Personal Public (Death) Threat II: How Germanophone White Power bands threaten their enemies

Michael Regener, left, band leader of the German right-wing extremist music group “Landser” and his lawyer Arnold Wendorff are waiting for the verdict of the German Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe. (© AP)

Before the beginning of a so-called fourth wave of far right politics, some far right actors with political ambition, especially party officials, ate crow to strive for social acceptance, whereas White Power bands worldwide – in most cases – didn’t mince their words. At first glance this might not be surprising due to diverging self-images, (perceived) social status, political ambitions within the democratic political system, and intended societal ideal. While in most (Western) societies the far right has been confronted with a well-marked social cordon sanitaire, hate speech legislation is a stark contrast to that. On the one hand, US legislation is – in comparison to EU ECHR standards – very tolerant of hate speech, and on the other hand, hate speech legislation of countries like France, Austria and Germany is considered very strict, even within the ECHR legal framework (which includes countries like Hungary and the UK) are located on the other side of the spectrum, leaning towards a more tolerant approach to deal with hate speech.

In this light it might come as a surprise that German White Power bands, in particular, have an extensive record of songs threatening their perceived enemies. Before turning to the actual cases, one needs to consider the historical background, the legislation, and its enforcement. During the period of the anti-immigrant riots in Hoyerswerda and Rostock-Lichtenhagen, the so-called asylum compromise and the rapidly growing White Power Music scene, it became obvious that German authorities did not prosecute hate crimes (and hate speech) with the full force of the law. In particular, this was true for White Power bands until 1992. These contextual conditions facilitated a further normalization of hate speech and mainstreaming of these bands. After the establishment of the scene – including political and organizational highs and lows until the present day – the extreme right, specifically the White Power Music scene, could not be sustainably repressed with the means of militant democracy or civic engagement. Even after the ban of two bands, Landser and Race War (using Section 129 of the German Criminal Code: forming criminal organizations), in the mid-2000s, most bands either used a conspiratorial or a preventive legal review before releasing records, maintaining attitude and course, especially with regards to unambiguous (death) threats towards their enemies. (The majority of the bands adjusted their lyrics to the legal framework, but still about 10-25% – depending on the time period – did and still do not conform to the corresponding laws.) Hereafter, the most prominent and frequently addressed examples, covering the years 1992 until 2016, are analyzed.

In 1992, the band Landser (old fashioned expression for infantry man) came up with their demo cassette “Das Reich kommt wieder” (“The Reich will rise again”), including two songs addressing multiple enemy images (i.e. leftists, Jews, politicians, various ethnic minorities). The title “Schlagt sie tot” (“Beat them to death/Kill them”) – using the melody of Cock Sparrer’s “Take ‘Em All” – is an incitement to kill leftists in general and specifically (former) members of the East German Communist party SED, as well as its legal successors, the German post-communist party PDS. While these death threats are addressed to a roughly defined group of enemies, the former party chairman of the PDS, Gregor Gysi, is directly threatened. The lyrics also allude to the suspicion that Gysi worked for the Ministry for State Security (East German Intelligence), which serves as a legitimization for this threat – beyond being a leftist. To this day, this information is still being proven or disproven.

The second song “Rechtsradikal” (“Radical right wing”) of the same record – using the melody of The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” – threatens three (formerly) high ranking Jewish representatives Heinz Galinski (Central Council of Jews in Germany), Edgar Miles Bronfman Sr.(World Jewish Congress) and Simon Wiesenthal (Simon Wiesenthal Center), by “inviting them for tea with Zyklon B (instead of sugar)”. They are addressed as Jews and perceived by the neo-Nazis with secondary characteristic functions: spearheads of ZOG, Nazi hunters, and big businessmen.

