European neo- nazis are gathering in Ostritz: a sleepy German town of 2,300 people near Polish and Czech borders, to celebrate 129th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s birthday. The event, called Schild und Schwert (Shield and Sword), or, if you may, SS Festival, is expected to attract hundreds if not thousands of European fascists, mostly from Germany and Eastern Europe.
The SS Festival is organized by Thorsten Heise of the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD). Heise claims it is a political event, which grants it legal protection under the German Constitution. NPD is a far-right, untranationalist fringe German party funded in 1960s and is described as “the most significant neo-Nazi party to emerge after 1945”. The party escaped four ban attempts, most recently in 2016.
Mostly male festival participants started to congregate yesterday to take part in ticketed event with a tent town, far-right music gig, speeches, martial arts, a tattoo convention and merchandise stalls starting today. Many right-wing extremists arriving at the festival wore T-shirts with slogans such as “Keepers of the Race,” “White is my favorite color” and “Adolf was the best”. One group arrived in a car with a number plate bearing a hate symbol “1488”. Event security is provided by Aryan Brotherhood.
The SS Festival takes place in a remote region of the ex-communist eastern state of Saxony where the AfD scored some of its strongest results in national elections in 2017. Despite of that, the local residents plan oppose the nazi event with their own “Peace Festival” organized by local politicians, civic groups and church leaders. The Peace Festival will feature speeches, a circus and an Arabic cafe, and aims to show that the town values “cosmopolitanism, tolerance, democracy and peaceful coexistence”.
Hundreds of antifascist activists flocked to town to oppose the nazi gathering, with actions planned for today. German police mobilised 1100 officers, a water cannon and boats patrolling the Neisse border river, in anticipation of unrest. Polish local media report police roadblocks on the Polish side of the border, with apparent attempt to stop Antifa from travelling to Ostritz.
The nazi festival was organised with participation from Eastern European right-wing extremists. Many of SS Festival participants travelled to Ostritz from Poland, Czech Republic and Baltic countries, with Polish nazis offering accommodation to their German counterparts in nearby locations on the Polish side of the border.
The statement issued by Antifa International reads:
The date and place where the SS festival will be held point to one more important aspect of this event – Hitler’s birthday is celebrated just few kilometres off the border of a country which enormously suffered under German occupation, i.e. Poland. The organizers glorify the ideology of national socialism yet denying or belittling all nazi crimes and atrocities brought on Poles and other Central-East European citizens. More interestingly, Ostritz lies on the border with Dolny Śląsk (Lower Silesia) region which in 1945 was rightfully returned to Poland. However, “Shield & Sword” organizers publicly claim that the region is “temporarily under Polish administration”. Sascha Elser from the Initiative “Rechts rockt nicht” notes: “It is obvious that they want this land back”. Apparently, it does not keep Polish neonazis from coming to the festival. Moreover, they resigned from organizing their own celebration of Hitler’s birthday called “Noc Tożsamości” (The Night of Identity) and officially invite to come to Ostritz.
Clearly eastern European nazis need to go back to primary school to learn what happens when German nazis gain ground.
Image: Antifa International