Even as the world focuses on the murder of French journalists, police and Jews, the continuing growth of Nazi and neo-Nazi movements has the capacity to surprise and frighten. Next Wednesday, January 21, at the U.S. Capitol, the latest edition of the authoritative compilation of Nazi incidents and organizations will be released. The White Papers Of Hate is an academic compilation of what is going on in 17 European countries, and it is tough reading.
While it would be easy to focus on the Nazi and neo-Nazi outbursts in Russia, Ukraine and France, the sad truth is that it's happening in many other places as well. In Hungary, nationalism has been written into the nation's constitution, many religions are denied recognition (including Islam and Mormonism) and the right to vote is restricted for those with "mental illness" -- including members of the LGBT community. Greece remains the most nationalist state in Europe, and immigrants and minorities are routinely victimized. Even the United Kingdom saw a marked increase in incidents of hate in the past year.
There's a common denominator linking all this to the incidents springing from Islamic terrorism. It's anti-Semitism and the murder of Jews, not for what they might do but for their very identity. But the new Nazi movements also include anti-Muslim, anti-Roma, anti-gay, anti-immigrant and other virulent antipathies that can be traced back to Hitler and Nazi ideology of the last century.
The Washington event will be attended by Members of Congress, State Department officials and "World Without Nazism" (WWN), an umbrella organization that compiles evidence of Nazi activity and publishes it. Initial remarks will be offered by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries as well as Rep. Jerry Nadler and Rep. Eliot Engel, the powerful ranking Member of the House Foreign Relations Committee. American leaders need to understand the evidence and figure out a response that is consistent with the immediate security crisis, but also presents a united front against these movements even when they appear small or irrelevant. America has limited experience with Nazis since the end of WWII and suggestions of resurgent Nazism are often shrugged off. After Paris, that shouldn't be happening.
WWN is an interesting organization. It's got strong membership from across the world, including Russia, and is led by the Russian-born Valery Engel, who lives in Latvia. It's not been easy, as Engel has focused on fighting efforts to provide pensions to Latvian SS members. His adopted country is threatening his residency status and accusing him of Russian sympathies, a potent way to attack anyone in a country that has never resolved the consequences of Stalinist dominion over the Baltic States for half a century. Engel's situation has received attention and support from Congressman Jeffries and others who are asking Latvian officials to lay off.
What's a little strange is that WWN's reports have been tough on Russia's tolerance of Nazism in recent years. Nationalist and right-wing parties are now part of the Russian political landscape and WWN has been one of the few international organizations holding Putin to account on these matters.
There's a linkage between the resurgent movements and recent events in France, Greece, Russia, Hungary, etc. There's every reason to connect the dots, and to take the evidence seriously. Better we pay too much attention and later find out that these were fringe movements than we let down our guard and find that resurgent Nazi movements are moving into the mainstream. It could happen.