It goes without saying that this is a scary thought:
Neo-Nazi parties took seats in German legislatures this week for the first time in 36 years. The top-selling film in German movie theatres was a controversial new drama that portrays a sensitive, human Adolf Hitler. And protests from Jewish groups and German activists failed to stop the display of a collection allegedly assembled from the Nazi slave-labour fortunes.
It was a bizarre and disquieting week in Germany, full of dark echoes of the 1920s and featuring several bizarre spectacles. Whenever the newly elected fascists were asked questions on TV news shows, politicians from major parties got up, took off their microphones and stormed out of the studios. A 35-year-old woman cartwheeled across an art-gallery floor before kicking apart major works of modern art in a protest against owner Friedrich Christian Flick, grandson of a Nazi war criminal.
The week’s events left many Germans wondering if fascist extremism has made a return to mainstream credibility, after being nearly unmentionable in Germany since Hitler’s suicide nearly 60 years ago.
There have been chilling echoes of the circumstances that saw Hitler sweep to power in the late 1920s and early 1930s: a sustained period of growing unemployment and economic malaise; angry and jobless young men in the eastern provinces infuriated by the liberal, tolerant society of the west; a widespread distrust of “outsiders,” immigrants and perceived non-Germans.