Legacy of Hate

Legacy of Hate Europe's history is littered with failed dictatorships: fascism, Nazism, communism... Yet as the European Union expands to the east, the ideologies of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin have begun to resurface. Over the last decade fascism and communism have re-entered politics. As a new generation of Europeans re-evaluates, and even re-writes history, we trace the rebirth of totalitarian ideals.

In a smoky bunker in Leipzig, in once communist East Germany, skinheads scream adoration for Hitler at a secret far-right gig. The band is called Zensur, or 'censorship'. Unemployment in France and Germany is at a post war high and so young people make easy targets for far-right propaganda. Other bands like 'The Turk Hunters', are now targeting Germany's refugees, who make up 6% of the workforce. As Nouria explains, they're a convenient outlet for social resentment. "They wanted to attack my husband. They throw stones at me. My child was threatened. All foreigners have more problems nowadays". In modern day Germany, the Nazi obsession with race survives.

We travel by night with a bus load of illegal Kurdish immigrants fleeing Turkey for Italy. Fascism was actually born in Mussolini's Italy. For fifty years the fascists were shunned from politics, but in 1994, a neo-fascist party - the National Alliance (NA) - made it into government. Despite this racist legacy, today's story is remarkably good for Italy's minorities. It is seen as the gateway to western Europe, as claiming asylum here is relatively easy. The village of Badolato actually welcomed hundreds of Kurdish refugees who arrived by boat, giving them washing machines, TVs and two meals a day. But the NA opposes more immigration, and Italy is under pressure from other EU nations to get tougher.

France is an even more popular destination as it offers more benefits to foreigners than Italy. So the message of Western Europe's largest anti-immigrant party, the National Front, is that foreigners should be sent home. It won more than 15% of the vote in the 1998 French elections, playing on fears of immigration and unemployment. "Those people endanger civil peace and the cohesion of our country and unbalance the employment situation. We want to bring down the numbers below the threshold of tolerance," the Front explains. Immigrant youth commit a disproportionate share of French crime, but they live under curfew and claim police harassment since the National Front came to power. The Front has also expelled Algerians living in council flats and sacked social workers of foreign birth.

Communism in 20th century Europe was as guilty of crimes against humanity as fascism. Some call them totalitarian twins. In East Germany, communism came to mean savage dogma, and yet the Communist party is now the fastest growing party in Germany. And if anywhere in Russia has a reason to hate the communists, it's in Siberia, where millions were sent to Stalin's gulags. Yet the communists have also made a comeback here, thanks to economic hardship. Whether or not the communists make it all the way back to the Kremlin, Russian nationalism is growing.

It's eastern Europe, where democracy is weaker, that political extremism is most dangerous. Hungary's Albert Szabo founded a party modelled on the Nazis, and has been in court charged with denying the Holocaust. The Holocaust has stunning conTemporary relevance. In a Europe that has recently witnessed ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, the present has become the past. With fascist parties re-entering mainstream European politics, the past needs to be recalled and studied as a warning.

Produced by ABC Australia and Journeyman Pictures

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