Germany's largest neo-Nazi party is facing financial ruin after the Bundestag imposed a €2.2 million fine yesterday for filing fraudulent accounts. Leaders of the National Democratic Party (NPD) vowed yesterday to launch a legal challenge to the fine, due for payment in a month.
“Of course we are going to challenge it,” said Peter Marx, NPD general secretary. The party has little choice: long-running financial difficulties have left the NPD almost bankrupt. Last year, the former treasurer was imprisoned for two years and eight months for embezzling €750,000 in party funds.
Yesterday’s fine arises from falsely declared assets and funds in its 2007 accounts, a Bundestag statement said.
Although the NPD has no MPs in the Bundestag, it has representatives in two state parliaments, qualifying it for public funding although the party questions Germany’s democratic order. A Bundestag committee that audits party accounts said it found significant irregularities in the NPD’s 2007 figures.
The total fine imposed was €2.5 million, but NPD officials had already agreed to the withholding of €300,000 in state funds due this year.
Starved of funds, the party has let go over half its staff members in the Berlin headquarters. The financial difficulties will frustrate party ambitions in a series of state elections later this year. Yesterday’s fine is likely to cause further divisions between the NPD’s so-called “modern” and “Hitlerite” camps at this weekend’s party conference in Berlin.
Since entering the Saxon state parliament in 2004, the “modern” wing has pushed for the party to concentrate on a far-right social conservatism. They argue that bomber jackets and swastika flags scare away potential voters frustrated with the mainstream political handling of the financial crisis, social welfare cuts and bank bailouts. But the “Hitlerite” wing, drawn from extreme-right groupings, accuses the “modern” politicians of pursuing their careers at the expense of the party’s neo-Nazi, racist and anti-Semitic principles.
Party leader Udo Voigt has his own problems: he faces a challenge to his leadership at the weekend party conference. Then, later this month, he is likely to be convicted of defamation and inciting racial hatred over a party pamphlet published during the 2006 World Cup that ridiculed the German side’s only black player.
Earlier this week, the federal government banned a far-right youth movement for spreading Nazi propaganda.