According to a study conducted throughout 2007 and 2008 by Lower Saxony's Criminal Research Institute, one in twenty West German 15-year-old males claim membership in a neo-Nazi faction – a statistically higher proportion than are involved in mainstream political parties. The proportion in formerly-communist East Germany is even higher: one in eight.
Overall, nearly 15% of both groups were of the opinion that Jews were not blameless for their history of persecution. On a five-point scale, a similar percentage downplayed the Holocaust as 'not awful.'
Germany is now experiencing it’s deepest economic recession since the second World War, and government statistics also show a rise in anti-Semitic crimes over the same time period. Politicians in Deutschland are understandably afraid that Nazi extremism will gain momentum as inflation and unemployment continue to climb.
Given the recruiting numbers, the right-wing appears to be telling German youths what they want to hear. Only about 2% are active in the recognized political parties, compared to the roughly 5% now embracing neo-Nazi symbols. Traditional emblems of the Nazi Party, such as the swastika, are still illegal, but this has not stopped new forms of symbolism in modern clothing, shaven heads, black sun tattoos, and other small propaganda.
A separate study by the Berlin Institute for Population and Development stated that many Germans have been fleeing the eastern region to find jobs elsewhere. Facing persistent unemployment, about 10% of the population left the since the fall of the Berlin Wall – and most of those were young, educated females.
Left behind are growing numbers of frustrated men who are poorly educated, with no prospects for jobs or partners. In other words, perfect pickings for the disaffected neo-Nazi scene.
"In regions where economic problems are largest, a male-dominated underclass has developed, excluded from participation in large parts of the society," the study found. "These conditions make it difficult to slow the negative demographic trend or reverse it."
The neo-Nazi party NPD has seen success at the polls in Eastern German states, receiving more votes in areas where the most young women have left. During state elections in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, the NPD captured 7% of the vote, whereby the right-wing radicals now hold seats in three East German state parliaments.
Uwe Luthardt, a former member of the NPD, left the party to go public with the warning that his former brethren worshipped Adolph Hitler, sang banned Third Reich songs at their meetings, and hoped to foster a new holocaust against the Jewish race in their planned “Fourth Reich.”
"Many had an IQ close to my shoe size," commented Luthardt. "Most are simply failures: people who dropped out of school or their apprenticeships, alcoholics that can't find a foothold anywhere else, thugs."