Their leaders have been dismissed as “Nazis in pinstripes”, they have been dismissed by Angela Merkel as having “no place in Germany” – but on Monday night, thousands will march through the city of Dresden in protest against the “Islamisation of the West”.
Speaking to the Sunday newspaper Welt am Sonntag, Germany’s most senior police officer Holger Münch spoke of “a visible rise in xenophobic crime countrywide”.
Both anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic sentiment are reported as being on the increase in Germany, as right-wing activists join football hooligans in violent, racially- and religiously-motivated crime.
At the same time, Germany is experiencing record levels of immigration, and has been named as Europe’s biggest recipient of asylum-seekers.
Monday’s march in Dresden has been organised at least in part by a group calling itself PEGIDA – an acronym for "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West".
The march poses a dilemma for Ms Merkel, with opinion polls actually showing support for the marchers' calls for a tougher German immigration policy. On Friday, the Chancellor outlined a zero-tolerance policy for hatred of Muslims or any other minority.
In pictures: Extremists in the EU
In pictures: Extremists in the EU
1/6 France: Marine le Pen
Marine Le Pen, 45, took over the Front National (FN), the party that her father founded, in 2011. He himself described her as “a big, healthy, blonde girl, an ideal physical specimen." She claims to have cleaned up the FN and succeeded in pushing her anti-European, anti-euro and anti-immigration agenda into the EU political mainstream
2/6 Germany: Udo Voigt
He will be the first German neo-Nazi to enter the European Parliament. The former army officer, born in 1952, was jailed in 1995 for inciting racial hatred. Formerly the leader of the far right National Democratic Party (NPD), Voigt was convicted in 2009 after he was caught handing out flyers at the World Cup which argued that a black player was not entitled to play for Germany, whose national team – the literature argued – should be made up only of white players.
3/6 Denmark: Morten Messerschmidt
Leader of the Danish People’s Party, which won 27 per cent of the vote. His party has rammed 20 laws relating to immigrants and asylum-seekers through the Danish parliament, giving it the most anti-foreigner legislation in Europe. His party calls Islam “a fascist ideology” and rails against “East European criminal gangs”. One party strategist said “blood ties” to Denmark should be required for citizenship, though the statement was quickly retracted.
4/6 Hungary: Krisztina Morvai
A senior member of Jobbik, the anti-Semitic and anti-Roma party on Hungary’s far right wing. In 2009, she attracted international publicity after declaring: “So-called proud Hungarian Jews should go back to playing with their little circumcised dicks.” In 2009, she cancelled an interview with a British newspaper, declaring in tones of outrage: “I am a decent politician and the mother of three children, yet you in the west keep portraying me as a Nazi and a Fascist.”
5/6 Italy: Mario Borghezio
MEP for Italy’s notoriously racist Northern League, he has relentlessly attacked the nation’s first black cabinet minister, Cecile Kyenge, minister for integration, claiming she would import ‘tribal traditions’ into the Italian government. Other elected members in the party called her “an orang-utan” and suggested that someone should rape her, so she would understand how the victims of Somali rapists felt. He attracted attention by lobbying for the creation of an EU archive of UFO sightings.
6/6 Greece: Eleftherios Synadinos
Fabulously mustachioed retired lieutenant-general in the Greek army, he was one of Golden Dawn’s top candidates in the European elections, at which the overtly neo-Nazi party obtained more than 9 per cent of the vote. With its black-shirted assault squads, the Hitler photos and the party’s swastika-inspired logo, it has been accused of being a criminal organisation. Its website declares: “We aren’t the quiet birds of peace time, we are birds of the storm and the hurricane.”
But her Social Democrat (SPD) coalition allies, the opposition Greens and the fast-growing Eurosceptic party Alternative for Germany (AfD) have all jumped on the issue of immigration as an opportunity to score points against the country’s extremely popular leader.
The SPD challenged her to respond to what senior SPD lawmaker Thomas Oppermann called “probably the biggest issue of the next decade”, and called the march organisers “Nazis in pinstripes”.
Greens leader Cem Oezdemir, who will join a counter-protest in Dresden, urged her “to recognise clearly that Germany is a country for immigrants and benefits from them”.
But Ms Merkel’s own Christian Democrats' (CDU) have given a mixed response to PEGIDA – with some CDU officials urged understanding for the motivation of the marchers.
The marches have already spawned copycat protests in cities to the west like Duesseldorf, which have larger immigrant populations than Dresden, home to very few of Germany's 4 million Muslims.
Hajo Funke, a Berlin professor, said many of the estimated 10,000 people who marched last week voiced vague "discontent with society and their own lives", while the organisers played on fears of armed insurgents Isis and al-Qaeda.
The march will also trigger fresh debate between the main parties on how to deal with the AfD, which the CDU has dismissed as a fringe group quietly recruiting right-wing extremists.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said there was no risk Germany would be “Islamised”, adding that he believed there was an “overlap” between PEGIDA and the AfD.
The AfD has apparently not rejected such an association, and one of its leaders, Alexander Gauland, said he plans to be in Dresden on Monday.
“We are the natural allies of this movement,” Gauland said.
Additional reporting by ReutersReuse content