BERLIN (JTA) — Holocaust survivors welcomed Germany’s decision to ban one of its largest neo-Nazi organizations.
Announcing the ban of HNG, the "national organization for political prisoners and their relatives," German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said Wednesday that the organization’s real purpose is to assist far-right extremists in opposing the democratic state.
"Holocaust survivors welcome the ban … as a sign of modern Germany’s political maturity and its clear determination to confront extremists in any guise," Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, said in a statement responding to the news.
A series of raids on HNG cells followed the ban, and materials were seized as evidence at locations in the states of Bavaria, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westfalia and Rhineland Pfalz. HNG, which reportedly was founded in 1979 and had 600 members, was subjected to a search-and-seizure operation last year, which revealed that the group was actively working to undermine the democratic state, according to the Interior Ministry.
Friedrich in his statement said that the federal government had to stop HNG from bolstering the aggressive, anti-democratic position of jailed right-wing extremists.
"By rejecting the democratic rule of law and glorifying Nazism, HNG was trying to bind far-right criminals to ‘the scene,’ " he said. "HNG has contributed to the apparent radicalization of the neo-Nazi scene" through its solidarity with and financial support for criminals.
HNG has been assisting mainly younger neo-Nazis. Another organization — Stille Hilfe, or Silent Aid — has been helping accused or convicted Nazi war criminals since 1951. Some observers say Stille Hilfe has helped accused criminals evade justice.
Efraim Zuroff, Israel director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, recently told JTA that Stille Hilfe is “symbolically important, but what their impact is is hard to say.”
Steinberg said the impact of HNG was not in doubt. Its "hate-filled worldview extends beyond antipathy to Jews to all minorities," he said. "History has shown us where such malignant attitudes can lead."