[This article was originally published on April 9, 2020, by CovertAction Magazine, and is republished here with kind permission by the editor.]
[Our ongoing series of dispatches from overseas correspondents continues with this second part of a two-part dispatch on the activities of the far right in Greece. See part 1 here.—Editors]
In Part 1 of this dispatch we described recent visits of far-right politicians to the Turkish-Greek border. But also “pre-political” proponents have been instrumentalizing the current humanitarian crisis in Greece for their purposes. Since early March three groups of far-right and neo-Nazi sympathizers from Austria, Germany and Switzerland have shown up in the most affected border regions.
First group at Evros River
The first such group identified arrived around March 4 at the mainland border to Turkey along the Evros river. It consisted of 8-10 people from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, a majority of them members of the Identitarian Movement. Their “intervention” at the border consisted in holding up Greek, Austrian and Identitarian flags, as well as a banner with the slogan: “NO WAY—You will not make Europe your home,” accentuated with stylized barbed wire.
The Identitarian Movement (IM) is a pan-European far-right movement originating in France that opposes non-European, particularly Muslim, immigration and claims to defend a white European “Identity.” Author and researcher Natasha Strobl stated that Identitarians “paint refugees as invaders, as dangerous soldiers of Islam who come here to destroy Europe.” According to a former member of the German IM, the organization is striving for a civil war against Muslims.
The Identitarians’ appearance in Greece has a strong symbolic character for the movement. The IM’s logo itself contains references to Greece, since it consists of the Greek letter Lambda (Λ) surrounded by a circle.1 It is assumed that the Identitarians adopted the symbol from the shields of the Hoplites, a small band of Spartan fighters, as depicted in the movie “300” (2006, 2014). The movie “300” has a cult status in right-wing circles, since it combines notions of a Kulturkampf between Europeans and foreign invaders, in this case Muslims, and the coincident rescue of Western culture.2
Defend Europe sends message to migrants crossing from Italy to France with this giant “NO WAY” flag on a mountain slope (April 2018).
The appearance of the Identitarian group at the Evros border is reminiscent of other interventions by Defend Europe (DE), the European project of the IM. In April 2018, DE staged a large-scale intervention in the French Alps, directed against illegal immigration from Italy to France. They erected a “symbolic border” with plastic grate, and spread a giant “NO WAY” flag on a mountain slope. DE missions have been supported by prominent far-right actors worldwide, among them former “Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan” David Duke.
Most members of the predominantly Identitarian group who have visited Evros recently could be identified. The group was headed by Austrian IM spokesman Martin Sellner, as well as his American wife, Alt-right poster girl Brittany Sellner (formerly Pettibone). They were accompanied by three other Austrian IM members from the Styria region: Harald Wiedner, Clemens Lorber and Erik Freischütz. Brittany and Martin Sellner are veritable celebrities in the far-right scene. Brittany Sellner, while living with her husband in Vienna, maintains excellent connections to the American Alt-right, and runs her own YouTube channel, on which she mainly represents anti-feminist positions.
Martin Sellner is the leader and best-known face of the Austrian IM. Sellner, deemed the protégé of right-wing extremist Gottfried Küssel, is a full-time far-right activist. Besides running the Austrian IM branch, he writes books, runs an extremist web shop and a YouTube channel, and travels the world to speak at far-right events, sometimes along like-minded white supremacists, such as Jared Taylor, Kevin MacDonald, and Greg Johnson.
Sellner is closely collaborating with the German New Right activist, writer and publisher Götz Kubitschek.3 Although Kubitschek was not on this trip, he appears as the key nexus regarding several of the recent Identitarian visitors in Greece. From his country estate in eastern Germany, Kubitschek manages his various projects, such as the “Institute for State Policy” (Institut für Staatspolitik, IfS), considered the most important New Right think tank in the German-speaking world.
Kubitschek also appears in the orbit of the German Identitarians among the Evros group, Philip Thaler, Till-Lucas Wessels, and Paul Klemm. Philip Thaler’s YouTube channel is financed by, among others, the xenophobic petition and campaign platform “One Percent for our country,” co-founded by Kubitschek.4 Till-Lucas Wessels5 and Paul Klemm are members of the IM section Kontrakultur Halle (“Counter-Culture Halle”), whose house project has been dubbed “the most important project of the IM in the German-speaking world.” Kubitschek is generally deemed the mastermind of that house project which, besides offices of his projects (Antaois, One Percent) and facilities for IM members, hosts the office of Hans-Thomas Tillschneider, a politician of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
Besides Kubitschek, another far-right publicist appears in the orbit of the German Identitarians: Jürgen Elsässer. Formerly politically on the left, Elsässer, together with his conspiracist magazine Compact, has made an almost 180-degree turn to the far right. Kontrakultur Halle activist Paul Klemm writes for Compact; so does a far-right proponent of another group that had visited Greece lately, Mario Müller (see below).
