The Atlantic

The Dangers of a Neo-Nazi Woodstock

Residents of an east German town forced to host a far-right music festival are asking: Where do we draw the line?
Source: John MacDougall / AFP / Getty

APOLDA, GERMANY—On a recent sunny October afternoon, in a verdant field in central Germany, a vast stage stood beside a cluster of tents, concession stands, and porta-potties awaiting the arrival of some 5,000 attendees. It could have been the site of a music festival practically anywhere in Europe. But this was Rock Gegen Überfremdung, or, roughly, “Rock Against Foreign Inundation,” a sort of Woodstock for neo-Nazis, billed as one of the largest festivals held by Europe’s resurgent far right. Walking past the site, I could see the white memorial tower of the Buchenwald concentration camp gleaming from a hilltop in the distance.

As in many parts of Europe, Germany is experiencing a wave of nativist populism, sparked by the arrival of 1 million asylum seekers in 2015. Last year, that movement propelled the right-wing Alternative for Germany party into Parliament, and it has stoked a heated debate over migrants, even as the number of newcomers has dropped. In September, riots ripped through the east German towns of Chemnitz and Köthen after two local killings, reportedly committed by asylum seekers. Mobs attacked bystanders who looked like foreigners; some raised Hitler salutes. The images splashed on television screens shocked Germany into a collective bout of soul-searching.

Along with the new nationalist

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