Christian Worch (*1956) is one of the leading German neo-Nazi cadre since the late 1970s, and founder of the around 600 member strong1 German far-right party Die Rechte ("The Right," DR) in 2012. DR links directly into some of the most notorious elements of Germany's right-wing extremist scene. Worch has been convicted multiple times for offenses, such as assault, incitement, and dissemination of Nazi propaganda.
Worch grew up in Hamburg-Hamm and is a trained paralegal and notary clerk. Through inheritance of real estate and capital, at a young age Worch became a millionaire.2 Little is known about Worch's childhood and youth, but already in 1974 he became active in the Hamburg neo-Nazi scene.3
In 1977, Worch joined the circles around the most well-known German neo-Nazi at the time, Michael Kühnen (1955-1991). That year Kühnen and other right-wing extremists had founded the neo-Nazi group "SA Storm Hamburg," a sub-organization of Gary Lauck's neo-Nazi NSDAP Aufbau- und Auslandsorganisation ("NSDAP Reconstruction and Foreign Organization," NSDAP/AO), headquartered in the U.S., which sees itself in the footsteps of the Nazi Party. In November 1974, Lauck had appeared as a speaker on a NSDAP meeting in Hamburg, but was detained and banned from Germany. In 1976, Lauck managed to illegally enter Germany, but was once more detained in Mainz, and sentenced to several months in prison.4
The NSDAP/AO was particularly active in printing and disseminating Nazi propaganda, such as Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf or the anti-Semitic propaganda movie Der Ewige Jude, which is punishable by law in Germany, but not in the U.S.5
Michael Kühnen and Gary Lauck interviewed by Michael Schmidt, presumably 1990/1991. Screenshot of the 1991 documentary Wahrheit macht frei by Michael Schmidt.
Action Front of National Socialists (1977-1983)
From this sub-group, the neo-Nazi organization "Action Front of National Socialists" (Aktionsfront Nationaler Sozialisten, ANS) emerged in November 1977, which Worch helped to build up.
Upon founding the group Kühnen declared "we are a revolutionary party dedicated to restoring the values of the Third Reich" and adopted a version of the Nazi flag in which the swastika was reversed, with the spaces black and the actual cross blending into the background, as their organization's emblem.6 The ANS fetishized the Nazi Party and Ernst Röhm's "Storm Detachment" (SA), whose habitus and ideology it adopted, including the support of the race laws of the Third Reich. To gain first-hand knowledge from the "old guard," the ANS sought contact with Waffen-SS veterans organizations, for example by sending a delegation to the Order of Flemish Militants-organized international neo-Nazi rallies in Diksmuide and working closely with the Wiking-Jugend, an organization which saw itself in the footsteps of the Hitler Youth.7
The ANS became widely known in 1978 with a controversial press stunt Worch took part in, during which several neo-Nazis with donkey masks were marching through Hamburg, holding posters with blatantly anti-Semitic slogans, such as "I, donkey still belief that in Auschwitz Jews were gassed to death."8
In 1977 and 1978, ANS members robbed a number of banks and stole weapons from military bases. Accused of planning to bomb NATO facilities and a memorial for the victims of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and wanting to liberate Rudolf Hess, a former Nazi politician, from jail, six members were arrested and convicted to eleven years in prison. Kühnen, himself, was jailed for inciting racial hatred and violence in 1979 after being charged with setting up a terrorist organization. After Kühnen's imprisonment, Worch took over as head of the ANS. However, in 1980, Worch received several sentences, including for his participation in a raid, which were combined into a three year prison sentence. His defense was led by the far-right celebrity lawyer Jürgen Rieger.3
In 1981, Johannes Bügner, a former member of the ANS, was killed by five ANS members for leaving the group and for allegedly being gay.9 Among the five perpetrators was the neo-Nazi Michael Frühauf, who alleged during the trial that he had cooperated with the Hamburg Office for the Protection of the Constitution, i.e. domestic intelligence. His intelligence liaison had assured him of immunity from prosecution if he did not actively participate in criminal acts. However, the two main perpetrators, including Frühauf, were sentenced to life imprisonment, the three co-defendants to minor time sentences.
On January 15, 1983, the ANS merged with the group of "National Activists" from Thomas Brehl to form the ANS / NA under the leadership of Michael Kühnen. After the ANS / NA was banned later in 1983, Worch joined the neo-Nazi "Free German Workers' Party" (Freiheitliche Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, FAP) and continued to participate in Gary Lauck’s NSDAP/AO.
