Germany faces imported Nazi propaganda U.S. sympathizer is a key supplier

BONN, GERMANY — BONN, Germany -- They are the hate crimes that no one seems to read or hear about in a unified Germany:

A blond teen-ager who can see Poland from his back yard pores over a crude Nazi comic book that shrilly demands a "pure" Germany free of foreign "filth."


In big cities and small villages alike, right-wing extremists prowl the streets at night, furtively plastering swastika stickers with anti-Semitic slogans on light poles and walls.

Young people at underground rock concerts and neo-Nazi rallies sport SS armbands and wave SS banners recalling the Nazi elite force of World War II; the more literate ones read "Mein Kampf" and listen to tapes of Adolf Hitler's speeches.


Third Reich and Nazi propaganda is making an opportunistic come back here in the wake of escalating right-wing violence.

VTC But the worst of the racist literature, videotapes, cassettes, souvenirs and computer games are not even made in the Germany they extol: Forbidden under the postwar German constitution, the materials come, instead, from sympathizers abroad who smuggle them into the country with impunity, protected by their own nations' guarantees of freedom of expression.

"Most of the hard-core material is coming from America," said an official at the VFS, the German domestic intelligence agency charged with monitoring extremism. "And there's not much we can do about it."

German investigators trace the bulk of the outlawed material to Gary Rex Lauck, a self-proclaimed mail-order Nazi in Lincoln, Neb., who makes his living churning out nationalistic material in 10 languages, including English, German, Russian and Hungarian. A 40-year-old American of German ancestry, Mr. Lauck has become the ersatz Joseph Goebbels of the would-be Fourth Reich, chief propagandist to a tiny but increasingly dangerous segment of Europe's right wing.

"We're equipping them," Mr. Lauck said in a telephone interview, maintaining that supplying propaganda to German extremists is tantamount to supplying weapons to a righteous but outnumbered army on the front lines of battle.

"I know it's an effective weapon," he added.

Mr. Lauck refused to specify how much he earns from the export of Nazi memorabilia and his own neo-Nazi party's newspaper, Nazi Battle Cry. (He also sells the material in the United States.)

One recent Battle Cry article examined the "theoretical possibilities of an armed, underground resistance to the German state," Mr. Lauck said, and another told of neo-Nazi mercenaries fighting in Croatia.


The articles, he said, are unsigned unless they are by a recognizable name in neo-Nazi and revisionist circles.

The bimonthly paper also runs a full-page advertisement for Nazi propaganda being hawked by Mr. Lauck's party, and the German-language edition also carries Mr. Lauck's "security tips" for smuggling the material into Germany ("Don't keep it in your own apartment, have it sent to a drop address").

The mail-order items range from swastika necklaces to a 90-minute cassette of "War Songs of the Third Reich" and a Hitler Youth songbook.

Mr. Lauck demands payment in cash only. "Two local banks stopped buying German marks [from other sources] because we supply enough for them," boasted Mr. Lauck, who has been dubbed the "Farm-Belt Fuehrer."

Mr. Lauck, who was arrested and briefly jailed in Germany while carrying 20,000 nationalistic stickers in 1976, would face trial if caught on German soil again -- a threat he claims to have easily defied several times.

"Of course he's having a considerable influence here," said the VFS official, speaking on condition of anonymity. The VFS, the German abbreviation for the Federal Office for Protection of the Constitution, monitors domestic terrorism and extremism. The agency reported a 65 percent jump in right-wing "propaganda crimes" last year, with 2,717 cases.


Authorities say the volatile material is clearly having an impact on its mostly young, hungry audience, and raids on the apartments of skinheads and neo-Nazis linked to attacks on foreigners routinely turn up piles of the banned propaganda.

"The German-produced propaganda tends to be not as slick or brazen as the foreign material," said the high-ranking VFS official. "The German neo-Nazis know the limits of just how far they can go before being charged with a federal crime."

Mr. Lauck readily agrees.

"They have to water it down," he said. "They can't even say, 'Heil Hitler.' In the United States, the Anti-Defamation League said it has been tracking Mr. Lauck's activities for "many, many years."

"We do consider him a serious problem," said Irwin Suall, fact-finding director of the New York-based organization. Asked whether Mr. Lauck was not in fact merely preaching to the converted, Mr. Suall insisted that "the quantity of material he is turning out is having an effect. In certain situations, his material is very dangerous.

"Our view is that hate propaganda is dangerous," Mr. Suall added in a telephone interview. "There are degrees of danger depending on the context. Distributing this type of material in New York City is one thing, but if the same type is distributed in Germany today, where they have a serious neo-Nazi and skinhead problem, that's different."


In a special report earlier this year on German neo-Nazis, the ADL -- noting that he had ties with Chicago neo-Nazi Frank Collin -- singled out Mr. Lauck as the movement's most dangerous propagandist.

"The most popular Nazi propaganda material comes from Gary Rex Lauck," the report said, noting that his inflammatory material was uncovered by German authorities in at least 72 criminal investigations in 1992. Nazi propaganda is rarely, if ever, the target of such raids, usually conducted in search of crime suspects and weapons.

Experts on both sides of the Atlantic say Mr. Lauck has relatively few actual members of his Nationalist Socialist German Workers' Party and that he is more a propagandist than a political activist.

In a review of far-right propaganda, the VFS noted that "Lauck's activities are not forbidden or punishable by law in the United States."

Both Mr. Lauck and the VFS said his most popular items are neo-Nazi stickers -- all emblazoned with swastikas -- bearing slogans such as "Don't Buy From Jews" and "We're Back!"