In 2017, a new German political party semi Neo-Nazi called AfD – Alternative for Germany – swept into Germany’s federal parliament winning 12.6% of the popular vote. By the end of 2020, the AfD entered all sixteen state parliaments, even though its support declined to 9% in recent months. Among the state legislatures in which the AfD has made its presence felt is Berlin’s parliament.
Beating the candidate of the progressive left by just 1%, the AfD candidate – Kay Nerstheimer – Kay Nerstheimer (b. 1964) became a parliamentarian in Berlin. Nerstheimer departed from Germany’s semi Neo-Nazi party to join the real Neo-Nazi part, the NPD or National Democratic Party. Over the last few years, many commentators have seen the Alternativ fur Deutschland soft-image AfD as the natural successor to the hard core Neo-Nazis of the NPD.
Since the electoral successes of the AfD, the NPD had sunk further into insignificance, and there has been a marked movement of party apparatchiks, supporters and voters from the NPD to the AfD. As a result, the NPD rarely attracts attention. It did so when it had to face the prospect of disappearing altogether in 2016. Twice the NPD managed to avoid this largely because of the incompetency of Germany’s secret police.
Until the arrival of the AfD, right-wing extremists played an insignificant role in Berlin’s parliament. Over the past few years, however, the rise of the far right AfD left even less room for more openly Neo-Nazi parties, like the NPD, to operate. With Nerstheimer’s move from the AfD (Nazism by stealth) to the NPD (open Nazism), the NPD proudly broadcasts its success on all available social media– Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. It claims, The NPD is in the state parliament.
This happened only because one current member of Berlin’s state parliament and former AfD politician, Kay Nerstheimer, switched his allegiance. By November 2020, the NPD was already introducing Nerstheimer as a new member of their party, and releasing a video that showed Nerstheimer and NPD-Führer Udo Voigt cosying up to one another– the face of fascism. On his own part, though, Nerstheimer claims that he had been a member of the AfD from the beginning. Perhaps a reminder of Hitler’s alte Kämpfer, the so-called old fighters who had joined Hitler’s Nazi party before Hitler was made Reichs-chancellor in 1933.
Indeed, Nerstheimer’s AfD membership card shows his joining date as March 2013. In the good old early days of the AfD, Nerstheimer had been a co-founder of a local platoon in the Berlin electorate of Lichtenberg. Yet in August 2013, Nerstheimer had briefly left the AfD after attempts had been made to exclude him from the party.
Since the opening days of Adolf Hitler, Germany’s right-wing extremists have always rejected the hated “system” – a Nazi code word for democracy. Notwithstanding, Nerstheimer’s hallucination that the AfD had become part of the democratic system might be the real reason for his departure from the AfD. In fact, Nerstheimer said in a recent talk; AfD is slowly becoming a system party like any other party. Thus he himself has not changed politically, but the AfD has. The marriage of convenience made in Hell between the two would-be Nazi parties may therefore be more a shambles than a love-match.
The Center for Political Beauty is one of the many German progressive organisations watching the activitiesd of the right-wing and, not least, the AfD. Perhaps the Center’s most famous act has been to place a small version of Germany’s Holocaust memorial in front of the AfD’s leader’s home after Björn Höcke suggested that Berlin’s Holocaust memorial is shameful. As intended, the symbolic act annoyed Mr Höcke immensely.
The Centre is arguing that Nerstheimer could be the next far right state leader Andreas Kalbitz. Andreas Kalbitz, a local AfD Führer with a very strong and rather long far-right and Neo-Nazi career until his all too obvious Neo-Nazi past caught up with him, was forced out of his own party. This was done largely to improve the PR image of the AfD. Kalbitz. By 2020, Kalbitz was no longer able to deny his own record. After much internal quarrelling and a sustained campaign by Germany’s liberal media, this petty would-be Fuhrer was kicked out of the AfD by the party’s executive committee. The pressure to pretend not to be a crypto Neo-Nazi party has grown ever since the Germany media secret service began taking an interest in the machinations of AfD.
At the beginning of last year, there were early signs of a rapprochement between local AfD-strongman Nerstheimer and the Neo-Nazi NPD. In January 2020, Nerstheimer attended a beer-hall-like meeting of right-wing extremists at Berlin’s Gendarmenmarkt. The gathering was touted as an innocent Tuesday Talk. Along with the head of Berlin’s NPD squad came Baden-Württemberg state parliament member Wolfgang Gedeon. For a long time, Gedeon has been the most outspoken anti-Semitic leader of the AfD. Eventually, in March 2020. he too was expelled from the AfD. It came as part of a pretend cleaning up of a handful of big names so as to present the AfD as Nazi-rein (clean) and respectable to bourgeois party.
Because of his history of affiliation with Neo-Nazism, his NPD connections, and his blatant antisemitism, Nerstheimer’s departure is a loss for the AfD. Men like him can capture Germany’s still existing Nazi underbelly ambiguous right-of-centre middle during upcoming elections. More importantly, Nerstheimer had already won a mandate for the AfD in the local district of Lichtenberg with 26% of the popular vote. Despite that, he soon fell into disgrace. Slowly his unsavoury past has come to light. Nerstheimer had belonged to the xenophobic and far-right German Defence League. And he planned to set up a right-wing militia. Unable to play normal politics by holding his tongue, he abused homosexuals, migrants and refugees, thus preventing him and his party from occupying any centre grounds.
