Among these dissimilarities is the lack of any intellectual base behind the present upsurge. Those who supported the original National Socialists included poets, writers and philosophers, some of the last as distinguished as Martin Heidegger. Nor is there any sign of leaders with the political genius of Adolf Hitler or the propaganda skill of Joseph Goebbels.
But, perhaps more significantly still, the present neo-Nazis are the precise reverse of their forebears. The crisply uniformed and disciplined units of the Sturmabteilung ('Storm Troopers') and Schutzstaffel (SS) were welcomed then because, rightly or wrongly and despite subsequent history, they alone were seen as capable of bringing order to streets dominated by scruffy, unruly, often violent mobs; in other words, the counterparts of the neo-Nazis one sees in press photographs and on television today.
Given these substantial differences, it seems to me most important that we retain a balanced view, deploring the rise of neo-Nazism and resisting all its manifestations, though without over-reacting or exaggerating superficial parallels. In particular, we must avoid the temptation to see it as 'the Germans reverting to type'. To do any of these things is to risk perpetuating what otherwise is likely to be a transitory, if repellent, phenomenon.
Brighton, East Sussex
7 DecemberReuse content