A repeatedly threatened person is Jan-Philipp Reemtsma, a German philanthropist and patron of the arts and heir of the Reemtsma Cigarette Company. The bands Die Zillertaler Türkenjäger/Die lustigen Zillertaler (“Zillertal valley turk hunters/the funny Zillertal valley dwellers”) and Landser both threatened him because of the two Wehrmacht exhibitions he (co-)conceptualized, where the myth of a “clean Wehrmacht” was deconstructed. The Die lustigen Zillertaler/Die Zillertaler Türkenjäger song “Hier kommt Reemtsma” (“Here comes Reemtsma”) – a musical adaption of the anti-Nazi song  “Hier kommt Alex” by the German punk band Die Toten Hosen from 2009 – only threatens Reemtsma. The Landser song “Volk ans Gewehr” (“Call To Arms”) – an adaption of the 1931 Nazi marching song “Siehst du im Osten das Morgenrot” (“Do you see dawn in the East”) by Arno Pardun from 2000 also addresses the co-conceptualizer Hannes Heer, a German historian and journalist focusing on Nazi crimes and memory politics.

Besides Hannes Heer, two more journalists are threatened (with death) by White Power bands. The first one is Michel Friedman, a Jewish, Franco-German lawyer, journalist and conservative politician, who is at the center of four songs: 1) “Paolo Redet Tacheles”/“Das System hat keine Fehler” (“Paolo talks plain”) from the album “Auftrag Deutsches Reich” (“Mission German Reich”) by Stahlgewitter (2006); 2) “Rede, Lüge, Hetze” (“Talks, lies, agitation”) from the album “Wir sind zurück” (“We’re back”) by Blitzkrieg (2004); 3) “Paolo Sein Name” (“His name is Paolo”) from the album “Braun is beautiful!” (“Brown is beautiful!”) by Gigi & Die Braunen Stadtmusikanten (“Gigi & The Brown Town Musicians”) (2004); and 4) “Immernoch am Leben” (“Still alive”) from the album “Ran an den Feind” (“Attack the enemy”) by Landser (2000). Friedman is threatened in his different public roles and functions, but also because of an affair that included cocaine consumption while having sex with Ukrainian prostitutes back in 2003, under the pseudonym “Paolo Pinkel”. The second journalist is the Swiss, Hans Stutz, who regularly covers the far right. In 2007, the Swiss band Amok released the album “Verbotene Wahrheit” (“Forbidden truth”) including the song “Hans Stutz”, where they state that “he should not be surprised about a knife in his back, sooner or later”. After the uncovering of the identities of the band members by the Swiss Police, they were sentenced to financial penalties, even though they stated they would still stand by the lyrics.

The last example of White Power bands making death threats is closely linked to the previous case. In 2016, the Swiss-German band Erschießungskommando (“Death squad”) released the album “Sieg oder Tod” (“Death or glory”), including the song “Katharina König”, in which Katharina König-Preuss and her father Lothar König are directly threatened with death. The band Erschießungskommando is suspected to consist of the Amok singer Kevin G. and Thuringian activists involved with David H., who organized the biggest Swiss White Power music festival in postwar history – the “Rocktoberfest” in Unterwasser in 2016 with approximately 5,000 attendees. Both father and daughter became targets because they have committed themselves to combat against the far right for decades. König-Preuss is an MP for “Die Linke” (The Left) in the Thuringian state parliament, and her father Lothar König was a youth pastor in the city of Jena who always took a clear stance against the far right, especially when Jena was a fertile breeding ground for the NSU. König-Preuss continued her father’s  work in a parliamentary enquiry committee that investigated the role of the state in the development of the NSU. Both have been physically attacked by far right activists in the past.

These are only a few examples of personally targeted public (death) threats sent from White Power bands to their potential victims. Songs with messages like this serve multiple functions: The first – external – function of these (death) threats is intimidation and, in a best-case scenario, the silencing or even surrender of critics and/or civic engagement because of mounting personal, familial and often financial risks. The second – internal – function is to show personal strength and commitment for the movement and/or the scene. But band members must take into account that this might be a two-step process: Band members can render outstanding services and gain reputation if they are not caught, but if they are caught, they are also expected not to buckle under the pressure of the state. If they do so, they will be denounced as traitors of the movement, as for example the Landser trial shows.

Mr Maximilian Kreter is a Doctoral Fellow at CARR and a Doctoral candidate at Hannah Arendt Institute Totalitarianism Studies, TU Dresden. See his profile here.

© Maximilian Kreter.  Views expressed on this website are individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect that of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR). We are pleased to share previously unpublished materials with the community under creative commons license 4.0 (Attribution-NoDerivatives).