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“We believe in one-on-one talks with extremists, not public group discussions”, says ex neo-Nazi

Updated: Jul 19, 2020

  • There are many extremists, extremist tension and violence in former DDR.

  • The Culture Office in Saxony are strengthening the arguments of democratic forces.

  • It believes in one-on-one talks with extremists, not public group discussions.

Michael Nattke is formerly a neo-Nazi himself. Now he is a government advisor and hands on responsible for mobile teams at the Saxon Culture Office. The office wants “human rights” for all people, always, in all places in Saxony. The Fika Project spoke to him about how to prevent further polarization in Saxony.

“There are neo-Nazis who attack people because of their skin color. There are places in Saxony where it is not safe for people who are not white”, says Michael Nattke.

How does it play out?

“Almost every weekend there is a neo-Nazi concert somewhere in Saxony. We have lots of demonstrations. Every other week it is the Pegida evening walk in Dresden. Neo-Nazi demonstrations also take place. There are lots of different things that extremists can get involved in here.”

What can you do to change it?

“The majority in Saxony is not extremist. The Culture bureau’s idea is to strengthen those who are not extreme.”

“We are trying to activate the democratic forces. We think that is key to reverse extremism. We try to develop strong arguments and help democrats so they can represent their position in the public.”

Developing strong arguments against extremists, can that itself increase polarization?

“We see it like this, on the one hand, there is polarization when people get stronger arguments for democratic values. On the other hand, it is necessary for people to understand what the basic values ​​are in our constitution, in other words the social contracts that we have agreed upon.”

Do you think that extremists and others should meet and talk to each other?

“There may be places where it makes sense to talk with extremists. But then there must be a clear framework.

For example, it may work when a priest sees that there are some people in his congregation who have an extreme attitude. Then I think it can be good. The priest takes it as his mission to meet his members and to propose, let's talk about it.”

“Public events are places where everyone wants to profile themselves, represent their respective positions. We should not meet and talk to them there. Instead, it is good to exclude them from public events and seek other places.”

Who should initiate and execute the individual talks?

“Teachers, social workers, police officers and of course every person in their family. When you talk to people in your family, you have a different approach. Then you can talk about topics that can hurt.”

Journalists and media then, how should they handle extremists, should they let them express their ideas?

“It is important to understand what is behind the extremist position, what can be causes, motives and goals. So, it is necessary to interview extremists. I think journalism should have a free role. It is generally not good when ideas of extremists are reproduced and spread further. But with a critical interpretation it is necessary. It is a way to raise public awareness.”

Have you other ideas to meet these challenges?

“I think it's a task for the whole of society, that's the key point. Government organizations or NGOs cannot solve it themselves. There is nothing the police can do themselves. No state or school can solve it by themselves. It's complex, but I think that's what we have to do. There is not one solution.”

“In Saxony, for example, there has been a school program going on for four years called “Die Werte”. There is a lot of talk about values ​​with students. It's a long process. But they have begun.” From a demonstration in Dresden 2020:

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