Published on Saturday, 01 September 2012 19:22 Written by The Mirror
Since Uwe opened his Kosher restaurant in the eastern German city of Chemnitz in 2000, he has endured hatred and abuse – from pigs’ heads nailed to his door, to “You Jew pig” screamed down the phone and people urinating through the letterbox.
Uwe’s plight is just a ripple in a rising tide of neo-Nazi hatred in Europe’s most powerful nation.
Seven decades after the downfall of the Third Reich and over 20 years since reunification, Germans seem blind to the dangers.
“After an estimated 180 racist killings in Germany since unification in 1990, after countless assaults, cases of intimidation... the conclusion has to be that Germany is losing the battle against the violent far right,” said authoritative news magazine Der Spiegel this week.
This week German commentators have been reflecting on the rise and rise of those who dream of a Fourth Reich – because this week marked a terrible anniversary.
It is 20 years since right-wing thugs hurled petrol bombs and bricks at an asylum-seekers’ refuge in the Baltic port of Rostock.
While dozens of extremists were responsible, police and firemen had to retreat in the face of a thousands-strong mob of ordinary people who cheered them on.
Two decades on, some Germans are taking stock of the neo-Nazi menace and can draw little comfort from what they see.
A year ago, the nation was sickened by the crimes of the National Socialist Underground murder squad which assassinated nine immigrant businessmen and a policewoman in a 13-year terror campaign.
“They are disgrace to our country,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel at the time.
But the uproar has faded into large-scale indifference and the fertile ground of the former East Germany continues to churn out extremists.
Individuals and authorities try to fight back. Kindergarten teachers are vetted in Mecklenburg Vorpommern – Merkel’s home turf – because the far right indoctrinates children as young as five.
Hoteliers in Brandenburg were last month issued with a new guidebook telling them how to recognise and stop Nazis from staying in their establishments.
They are warned to be suspicious of people who wear the British clothing brand Lonsdale.
Neo-Nazis love it because the NSDA within the brand name are the initials of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei – the Nazis.
They wave the battle flags of the Kaiser, because all symbols of Nazism are banned. To give the Hitler salute in public is to risk six months in jail.
Yet the racists march on.
There are links to Hitler’s Nazis. Gudrun Burwitz, 82, whose father was SS overlord Heinrich Himmler, has become “godmother” to many female Nazis.
From her home in a leafy suburb of Munich, she is also the leading figure in Stille Hilfe – Silent Help – a support group for Nazi war criminals at large.
Anti-racism activist Timo Reinfrank said that the far-right frequently manages to establish “nationally liberated zones” in east and rural west Germany.
“People who don’t fit into the Aryan-German world view can’t go there – punks, leftists, skaters, immigrants, gays and lesbians,” Reinfrank says.
At the same time, far-right parties have successfully made inroads into mainstream politics.
Such a place is Jamal, north-east of Berlin where every home bar one is owned by a neo-Nazi.
They hold pagan festivals around bonfires and cluster round a signpost that tells you how far away Braunau am Inn is – Hitler’s Austrian birthplace.
Germany has tried several times to ban the biggest legal far-right party, the NPD, but as long as the country remains two societies – the richer west and the far poorer east – the ultra-right will continue to prey on the disadvantaged and malcontented.
And now, disturbingly, it is not only in the east.
Just a week ago, 900 armed police stormed 150 neo-Nazi premises in North Rhine-Westphalia – the largest swoop ever in western Germany.
It came as the state’s interior minister Ralf Jaeger banned three Hitler-worshipping groups. Two members of one were stopped en-route to Berlin in 2010 with bombs containing glass shards.
This is the fear of the ruling elite – armed Nazis, comfortable with violence and not afraid to use it.