As the AfD is facing a marked decline in public support, it has taken an increasing interested in presenting itself as a democratic party. As a consequence, Nerstheimer and his ilk became a bit of a PR problem. The party chiefs simply did not want to spoil its carefully choreographed public relations image of being seen as a normal party that participates in the democratic process. An obvious AfD-NPD link was not something the AfD wanted. Being put under enormous party-internal pressure, Nerstheimer finally made his move; yet it was not the one that would win him or his fellow right-wing popular support. When he renounced his AfD membership he seemed to the outside world as having done so on his own initiative.
Unlike Nerstheimer, the ideological off-sider and Neo-Nazi bully-boy Kalbitz, one of the AfD’s key representatives of its now “officially” purged outspoken Neo-Nazi grouping inside the AfD, Since his break with his old warrior friends, Nerstheimer has not played much of an official role in the AfD. Without a powerful internal group to back him, Nerstheimer is dead wood. Yet Neo-Nazi Nerstheimer, when he announced his switch to the extreme right, was welcomed to his true home: the ultra-nationalistic NPD.
Another celebrated the defector even before Nerstheimer’s shift to the right was officially announced, NPD-Führer Udo Voigt is now hoping that the much publicized move will send a signal implying that the real home of German Neo-Nazism is the NPD – not the AfD. Voigt announced, The people in the AfD must have a future. This can mean two things: firstly, when Voigt uses the word Volk, he refers to the Volksgemeinschaft, that is, Hitler’s l’idée fixe of an antisemitic and race-based nation. Secondly, NPD boss Voigt wanted to attract the most extreme right inside the AfD to switch to the true home of German Neo-Nazism, his NPD.
Protecting the AfD from such ideological incursions, Berlin’s AfD treasurer Frank-Christian Hansel was eager to rejected the NPD’s foray by saying, There is no signal. Visibly rattled by Nerstheimer’s defection and the NPD’s self-backslapping attitude, Hansel might be correct. There has been no clear signal for a mass defection from the AfD (12.6% in 2017) to the miniscule NPD (0.4%). In this game size matters. The NPD has never had the drawing power.
The NPD was and remains a fringe party. With a nice sounding name “alternative” and plenty of backing from Germany’s right-wing tabloid media, the AfD has become Germany’s apparently legitimate party on the right, third third largest party behind Merkel’s conservative CDU and the social-democratic SPD. For most party apparatchiks inside the AfD – some of whom indeed had moved from the NPD to the AfD – a return to the minuscule NPD simply does not make sense politically, even though it make sense in terms of ideology.
The defection of a 56-year old bricklayer, cook and security guard who was convicted of hate crimes does not present a serious challenge for the AfD. Nonetheless, in November 2020 Nerstheimer made headlines in the German press when one of Germany’s best newspapers – Die Tageszeitung – proclaimed, Officially Nerstheimer is a Nazi.
Other than that, Nerstheimer, over the past four years while sitting in Berlin’s parliament, has not attracted much attention in the media. Neo-Nazi Nerstheimer attended parliamentary sessions in a nice business suit and made only a few crude speeches. Nerstheimer sat rather quietly in the far corner of parliament starring into his laptop, while collecting a state salary. Nobody knows what was he was actually doing, if anything at all.
Some suspect Nerstheimer was just doing online shopping. He apparently spends a lot of time doing just that. With next to no interest in democracy or parliamentarian affairs, Nerstheimer clicked on bargain hunting websites, ordered numerous articles and wrote dozens of opinion-strong product reviews on Amazon. Nerstheimer is using democracy. Perhaps it is a bit like Hitler’s propaganda minister Josef Goebbels who once said,
[It] will always remain one of the best jokes of democracy, that it gave its deadly enemies the means by which it was destroyed.
All of that wouldn’t really matter much if Nerstheimer hadn’t been convicted of hate speech. Nerstheimer may look like a bumbling fool, but he is also a right-wing extremist who likes weapons and everything that has to do with violence and brutality. In one incident, Nerstheimer ordered a holster with magazine bag for right-handers for €23.99. Nerstheimer’s purchase was verified by Amazon. On Amazon, Nerstheimer wrote, It fits my needs exactly and the second magazine will be used with my nice and handy pistol CZ 75 B, the second magazine will also be used with my nice and handy pistol. Like their predecessors, Germany’s Neo-Nazi are armed—and mad!
On the very same day, Nerstheimer also rated an US Army bag for €33.90 saying It is large enough for my MP 40. The MP 40 was the submachine gun of Hitler’s Wehrmacht. If Nerstheimer should actually own one, it is likely to fall under Germany’s weapons control act making his possession illegal. Meanwhile, Nerstheimer still dreams of the Wehrmacht. He finds no German guilt for the Second World War and he fetishizes model-making warships. Nerstheimer also poses on a Facebook with a remote-controlled tank.
Finally, Neo-Nazi Nerstheimer finds war movies in which Nazis aren’t heroes particularly bad. On Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece Inglourious Basterds Inglourious Basterds featuring several German stars Daniel Brühl and Til Scheiger as well as US superstar Brad Pitt, Nerstheimer commented, Every German should throw the movie into the trash can! Perhaps it is time to toss him and his kind into the rubbish bin of history. Watch it again.
This post was originally published on Radio Free.