On 15 October, more than 5,000 neo-Nazis from all over Europe met in Unterwasser, a small mountain village in eastern Switzerland.
Even though the Swiss police is supposed to monitor the activities of far right groups, it was only when busloads of Nazi skinheads crossed the border that they became aware of the event. Completely unable to match the far right’s forces, they stood idly by and watched whilst hundreds of thousands of Euros were collected to finance neo-Nazi structures in Europe, but mainly in Germany.
The Nazis had rented out a local sports hall under the guise of organising a small live music event. However, the bands were the hard core of neo-Nazi musicians around the Blood and Honour network, such as Stahlgewitter, Frotalkraft, Amok and Confident of Victory. The lyrics of these bands are a hodgepodge of poorly written rhymes, racism and antisemitism as well as open calls for violence against minorities. Such hate speech is prohibited by Swiss law. But the onlooking police repeated the neo-Nazis’ claim that this was a private event and so the law wasn’t applicable in this situation.
Journalists estimate that more than 200,000 euros were made that night. It was at least partly raised to finance 15 neo-Nazis in Thuringia who were arrested after an attack on a local fair at which 10 people were injured. One of the organisers of the event, 29 year old Matthias Melchner, is originally from Thuringia, but now lives in Switzerland and has been involved in groups in good contact with the Ballstädt Nazis. Sources acquainted with the neo-Nazis claim that in fact Steffen Richter was the main force behind the event. He in turn was a very close associate of Ralf Wohlleben, who is suspected to have closely collaborated with the terror group National Socialist Underground, which has murdered at least ten people in Germany and emerged in the late 90s from Thuringia’s neo-Nazi scene.
Switzerland seems to have a certain attraction for the European neo-Nazi scene. Compared with Germany or Austria, Switzerland’s anti-hate speech laws are relatively tame. Several leading German neo-Nazis have in the last years relocated to Switzerland, and far right concerts and conferences are held in regularly. Meanwhile the extreme right in Switzerland itself is small and stagnating as its core topics, like immigration, are firmly in the hands of the more “moderate” Swiss People’s Party.
The massive success of this far right, racist party has helped the extreme right to feel more secure and confident. It has unfortunately also pushed the parliamentary left to the right, and just this summer the Social Democrats, under the guise of finding a compromise, voted in favour of a law allowing for easier deportations of asylum seekers. Unless the Swiss left is able to really push against the racist tide, the far right will continue to feel all too comfortable.