How to spot a neo-Nazi – new guide helps German hoteliers avoid unwelcome guests

The Independent   July 11, 2012
By Tony Patterson

Brandenburg has been stung into action against the far right after a series of incidents at hotels

The prevalence of neo-Nazis in eastern Germany has prompted the authorities to produce a special brochure for hotel, pub and restaurant owners containing guidelines on how to spot unwelcome far-right guests and keep them off the premises.

The initiative has been launched by the state of Brandenburg, which, in common with other eastern regions, has been dogged by the emergence of far-right political parties and widespread anti-immigrant violence since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

“One does not have to cater for right-wing extremists,” insisted Martina Münch, Brandenburg’s Education Minister, who launched the new guide entitled: How not to be fooled by right-wing extremists. “You have to take a stand,” she told Der Spiegel magazine.

Brandenburg has been stung into action against the far right after a series of unwelcome incidents at hotels in the state. The unwitting owner of one establishment outside Berlin was duped into allowing his premises to be used for a party attended by more than 100 neo-Nazis earlier this year.

Members of the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) claimed to be representing a “wine agency” when they booked the hotel for a “conference” in January. The event turned out to be the NPD’s New Year’s party and the hotel was surrounded by police.

The far right regularly makes use of a clause in German law which obliges hoteliers to honour bookings once they have confirmed them. Olaf Lücke, the head of Brandenburg’s Hotel and Restaurant Association, which helped produce the guidelines, said far-right groups often used bogus titles such as “The Society for History and Culture” to make bookings.

The new guide contains a list of far-right symbols intended to help unwary hoteliers spot a neo-Nazi. These include the “black sun” image, the “inverted swastika” and significant dates in the Nazi calendar often used for far-right bookings. Tourists planning to reserve a hotel room in Brandenburg on 20 April should not be surprised if they are turned down – the date is Hitler’s birthday.

 

German Brochure: How To Peg A Neo-Nazi

The Algemeiner   July 12, 2012

In Brandenburg, Germany, authorities released a new brochure this month that helps hotel owners recognize customers who may be neo-Nazis, after a number of the far-right political activists fooled hotel managers by booking events under false names.

Along with other eastern regions in Germany, Brandenburg has seen a rise in far-right activism, as evinced by anti-immigrant violence and the emergence of the National Democratic Party (NPD), a German nationalist political organization called a “threat to the constitutional order” by a German federal office.

The brochure helps discern neo-Nazis by highlighting a host of symbols that they use to self-identify, such as the inverted swastika and the negative swastika, and more arcane motifs like the Gau triangle, a black arm-patch banned in Germany since 2002. Hotel owners are warned of significant days in Nazi lore as well, such as April 20, the day Hitler was born, and January 18, the day of the German Reich’s founding in 1871. The brochure also details some common facades used for neo-Nazi gatherings, like “The Society for History and Culture”, and other vaguely titled organizations.

The new guidelines are important because German law on the topic is convoluted and subtle. After former NPD chairman Udo Voigt was prevented from entering a spa he had booked, Germany’s Federal Court ruled in March that hoteliers could reject customers based on political views, but must honor a commitment once it is booked. With the help of the brochure, hoteliers can avoid committing to customers that they will later regret having served, a common occurrence considering the negative PR that clings to neo-Nazi functions. The bad publicity is exacerbated by the heavy police presence accompanying NPD gatherings to discourage rioting.

In the end, according to German newspaper Der Spiegel, innkeepers are mostly left to fend for themselves, sparking Education Minister Martina Munch to comment that “civil courage is necessary”. “You have to take a stand” Olaf Lucke, Managing Director of Brandenburg’s Hotel and Restaurant Association confirmed to Der Spiegel, but expressed disappointment with Germany’s apathetic legislation. “The guide won’t solve any problems” he said, leaving Germany’s hotels in the hands of their owners discretion.

“One doesn’t have to cater to right wing extremists” said Munch.

State Teaches Hoteliers How to Identify Neo-Nazis

Speigel Online  July 3, 2012
By Jochen-Martin Gutsch

Many hoteliers in eastern Germany are eager to avoid serving neo-Nazis. But wily far-right groups often book venues using front organizations to avoid being recognized. Now, a new intiative by the state of Brandenburg aims to help the hospitality industry spot unwelcome guests.

Olaf Lücke, the somewhat heavyset managing director of the Hotel and Restaurant Association in the eastern German state of Brandenburg, briefly tells the “Story of Grünheide,” as a way of illustrating the problems his industry faces.

