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Neo-Nazism in East Germany

May 26, 1991

Thank you for publishing Sabine Reichel's piece on East German neo-Nazism (Commentary, May 10). She has done a good job in cataloguing the dangers of this movement and of its ingredients: the unemployment of some 1.5 million East Germans, the West Germans' contempt of them, the absence of viable economic alternatives.

But it strikes me as naive to expect these youths, growing under these circumstances, to care a hoot about human suffering or notions of compassion. If these youths in fact know anything about the Nazi years, what's to prevent them from thinking that Jew-bashing, militarism and a revived Vaterland aren't damn good ideas--especially to shock their "betters" who regard them as dirt.

As she rightly points out, neo-Nazism is not confined to Germany, and she might have added that this ideology comes in many forms in many countries. In Guatemala, it is virtually axiomatic that death squads, though organized by rich landowners and top-ranked military and police officers, involve some of the poorest of campesinos and landless proletarians. Thus, it seems that neo-Nazism, fascism and all their other variants may well serve as a poor man's weapon to strike back at the elite--hatred from above breeds hatred from below.

If there is to be any long-term solution to the neo-Nazi phenomenon, it must rest in the elimination of the extremes of wealth and poverty and in the implementation of an American ideal long held to be mythical--that there be equal opportunity for all.

If there is a significant population without a stake in society, its members will find ways to create their own alternative. We may not like the outcome.

PAUL V. McDOWELL, Los Angeles

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