A German clothing brand favoured by neo-Nazis in Europe, whose goods were banned because of their similarity to logos worn by SS officers, has opened a high-street store in the heart of London’s Jewish community.
The Viking Thor Shop, which opened in Finchley, North London a fortnight ago, is an outlet for Thor Steinar, a controversial brand whose products are strongly associated with far-right street groups and football hooligans.
The Ballards Lane store is situated yards from the office of the UK’s Chief Rabbi. Jewish and Islamic groups in the multicultural community have expressed concerns that the shop will attract far-right supporters and inflame tensions. But the store’s manager denied any neo-Nazi associations and claimed he was simply selling leisurewear.
The Thor Steinar brand has faced bans in the German Bundestag and across several football stadiums.
In 2012, eight members of the far-right German National Democratic Party were expelled from Saxony’s state parliament for wearing the brand’s T-shirts, which display runic symbols and Nordic themes popular with neo-Nazis.
After a 2004 ban in Germany, the company rebranded its original logo which bore a similarity to symbols worn by the Nazi SS.
The Finchley shop displays a Wolfsangel-style Nordic rune above the door, and variations of the symbol, which was adopted by some Waffen-SS units, feature on the brand’s T-shirts and hoodies.
One T-shirt on sale shows a man holding an automatic weapon and reads “last man standing”.
Users on the white power website Stormfront claimed “London gets its first white nationalist clothing shop”.
The office of Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis is based a few doors away, as is the Islamic Association of North London, a mosque which serves the large local Muslim population.
A spokesman for the Community Security Trust, a charity which provides security advice for the UK Jewish community, said: “This is a multi-cultural area with very few problems from racism and neo-Nazism and the like. This shop is not welcome here and the sooner it moves on the better.”
Store owner Zsolt Mogyorodi said he was not racist and had opened the store to serve a local eastern European community with whom the brand is popular.
Mogyorodi told The Independent: “I don’t know what is wrong with our clothes, they are just normal outdoor clothes. I can’t stop stupid people like football hooligans from wearing them.”
He denied any neo-Nazi link: “We welcome all kinds of customers in the shop. The Nazi thing is a silly old story from years ago and the brand has changed since then.”
Mike Freer, MP for Finchley and Golders Green, said that while the shop might be “unwelcome” there was as yet no evidence that it was operating illegally.
Passers-by said they found the shop and its clientele intimidating and considered its location, situated between a number of Asian-owned shops and Afghan restaurants, “provocative”.
In 2012, Thor Steinar named a new German store Brevik, which critics claimed was in honour of right-wing Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik.
The brand claimed it was named in honour of the Norwegian town of Brevik in Oslo but later changed the name and removed the sign.
Anti-fascist groups have staged protests outside German Thor Steinar stores, which have been repeatedly vandalised.
Launched in 2002, Thor Steinar was sold to a Dubai-based company in 2009. Its clothes are banned from the Bundestag, the state parliaments of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Saxony as well as the football stadiums of Borussia Dortmund and Werder Bremen.