Germany / 29-02-2012
Taking a second look at today’s ‘Nazi Brides’
A recent film and a high-profile arrest in Germany have caused many here to take a closer look at a small, but growing, female contingent of far-right extremists.
Germans were shocked to learn in November that a trio of neo-Nazis calling themselves the Nationalist Socialist Underground appeared linked to a series of unsolved murders of small businessmen of Turkish or Greek descent and a female police office, dating from 2000 to 2007. Even more shocking was that one of the members of the group was a woman, Beate Zschäpe.
Authorities have no evidence linking Ms. Zschäpe to any of the murders, but they say she played an integral role in renting apartments, managing money, and ensuring the terror cell’s existence.
Experts here who study the neo-Nazi movement —my story is here — note that the number of women involved is rising, and they are increasingly demanding more responsible roles. Of the estimated 25,000 active members in the scene, roughly 11 percent are believed to be women, according to authorities.
In 2006, female members from the nation’s leading nationalist party, the National Democratic Party, founded a sub-organization called the Ring of National Women. From roles in schools and sports clubs, they preach the party’s extreme xenophobic and nationalist ideals. Last year, three women were elected to the party’s executive board.
These women clash with the traditional view of female neo-Nazis as hangers-on, There is even a term for them, “Nazibraut,” or the Nazi brides.
First-time film director David Wnendt spent months attending far-right demonstrations in eastern Germany and speaking to young women for his film “Kriegerin,” which opened last month. Translated as “Combat Girls” for distribution outside of Germany, the film opens with the main protagonist, Marisa, wearing a yellow t-shirt with “Nazibraut” emblazoned across it.
The film, which is fictional but based on actual events is an art house hit. It seeks to examine what drives young women into neo-Nazism. In the course of the movie, Marisa develops her own ideas, eventually challenging the gang’s leader, who is also her boyfriend, and questioning the group’s xenophobic motivations.
I spoke with Michaela Glaser, who is a researcher of the neo-Nazi scene for Germany’s Youth Institute and she praised the film for its educational value and willingness to take on a complex issue that she said often is treated superficially in the media, where girls and young women on the far-right get lumped into categories of one extreme or the other — girlfriends or guerrilla girls displaying a level of brutality equal to that of the men.
Neither the character of Marisa in the movie nor Beate Zschäpe, based on what little is known about her, fits easily into these two categories.