On May 8, we remembered a success that ended a horrible period in history. On that day in 1945, the Allies accepted Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender, putting an end to its bloody reign, which killed millions and left Europe in ashes.
It’s known as Victory in Europe Day in many countries, but many Austrians spend it in a state of disgust because of the handful of neo-Nazis who celebrate their “heroes” every year on that day. They gather on one of Vienna‘s most recognizable squares to celebrate their misanthropic sickness in a rage of enthusiasm for their confused cause. What worries me most about that is the fact that neo-Nazis mostly get off cheaply. They can openly promote their idiotic and dangerous worldviews with little in the way of repercussions. Yes, there is a law against National Socialist activities, but as long as they don‘t set their neighbor‘s house on fire it takes ages until they have to face consequences. Austria might be a special case if you look at the history. Our refusal to confess to our role in the Second World War harmed the process of identifying the danger of right-wing radicalism nowadays. Seeing ourselves as Hitler‘s first victim prevented us from realizing our obligation to fight these extremist groups. In Austria, right radicalism was always a bit more socially accepted than in most other countries. Though, I feel that this acceptance became a European trend lately. It makes me sick, sad and scared to watch them destroying my homeland and so many other countries.
Greece’s parliamentary elections May 6 saw the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn gain some seats. Their logo looks like a swastika that is a bit out of the place. Without embarrassment, they promote the idea of throwing all immigrants out of the country. During their press conference on election day, they demanded that journalists stand up when their leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, entered. Those who refused where asked to leave. \\\"Be afraid, we\\\'re coming. Greece is just the beginning,” Michaloliakos warned. On the same day, the victory of the French socialist Francois Hollande let everybody forget that far-right Marine Le Pen got 18 percent in the first round of the presidential elections. Also on that day, Serbia’s presidential elections ended up with an unsurprising outcome of 25.6 percent for Tomislav Nikolic. Nikolic, who previously ran with the ultranationalist Radical Party, subsequently won the office in a run-off against incumbent Boris Tadic. It‘s no secret that the far right is celebrating victories all over Europe. But I wonder if we really need to have fascism and oppression return to the continent to finally start fighting it.
When Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg addressed his nation after the 2011 terror attacks, he called his people not to devote themselves to thoughts of revenge or hatred. Without doubt his speech was exemplary and courageous. Though Anders Breivik‘s attacks had a deep impact on the people of Norway, they affected people everywhere. Within a blink of an eye, the terrible awareness came over us that there are threats we are not prepared for. We will never know if somewhere someone secretly is getting ready to suddenly tear wounds in our hearts that can never fully be healed. But while you can‘t prepare for attacks as they happened in Norway the legal form of right-radical terror finds its way in our parliaments unimpeded. Under the cloak of being ordinary democratic parties, they sneak into higher and higher positions. And it‘s us who give way to them.
At the moment, we are watching extremists everywhere in Europe and also in the U.S. gaining support. We stand aside in apathy as if it isn’t us who can make them stop. It seems that we forget that just because the numbers of right-wing extremists are increasing, it doesn‘t mean they have already won. Just because they are getting more influential, it doesn‘t mean they are stronger than us. Just because they are many, it doesn‘t mean we aren‘t more.
Jens Stoltenberg said, “You will not destroy our democracy or our commitment to bringing about a better world.” He said it in an hour when his country and also he himself had suffered a terrible loss. In a moment when nobody would have blamed him for wanting to punish somebody for what has hit Norway, he committed to values of peace and solidarity. So why can‘t we who were lucky not to be hit by an attack like this lately stand up for the same values?
The question we have to ask ourselves is if we really need to wait for the far right to cause bigger damage in Europe again before we are willing to oppose them and to prevent them from spreading their toxic ideas. When will we stop belittling a danger that is threatening our freedom? It’s time to stop feeling weak toward radical groups of all kinds and trust in our creative energy, our solidarity and our own strength to fight any kind of anti-democratic force. It‘s time to say: You will not destroy our democracy or our commitment to bringing about a better world.
The article was originally written in English.
Illustration: Nathan Coley
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