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Gerard Braunthal

Much has been written about German right-extremist groups, regardless of whether they are neo-Nazi political parties or skinheads, but little has been published about their recruitment of new members and sympathizers. As is true of any group, the rightist movement needs constantly TO replenish its ranks in order not to shrink. Thus, they seek recruits in the high school and university student populations. In the latter, they have wooed members of conservative fraternities especially. Moreover, they have sought to win over recruits and officer trainees in the German armed forces. This article assesses their degree of success and raises the questions whether the recruitment by rightist groups differs from democratic groups and whether the rightist groups pose a threat to the existing democratic system.

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Gerard Braunthal

The German Social Democratic Party (SPD) celebrated its 140 years

of existence on 23 May 2003 with the appropriate fanfare in Berlin.

Not too many other political parties in the world can match this survival

record, especially given the hostility of Chancellor Bismarck,

who in 1878 outlawed the fledgling party as an organization for

twelve years, and of Adolf Hitler, who in 1933 drove the party into

exile for twelve years. During the post-World War II era, the SPD

reestablished itself as a major party and shared in governing the

country from 1966 to 1982 and again from 1998 to the present. It

has left an imprint on the country’s domestic and foreign policies.

But in the twenty-first century’s initial years, the SPD, despite being

in power, is facing serious problems of maintaining membership and

electoral support.

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Gerard Braunthal

How prophetic! Could it be that the famous German pacifist and chief editor of Die Weltbühne was commenting seventy years ago not just on the Weimar SPD but also on the Bonn SPD of 1998? Gerhard Schröder, the party’s chancellor designate in April 1998, insisted that the SPD had to occupy the “New Middle” in the political spectrum if it ever was going to topple Helmut Kohl and his well-entrenched CDU/CSU-FDP government.