," formerly "Die Rechte Dortmund", which consolidated with "Die Heimat", formerly "National Democratic Party" (NPD). Krolzig is the publisher of the political magazine "N.S. Heute," released bimonthly under his publishing and merchandise company "Sturmzeichen Verlag," which also sells merchandise related to National Socialism and historical revisionism.

"N.S. Heute" is the most prominent contemporary neo-Nazi magazine, addressing events from a NS perspective, interviewing influential figures, featuring articles commemorating living and deceased veteran SS figures and those affiliated with Nazi Germany, and publishing writings from these figures which do not reach the mainstream literature landscape.

Having studied law and completing a law apprenticeship at the Werther city administration, Krolzig occasionally functions as a legal adviser in the community despite having been denied license to practice.

In February [2023], Krolzig was sentenced to 12 months in prison by the Dortmund Regional Court, which was suspended on probation. He was charged for disseminating NS propaganda and for 'unconstitutional organization and incitement of hatred' on numerous accounts. Prior to his conviction, he was a frequent organizer and speaker at events/protests and maintains close connection with prominent Holocaust deniers, including Ursula Haverbeck.

Tommy Frenck

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Tommy Frenck, a former member of the "National Democratic Party," now "Die Heimat," who is still closely affiliated with the party, is the founder of the political neo-Nazi association "Bündnis Hildburghausen" in the district of Hildburghausen, located in Thuringia. He ran for mayor in his town of Kloster Veßra in June 2022, garnering 29.1% of votes. Despite losing, Frenck set an example for seeking a higher political position, demonstrating that "community-maintenance," particularly within local and regional level pays off, regardless of initial political affiliation.

Frenck runs a popular neo-Nazi tavern called "Gasthaus Goldener Löwe," a frequently used venue for gatherings, concerts, festivals, etc. The town Kloster Veßra, with approx. 500 residents, is shaped greatly by Frenck's community activism, which attracts visitors from across the country and abroad; neo-Nazis periodically flock to Hildburghausen, the district where Kloster Veßra is located, to attend neo-Nazi events organized by Frenck.

In addition, Frenck operates a printing and propaganda merchandise online store, "Druck18," which sells an assortment of NS-related material as well as his newly-published autobiography, "Do We Live In A [Free] Country?"

Thorsten Heise

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Thorsten Heise posing with Holocaust denier Ursula von Haverbeck.

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Thorsten Heise is one of the three deputy chairmen of the Neo-Nazi party "Die Heimat", formerly "National Democratic Party" and a leading activist of the "Free Comradeship/Fraternity" scene in Germany. His connections and influence transcend German borders, reaching the US and South Africa, making him the most influential and networked German neo-Nazi.

He operates the propaganda and merchandise store "Schild & Schwert" ("Shield & Sword") which also organizes the large-scale music festival "Schild & Schwert" as well as other large-scale neo-Nazi festivals and events. His merchandise ranges from propaganda material, neo-Nazi music, apparel, to defense and survival equipment.

With his substantial financial resources and immense capacity to recruit, mobilize, and organize logistics, Heise plays a vital role in the German neo-Nazi underground scene and infrastructure. He is well-established and connected in Switzerland, home to numerous persecuted German neo-Nazi activists and dismantled groups that have been outlawed in Germany, enabling him to assume a mediator position between the Swiss and German scene.

Heise had been previously charged on accounts of attempted homicide, ownership of illegal firearms, and grievous bodily harm and coercion. German police reportedly found him to be connected to a neo-Nazi military training camps in South Africa. He has been an affiliate of the dismantled and abolished terror cell "National Socialist Underground" (NSU).

Based in the Thuringia municipality Fretterode, which is home to a large neo-Nazi community, Heise enjoys significant influence. He is also connected to Björn Höcke, leader of the Thuringian branch of the ultranationalist "Alternative for Germany" party and member of Thuringia's state parliament.

Matthias Fischer

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Matthias Fischer is chairman and co-founder of the neo-Nazi party "III.Weg" which has expanded greatly nationwide in the past year and a half. He played a significant role in the party's expansion in northeastern Germany, including Berlin, Brandenburg, and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

Fischer ran as a candidate in the electoral district of Fürth in the 2005 Bundestag elections representing the Bavarian branch of the former "National Democratic Party" (NPD). He was a leading member of the abolished networks the "Fränkische Aktionsfront" ("Franconian Action Front") and "Freies Netz Süd" ("Free Network South").