There was also a Swiss person among the first travel group, Ignaz Bearth, who runs a far-right YouTube channel.6 Bearth was passing to the Turkish side of the border to report from the situation there when he was detained for a short period by the Turkish police, apparently on charges of insult.
Besides the group around Martin Sellner there have been two other groups of far-right Germans and Austrians who visited Greece in early March, more specifically, the island of Lesbos, just off the shore of Turkey, which hosts one of the largest and most ill-famed European refugee camps, called Moria.
First Lesbos Group
The first Lesbos group certainly had a connection to the Identitarians visiting the Evros border, since it included the founder of the aforementioned Identitarian grouping Kontrakultur Halle, Mario Müller. As the local news website Stonisi.gr reported, the group around Müller arrived in Lesbos on March 6, 2020, and consisted of four men pretending to be journalists: two Identitarians from Austria, and two Germans. The previously convicted right-wing extremist Müller, formerly active in the youth cadre of the neo-Nazi NPD party, currently works for Jürgen Elsässer’s Compact. Although Müller has left his jackboot years behind, he is still collaborating with neo-Nazis, notably with Ukrainian Azov Battalion.7
Müller visited Lesbos together with the German neo-Nazi Jonathan Stumpf, who was reportedly attacked and injured on the head by an unknown assaulter. Stumpf, a top candidate of the NPD party in the city of Mannheim, has “developed” from a crude neo-Nazi to an intellectual racist, publishing books such as “The White Ethnostate” or “Fight for Survival” under the moniker Johannes Scharf. Stumpf runs the Nova Europa Society (NES), a group including other white supremacist writers and publishers, such as Richard McCulloch, Arthur Kemp and John Bruce Leonard. The NES’s website bluntly calls “For a white ethnostate,” and offers a manifesto available in several languages, claiming the superiority of the white race.
The other two persons of the first group visiting Lesbos were Austrian Identitarians Fabian Rusnjak, from the Steiermark region, and Stefan Juritz, chief editor of the Austrian Identitarian news site tagesstimme.at. Both were among the first members of the Austrian Identitarians and are members of right-wing fraternities. Rusnjak, one of the founding members of the IM in Vienna, is known to be extremely violent. He used to be a soldier of the Austrian Federal Army and had been deployed in Kosovo as a sniper for a border patrol team.
From left to right: Robert Prost-Lepouras, Stefan Bauer and Oliver Flesch.
Second Lesbos Group
The second group of neo-Nazis appearing in Lesbos consisted of three people, including Oliver Flesch and Stefan Bauer. Both work for the AfD-affiliated news site Deutschland-Kurier, for which they mainly produce YouTube videos.8 The far-right Deutschland-Kurier, considered an AfD propaganda organ, was initially a printed weekly that appeared from July 2017 onwards, and was for some time distributed free of charge to many German households. Among its staff are well-known journalists as well as politicians from the AfD, CDU and FPÖ.9 The Deutschland-Kurier popped up in the context of a donation scandal concerning the far-right AfD party. The magazine was designed by the Swiss Goal AG of PR consultant Alexander Segert. Segert’s Goal AG had issued lists of straw men to the AfD, through which donations had been illegally funneled to the party.
The third person identified in that group of “journalists” is Robert Prost-Lepouras who, according to one of his social media profiles, “would shoot the entire human scum” at the border if he were given an M60. According to a Twitter post by Kubitschek’s Sezession, Prost-Lepouras had been excluded from the Identitarian Movement many years ago. Prost-Lepouras has Greek roots and, according to a YouTube video from March 4, together with Flesch and Bauer, visited his mother in Athens before traveling on to Lesbos. On Lesbos, the three were among those present in the aftermath of an arson attack that happened at the “One Happy Family” social center, as can be seen in a video. Stefan Bauer and his companions have reportedly clashed with participants of an anti-fascist demonstration in the island’s capital Mytelene, and when they were surrounded, were freed by Greek police, according to the German newspaper taz.
Although a proven connection existed only between the Identitarian group at the Evros border and the group around Mario Müller on Lesbos, all groups have sent, if not journalists, at least media-savvy people to Greece. There is a prevalence of people who run popular YouTube channels or write for far-right magazines, such as Jürgen Elsässer’s Compact or Götz Kubitschek’s Sezession, as well as party-affiliated organs, such as the Deutschland-Kurier or the Austrian Die Tagesstimme. Their appearance in Greece certainly has several purposes. One is to show that the organizations and parties they hail from are ready to “defend Europe” from refugees and migrants. Furthermore, the pictures and footage from these trips serve to visually underpin their claims of “an uncontrolled stream” of migrants and refugees, and feeding into conspiracy theories such as Erdogan’s “import of jihadists.”
