For the last two years I've been involved in the creation of an organization called World Without Nazism. It's the brainchild of a Russian Senator, a smart and experienced oligarch named Boris Spiegel. It's a response to an observable outbreak in Nazi movements and rhetoric across Europe. Not made-for-TV Nazis. The real deal, old unreconstructed Nazis and new, slick modern versions.
In Greece there's Golden Dawn, using the economic downturn and immigration fears to become the fifth-largest party in the Greek parliament, and using street tactics reminiscent of Brownshirts. In the Baltic states there are parliamentary and government officials trying to give state pensions to surviving members of the Waffen-SS. Within Russia, Ukraine, Moldova there are voices and political parties raising familiar complaints about ethnic minorities within their borders, and in neighboring nations. In Norway, there is mass murder in the name of extreme right-wing politics.
Last month, in Strasbourg, France, a large meeting was held to review the data on these movements and to formally create an organizational structure for World Without Nazism. It's certainly an eclectic group, from the former President of Ukraine who took them out of the old Soviet Union, to Finnish, American, Latvian, Austrian and other activists.
It was strangely reminiscent of old European factional fights, with 21st century twists. There was a real floor fight about whether to explicitly mention past and current Nazi actions against sexual minorities. There was conflict between Spiegel and the Ukranian ex-President Leonid Kravchuk about whether to include non-Nazi hate movements. There were suggestions to encourage laws that banned hate speech, ultimately rejected at the behest of the American delegation. And there was a thread, not to be ignored, of Russian national self-interest in focusing on new Nazi movements in the Baltic states, who are in real conflict with Russia.
But the evidence is clear and damning. Americans think of Nazis as bumbling Sgt. Schulz in Hogan's Heroes or crazies like George Lincoln Rockwell, easy to shrug off. Not so fast. Our home-grown extremists are now joined by overseas Nazi-like movements trying to plant the flag in the U.S.. With luck these resurgent Nazis will fade away or be marginalized within their own national politics. But there are lessons to be learned and remembered from the horrors of the last century. It does no harm, and might do a lot of good to take them seriously, find out how broad and deep are the movements. World Without Nazism ought to be unnecessary. It isn't. Churchill would approve.