Previously a leading figure of the neo-Nazi scene in southern Germany where he once resided, he was also the chairman of "Young Nationalists", the youth organization of "Die Heimat," formerly NPD. His relations with the NPD following his resignation in 2010 remain ambivalent, hence the absence of official ties or collaboration between "III.Weg" and "Die Heimat". He is a member of the global white supremacist network "Aryan Hope" and has a tattoo professing membership on his scalp.

Patrick Wieschke

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Patrick Wieschke is deputy chairman of the Thuringia branch of "Die Heimat", formerly "National Democratic Party" (NPD), and is City Councilor of Eisenach (town in Thuringia) since 2006. He is very well connected within the Thuringian neo-Nazi scene, which is the strongest nationwide, and is active in establishing a regional networking platform and neo-Nazi stronghold, while also developing supraregional cooperation – not only within the party, but with other far-right groups.

Wiescke played an integral role in reforming the party following its re-naming earlier this year to "Die Heimat". He was a founding member of the "Young Nationalists" in Thuringia and served as its spokesman and deputy chairman.

He has a successful history in acquiring political mandates on local and state levels as an NPD representative, despite his criminal record, which ranges from involvement in an explosive attack on a Turkish restaurant to confirmed allegations of molestation of a minor and the domestic abuse of his mother and sister. Wieschke claims to be fully rehabilitated thanks to the neo-Nazi initiative and platform "Gefangenenhilfe Freundeskreis" ("Prisoner Aid Friends' Circle"), which offers aid to imprisoned neo-Nazi activists and their families.

Björn Höcke

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Björn Höcke is the parliamentary and state leader of the AfD Thuringia. He co-founded the far-right movement "Der Flügel." Through his founded branch (now dismantled) and expansive network within the extreme-right, new right, and its Identitarian movement, Höcke garnered valuable connections consisting of middle aged to young extreme-right intellectuals, whose National Socialist ideology is masked by a sophisticated manner, a form that distinguishes the new right from traditional neo-Nazis.

With Björn Höcke as its top candidate, the AfD has garnered 23,4% of votes in the last Thuringia state elections, and in the federal elections in 2021 the party received 24,0% in the state.

Höcke continues to espouse concepts from the new right, while aiming to mobilize an alliance of extreme-right entities in the quest of ethnically-homogenizing Germany. Despite having no official ties with "Die Heimat", he is present in Thuringia and has assumed a course of networking with AfD representatives. Moreover, it was established that Höcke has indeed ties to Thorsten Heise and wrote several articles for NPD-published journals and media outlets under the pseudonym "Landolf Ladig".

In a communication with a colleague in the party, Höcke called for the abolition of sections 86 and 130 of the German Criminal Code, which would permit the dissemination of NS propaganda, the incitement of hatred, and Holocaust denial.

Sebastian Weigler

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Sebastian Weigler is the federal chairman of "Young Nationalists" (JN) the youth organization of the German neo-Nazi party "Die Heimat", formerly "National Democratic Party". Since his appointment last year (2022), JN established itself as a highly active and present youth movement, not only within the neo-Nazi scene, but operating along the entire right-wing spectrum. He co-established the Braunschweig branch and expanded JN in Lower Saxony, one of the fastest growing branches.

As JN leader, Weigler functions as an immediate mediator and bridge between the dynamic neo-Nazi youth and the new right movement, including the Identitarian movement. Weigler formed his JA based on the strategic triad of community-building, activism, and education, increasing mainstream acceptance of neo-Nazi ideology through a moderate and modern rhetoric. By encouraging new connections with other group, he aims to create a strong yet flexible extreme-right youth alliance that is the key in revolutionary communities.

Hannes Gnauck

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Hannes Gnauck is a member of the Bundestag (German Parliament) since 2021 representing the ultranationalist "Alternative for a Germany" (AfD) party, heads the AfD Uckermark district office in the state of Brandenburg, and is a member of the Uckerfelde municipality council (Brandenburg). In 2022, Gnauck was elected as federal chairman of "Young Alternative" (JA), the youth organization of AfD.

Prior to entering politics, he served as a staff sergeant in the Panzergrenadier Battslion 411 and was deployed as part of the "Resolute Support Mission" to Afghanistan (Mazar-e Sharif) and was later ranked as first sergeant in the German Armed Forces. Following his classification as a right-wing extremist by the Military Counterintelligence Service, he was stripped off his ranks and was dismissed.

Gnauck functions as an important bridge and mediator within the fragmented political right, where ultranationalists and neo-Nazis do not always find a common denominator. The climate is particularly shaped by the belief that AfD is essential a puppet of the establishment and will eventually surrender to more traditional agenda to gain success, rather than remaining true to untranationalist ideology. Gnauck, being not only a politician but also leading Identitarian youth under JA, has access to those who are receptive to the neo-Nazi spectrum.

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