All in all, the far-right groups that have visited the border regions of Greece in recent weeks see the current humanitarian crisis as an opportunity to advance their racist discourses. But they should also remind us that the “Fortress Europe” they strive for—a Europe where humans die a miserable death at the external borders—is closer than we think.
— End Part 2 —
Ellen Rivera is an independent researcher who specializes in the post-war far right with a particular focus on post-war anti-communist organizations.
- 1. See Brittany Sellner’s friend Lauren Southern’s interview with a French Identitarian (3:29ff). “Generation Identity: Europe’s Youth Reconquista,” Lauren Southern on YouTube, May 11, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbbSv0m8CGI. The French Identitarian describes why the IM opted for the lambda symbol as logo. Brittany Sellner and Southern also conducted an interview with Russian fascist Aleksandr Dugin. “Aleksandr Dugin on Millennials, Modernity and Religion,” Lauren Southern on YouTube, June 20, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sl2–OHvxK4.
- 2. Daniel Majic, “Neueste Rechte,” Frankfurter Rundschau, November 11, 2012, https://www.fr.de/politik/neueste-rechte-11355235.html; Volker Weiß, “Die Identitären: Nicht links, nicht rechts – nur national,” Zeit Online, March 21, 2013, https://www.zeit.de/2013/13/Die-Identitaeren.
- 3. Sellner has lived in Kubitschek’s country estate for several weeks, has been writing for his magazine Sezession since 2015, and published two books with Kubitschek’s Antaios publishing house. See Christine Eckes, “Ausbreitung der ‘Identitären Bewegung’ in Europa und ihre ideologischen Grundzüge,” EXIT-Deutschland, Volume 4, 2016, 110ff.
- 4. Co-founders, besides Kubitschek, are Philip Stein, a right-wing extremist publisher, who runs the Jungeuropa publishing house; Jürgen Elsässer, editor of the far-right conspiracist magazine Compact; and Hans-Thomas Tillschneider, formerly chairman of the now defunct “Patriotic Platform,” a far-right faction of the AfD. Marcel Laskus, “‘Ein Prozent’ und die Neuen Rechten: Im Hinterland, rechts außen,” MDR, September 28, 2016, https://web.archive.org/web/20170801123437/http://www.mdr.de/sachsen/ein-prozent-in-oybin-100_page-1_zc-43c28d56.html.
- 5. Along with Martin Sellner, Wessels has been writing for Kubitschek’s Sezession since 2017.
- 6. Bearth is a member of the right-wing extremist “Party of Nationally Oriented Swiss” (PNOS), and for a short time was spokesman of the Swiss branch of PEGIDA (“Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident”).
- 7. On June 8, 2018, Kontrakultur held an “Ukrainian Evening” where Olena Semenyaka, international spokeswoman of the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, spoke on the topic of “Identity, Geopolitics, Perspectives” and, according to information from the Identitarians, introduced the concept of Intermarium to the audience. See: “Vortrag im IB-Hausprojekt: Das Regiment Asow zu Gast in Halle,” Sachsen-Anhalt Rechtsaussen, June 13, 2018, https://lsa-rechtsaussen.net/das-regiment-asow-zu-gast-in-halle/; “Ein Identitäres Haus für die Kontrakultur Halle: Kubitscheks Traum vom Nazikiez,” Sachsen-Anhalt Rechtsaussen, June 18, 2017, https://lsa-rechtsaussen.net/ein-identitaeres-haus-fuer-die-kontrakultur-halle/#Ukraine. See also Marlene Laruelle and Ellen Rivera, Imagined Geographies of Central and Eastern Europe: The Concept of Intermarium, March 2019, https://covertactionmagazine.com/index.php/2019/03/23/imagined-geographies-of-central-and-eastern-europe-the-concept-of-intermarium/.
- 8. Search results for Oliver Flesch on YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=oliver+flesch; Search results for “Stefan Bauer” and “Deutschland-Kurier” on YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=%22stefan+bauer%22+%22deutschland+kurier%22.
- 9. For example, former CDU member and MP Erika Steinbach; Peter Bartels, former editor-in-chief of Bild; Konrad Adam, former FAZ editor-in-chief; Maximilian Krah (AfD); Guido Reil (AfD); Bruno Bandulet, journalist and publisher; and Barbara Rosenkranz, member of the FPÖ National Council and former FPÖ presidential candidate.