“I have received several death threats, but I won’t give up. I will not give them that victory.” Bianca Klose
“Here in Berlin the far-right scene is actually poorly organised – but that is also a big danger. They can be more violent." Bianca Klose
She has long blonde hair, several piercings in her ears, and gives a very firm handshake. Sitting in front of anti-Nazi posters, Bianca Klose is a woman you simply can’t ignore. She leads an NGO that fights against right-wing extremism. And as an outspoken anti-neo-Nazi figure, she has become a target for extremists herself. “I have received several death threats on the internet, but I won’t give up. I will not give them that victory.”
Help for self-help
Right-wing extremism and its anti-democratic ideas already interested the 40-year old during her studies in central Germany’s Göttingen. But when she dealt with it practically in an internship in 2000, it really opened her eyes. “I saw how big the neo-Nazi scene is and how civil initiatives fight against racism, neo-Nazis and anti-Semitism. The most successful approach I found, was that right-wing extremism can only get as big as democracy allows it to be.”
And with that in mind, she founded the ‘Mobile Beratung gegen Rechtsextremismus Berlin’ – or ‘Mobile Counselling Team against Right-Wing Extremism’ – in Berlin in 2001. “We offer ‘help for self-help’ as we like to call it. People have to see the problem themselves and feel that they want to do something about it. We counsel them and help them find a solution to the challenges with racism and Nazis.”
The terrorist group National Socialist Underground – currently on trial for committing ten racist inspired murders in Germany – brought new attention to the extreme right scene. And also in Berlin, there are problems enough to solve with right-wing extremists. Neo-Nazis spray swastikas on buildings, threaten immigrants, use violence against people who criticize them, and are suspected to have burned down the leftist youth club ‘Anton Schmaus Haus’ twice.
Bianca and her team get inquiries from every layer of society asking them for help. Teachers in schools who want to know how to deal with right-wing youth, sports clubs asking for advice on Nazi slogans from their fans, or small garden plot holder communities wanting help with a member who celebrates the birthday of Adolf Hitler on their grounds.
Bianca recalls another case: “Years ago here in the suburb Mitte, a shop opened up that sold Thor Steinar accessories – a brand popular to wear among neo-Nazis. The neighbourhood didn’t know how to respond to this and asked us for help. We supported meetings with the neighbourhood and analysed what could be done. They decided to spread flyers, offering information on this shop and the brand. The landlord took juridical steps to evict the shop. It worked – the shop is no longer there,” she smiles.
According to official statistics, the number of right-wing extremists has gone down in recent years in Germany. “Here in Berlin the scene is actually also poorly organised – but that comes with another big danger. These people become more radical. That leads to more violence and even arson attacks. They sneak around at night, threaten other people, smash windows and spray their ideas on walls.”
One particular dangerous group called themselves the ‘Nationaler Widerstand Berlin’ (NWB) – ‘National Resistance Berlin’. They published a long list of people who work against racism on their website – indirectly inviting other right-wing extremists to use violence against them. The list includes people who are openly against neo-Nazis; politicians, journalists, residents, lawyers. Bianca is on the list too.
“I would lie if I said that I am not scared from time to time. On the internet people said they wanted to kill me. I decided to be very open about this – I feel I have to do this for the brave people I consult about their commitment against neo-Nazis. Quitting my job is not an option for me, because that is exactly what these people want me to do,” Bianca says in firm words. She chooses her words carefully though and doesn’t want to go into details about her private life for her own safety.
The website of the NWB is offline right now. “That’s also a big success for us and for the people who fought with us. We worked for such a long time to get this website offline. Unfortunately we know that the list still circulates, sooner or later another website will go online with the list.”
And that means Bianca will have more than enough to do in the next years. “It’s a problem that affects us all. If for example one kid spreads extreme right-wing ideas in his or her school class, we have to take that very seriously. This kid will not only terrorize some classmates, but will also recruit others for his ideas – spreading right-wing extremism. I hope that one day there is no more need for our counselling. But that day is far from today.”