Jamel is a tiny village of only a dozen houses, close to the Baltic coast in northeast Germany. It is surrounded by idyllic landscapes, but there are metal shutters on most windows, attack dogs behind fences, a shooting range outside a collapsed barn with a playground in front of it. Everywhere you look there are manifestations of the inhabitants’ world: a tall cross with the words “Better dead than a slave” on it, flags with Germanic runes and symbols, and signposts pointing to various places in Russia and Poland which used to belong to Germany before World War II. A placard reminds people: “NPD – we keep our promises.”
The NPD, which is represented in the regional parliaments of two German states but has never played any role at the federal level, has tried for some time to shed its extremist image. “People can come to their party offices and get help filling out welfare application forms,” says Mr. Krumpen. NPD members are running youth clubs and local soccer teams, and sitting on local councils. Just last month, the party elected a new leader, Holger Apfel, who is regarded as less radical than his predecessor.
In a poll last week, 74 percent of Germans were in favor of banning the NPD. “A ban would destabilize the right-wing scene, throw it back for decades,” says Bernd Wagner. The ex-policeman is Germany’s foremost authority on right-wing extremism. He runs “Exit,” an organization that helps neo-Nazis leave the scene and reintegrate in society. “We need to act,” says Mr. Wagner. “The official statistics show a decline in the number of right-wing extremists. But we at Exit see a core of neo-Nazis that is better organized and more radical than before.”