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The 2001 NPD/Neo-Nazi Demonstration Against the Wehrmacht Exhibition

In the winter of 2001, the “Crimes of the Wehrmacht” (Verbrechen der Wehrmacht)  exhibition came to Berlin. The NPD used the occasion for a demonstration; turnout was estimated at about 3,000. I took these photographs as the demonstration came to Oranienburger Tor in Berlin Mitte and followed it up Chaussee Strasse, around to Invalidenstrasse.

A Neonazi demonstration isn’t such a novelty in Berlin, but for me, in 2001, it was. I felt a little bit as if a 1930s news film were intersecting with my life, and so it seemed appropriate to shoot the demo in grainy black and white–maybe I wanted to keep it out of the present.

I hadn’t gone digital yet, so these photos are scanned from prints, which may add a bit to the graininess.

"You See the Truth After You Recognized the Lies." Photo: Daniel Mufson

"You See the Truth When You Recognize the Lies." Photo: Daniel Mufson

According to press reports, the police supposedly outnumbered the number of right wing demonstrators, but from my vantage point, that wasn’t the case.

A Well-Guarded McDonald's. Photo: Daniel Mufson.

A Well-Guarded McDonald's. Photo: Daniel Mufson.

At the time, I lived a few blocks from where I was taking these photos, and I wasn’t sure if it was more unsettling that these people–and so many of them!–were so near my home or that I was wandering among them and taking photographs. Fortunately, I had left my “New York Jew” T-shirt at home.

"The Dictatorship of the Media and the American East Coast (Wiesenthal)." Photo: Daniel Mufson.

"The Dictatorship of the Media and the American East Coast (Wiesenthal)." Photo: Daniel Mufson.

Some demonstrators hid their faces…

"Not Capitalism! Not Communism! For German Socialism!" Photo: Daniel Mufson

"Not Capitalism! Not Communism! For German Socialism!" Photo: Daniel Mufson

… and others did not.

"My Granpa Was No Murderer!" Photo: Daniel Mufson.

"My Grandpa Was No Murderer!" Photo: Daniel Mufson.

The press had reports of an “antifa” demonstration, but this was the only dissent I saw:

The banner behind him reads "Nicht mit uns"--"not with us." Photo: Daniel Mufson.

The banner behind him reads "Nicht mit uns"--"not with us." Photo: Daniel Mufson.

Most of the demonstrators were young.

A Skinhead, Apparently. Photo: Daniel Mufson.

A Skinhead, Apparently. Photo: Daniel Mufson.

The posters and banners not only focused on the exhibition but also made a point of telling everyone: We’re Here. And yet many of them had odd little quirks. Here, the German xenophobes have inserted an English apostrophe for the possessive form, which doesn’t actually exist in proper German.

"Prussia's Law and Order." Photo: Daniel Mufson.

"Prussia's Law and Order." Photo: Daniel Mufson.

I don’t like the composition of this shot, but I’m drawn to the Saxony NPD poster, which reads: “It’s not a mistake not to be as dishonest, corrupt, and busted as the others.” Aside from the double negative construction, I find the “as” (or in German, “so”) a bit curious. Wouldn’t you want to say “We’re not dishonest and corrupt, the way the others are,” instead of “We’re not as dishonest and corrupt as the others?” Or maybe I just seek shelter in pedantry when I’m outnumbered.

We're not soooooo dishonest or corrupt...? Photo: Daniel Mufson.

We're not soooooo dishonest or corrupt...? Photo: Daniel Mufson.

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