In Grünheide, just outside Berlin, there is an establishment called the Hotel Seegarten. One day, the owner received an inquiry from a “wine agency” interested in renting space for a conference in January 2012. The hotelier was thrilled, because winters are typically slow. When the friendly men from the “wine agency,” about 100 of them, turned up at the hotel in mid-January, there was something odd about the whole thing: They were accompanied by police vans. Even more unusual was the fact that no one talked about wine, and that everything became very political.

It turned out that the friendly men were from the right-wing extremist National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD). The whole thing was exceedingly unpleasant for the hotelier, who suddenly found himself with more than 100 neo-Nazis in his hotel. What to do? Throw them all out? If he did, he stood the chance of being sued for damages.

And so he did nothing, and the NPD’s Saxony state association held its New Year’s reception at the Hotel Seegarten. The incident caused quite a stir in Grünheide, and when it was all over the question on everyone’s mind was how to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future. In other words: How does a hotel or restaurant keep itself Nazi-free in Brandenburg?

Recognizing Right-Wing Extremists

Olaf Lücke, the man from the hotel association, taps his finger on a small brochure on the table in front of him. “All restaurateurs and innkeepers will now receive this set of guidelines,” says Lücke. Martina Münch, the state’s education minister, is sitting next to him. “One doesn’t have to cater to right-wing extremists,” says Münch.

But to avoid catering to right-wing extremists, you have to be able to recognize them in the first place. That’s where the brochure that Lücke and Münch are presenting at the Potsdam State Chancellery comes in. It’s called: “How Not to Be Fooled by Right-Wing Extremists: A Guide for the Hotel and Restaurant Industry.”

On pages 6 and 7, there is a list of symbols — some more obscure than others — to help users identify neo-Nazis more effectively. The Gau triangle, for example, was a black triangular patch used during the Nazi era to identify the wearer as a member of a specific sub-group of a party organization. They have been banned in Germany since 2002. Other symbols include the “black sun,” the “triskele,” the “negative swastika” and the “inverted swastika.”

Brandenburg innkeepers suddenly have a lot to learn. In addition to bookkeeping and kitchen hygiene courses, they must now know the ins and outs of the ancient runic alphabet and other Germanic symbols.

The “regular holidays of the right-wing extremist community” are described on page 11. According to the list, hotel bookings for January 18 should be viewed with suspicion, because it’s the day neo-Nazis celebrate the “founding of the German Reich, on January 18, 1871.” Another day to be aware of is February 15, which marked the “beginning of the bombardment of Cottbus (a city in Brandenburg) by the Allies.” There’s also September 24, the “anniversary of the death of Ian Stuart Donaldson, founder of Blood and Honour.”

The plunge into arcana is unavoidable. Neo-Nazis, after all, can hardly be expected to be open about their connections. They won’t show up at the front desk and say: “Heil Hitler, my friends and I would like a couple of nonsmoking rooms for the German people, the Reich and the Führer!” Even if it would make things easier.

‘Not That Easy’

Hotel association director Lücke mentions “straw men” who make the reservations. There are right-wing extremist organizations with unassuming names like the “Society for History and Culture.” But, most of all, the legal situation is unclear. Can a hotelier throw out right-wing extremist guests? Or simply refuse them entry in the first place?

“It isn’t that easy,” says Lücke.

The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) set a precedent in a ruling it issued in March. Former NPD leader Udo Voigt had booked a room at a Brandenburg spa hotel, hoping to spend a few days relaxing. Before he even arrived at the hotel, however, he was informed that he had been banned from the premises. Is this legal?

In its ruling, the BGH argued that hoteliers could reject right-wing extremists as guests because of their political views. But a hotelier is obligated to honor a booking once it has been confirmed, except in extraordinary circumstances, such as when the guests are creating a disturbance or are engaged in agitation. This was not the case with former NPD leader Voigt.

“Civil courage is necessary,” says state Education Minister Münch. “You have to take a stand,” says Lücke, scratching his head.

// // The guide provides many suggestions for wording to use in contracts and cancellation clauses. In the end, however, one has the impression that the hoteliers are left more or less on their own, armed only with the courage of their convictions.

The NPD is a registered party. Police officers protect right-wing extremist demonstrations. Regrettably, the NPD cannot be banned, for a wide range of reasons, say German politicians. The result is that NPD politicians also hold seats in some German state parliaments. Yet hoteliers in Brandenburg — more or less on their own — are expected to prevent people like Udo Voigt from relaxing in their saunas, out of their own civil courage.

“The guide won’t solve the problem,” says hotel association director Lücke, as he packs up his things.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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