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It’s Never Only a Shop

Neo-Nazis often try to use fashion and lifestyle to get their ideologies accepted. Fashion brands popular among neo-Nazis open their stores in the city centres creating familiarity and recognition in the public.

The Amadeu Antonio Foundation supports initiatives committed to prevent this normalisation process of the extreme right. Throughout Germany there are ‘Thor-Steinar’ stores among others in Nuremberg, Berlin, Magdeburg, Erfurt, and Dresden.

About a year ago ‘Thor Steinar’ opened its ‘Oseberg’ shop in the centre of Halle/Saale. Sandra, from the initiative ‘Aktion Ladenschluss’ (double meaning in German: Closing Sales / Shop Closing Campaign) explains that the shop became a retailer of neo-Nazi accessories as well as a meeting point of the local neo-Nazi scene. The ‘Oseberg’ shop is a typical example of the public presence of the extreme right. Aim of the initiative ‘Aktion Ladenschluss’ is the closing of the shop which is legally particularly difficult. That is why they began with information campaigns about ‘Thor Steinar’ and neo-Nazi ideas and are active in local schools. The educative workshops, which were financially supported by the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, reached around 340 youngsters in the past months who learned to identify the codes typical for the neo-Nazi lifestyle.

‘Thor Steinar’ and the infrastructure of the extreme right

Not only permanent meeting points are necessary for a functioning extreme right infrastructure, also identification marks play an important role, as they signify the group belonging of the members to the neo-Nazi scene. The fashion brand ‘Thor Steinar’ serves such a double function. The shops serve for networking and establishment in the extreme right scene whereas the allegedly ‘cool’ brand gives its young customers a sense of belonging while publicly representing their political attitudes. Through their central locations the shops play a role in the normalisation process of the extreme right striving for public acceptance of neo-Nazi ideologies. The revenue benefits the neo-Nazi scene.

Commitment is the best recipe

In order to hinder this normalisation process, the Foundation supported the production of information material, such as the brochure ‘Investigate Thor Steinar’ which analysed the background and the motives of the collection. The campaign was a success: in the meantime it is banned to wear such cloths among others in the German Bundestag (federal parliament), in the Landtag (state parliament) of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania as well as in several football stadiums. Besides informing the public, local discussions with the participation of the house and shop owners of the neighbourhood are also necessary. The initiatives ‘Mitte gegen Rechts’ (The Middle against the Right) in Berlin and Chemnitz installed information containers with the support of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation near the ‘Thor Steinar’ shops drawing the attention of the passers-by to the problem. Fortunately in Berlin the ‘Thor Steinar’ shop ‘Tönsberg’ was closed down. In Halle and Chemnitz there is still work to be done. Making such a shop close down takes a long time. Through direct donations, like the ones from Richard von Weizsäcker (former German president) or Wolfgang Thierse (vice president of the German Bundestag) the Amadeu Antonio Foundation could support the work of committed local initiatives.

Text by Thomas Olsen and Sebastian Heidebrecht; English translation by Luca Váradi

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