From 1984 onward, Worch was also involved in the "Relief Organisation for National Political Prisoners and their Families" (Hilfsorganisation für nationale politische Gefangene und deren Angehörige), banned in 2011, an organization that assisted and supported right-wing extremist criminals during and after their imprisonment throughout Germany.10
Intentional Community of the New Front
The banning of the ANS / NA led Brehl, Kühnen and Christian Worch to found the neo-Nazi group "Intentional Community of the New Front" (Gesinnungsgemeinschaft der Neuen Front, GdNF) in 1984. Just as the ANS / NA, the GdNF saw itself in the tradition of the SA and the “revolutionary” wing of the NSDAP, and was openly committed to the 25-point program of the Nazi Party (NSDAP).
Committee for the Preparation of Adolf Hitler's 100th Birthday Celebration
The same year the Committee for the Preparation of Adolf Hitler's 100th Birthday Celebration (CPAHBC) was conceived as another successor organization to the ANS/NA, but, in contrast to the GdNF, limited to the inner core of Kühnen's circles. As its name suggests, the committee was established with the purpose to organize festivities in honor of Adolf Hitler's 100th birthday on April 20, 1989. One of the coordination centers was in Frankfurt, where Kühnen after his release from prison had opened a new headquarters. There he worked together with his comrades-in-arms, including the notorious neo-Nazis Thomas Brehl and Christian Worch.
The CPAHBC was founded in a pub at the Puerta del Sol in Madrid by, among others, Thomas Brehl, Michael Kühnen, Léon Degrelle, Michael Caignet as well as other neo-Nazi functionaries from Europe. Degrelle, during the Nazi era leader of the Belgian SS-volunteer legion "Wallonia" and the highest decorated foreigner, was sentenced to death in absentia in Belgium after 1945, but found refuge in fascist Spain. He was to serve as CPAHBC's honorary president.11
Beside Degrelle, Walter Matthaei ("Capitan Walter") provided the necessary contacts on the international level, especially with Spanish fascists. Matthaei, a former captain in the Reich Security Main Office, was after the war "Reich Youth Leader" of the Socialist Reich Party, banned in 1952, and co-founder of the Viking Youth. In 1987, after a 30-year stay in Spain, he returned to the Federal Republic and joined the neo-Nazi FAP party. Matthaei established the contact of the German neo-Nazis with the militant CEDADE (Circulo de amigos de Europa) based in Barcelona. According to estimates, CEDADE had around 3,000 members with military training.12
In 1986, due to the dispute over Kühnen's homosexuality, the GdNF split into two warring wings, which ended with the departure of the anti-Kühnen wing. As a result, however, the GdNF lost control of the CPAHBC and the Freedom German Workers' Party. While the main task of the GdNF was initially to continue the forbidden ANS / NA, at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s it devoted itself in particular to building organizational structures in the GDR, organizing marches, revisionist campaigns, paramilitary training and building a so-called SA as well as a provocative public relations work.
Rudolf Hess Memorial March
After the Nazi war criminal Rudolf Hess died in a Spandau prison in August 1987, a tradition to annually celebrate his death was born, which ever since has become a major rallying point for the German neo-Nazi scene. In August 1988 the first "Rudolf Hess Memorial March" (Rudolf-Hess-Gedenkmarsch) was organized by a group around the neo-Nazis Kühnen and Worch. The event was initially banned, but was then enforced in court by the Hamburg lawyer Jürgen Rieger. About 120 old and young Nazis took part in the memorial march on August 17, 1988. In 1989 a group of Belgian neo-Nazis took part in the demonstration for the first time. In the summer of 1990 the event counted around 1,600 participants.
In 1989, Worch founded the neo-Nazi minority party National List ("Nationale Liste," NL) together with Thomas Wulff, and became deputy chairman in 1993. The party can be considered as the political arm of the GdNF, which, however, did not prevent some of its members to take part in paramilitary activity. Until September 1991, Worch was editor of NL's magazine Index. The party became significantly involved in the organization of the Rudolf Hess Memorial Marches, but was ultimately banned in February 1995.
With the help of Michael Kühnen, Worch established contact with the holocaust denier David Irving, and subsequently the two appeared on several occasions together.13 There is footage of a rally of Irving in Munich on April 21, 1990, for which NL members under the leadership of Worch made up the security team. During that event, entitled "The Truth Will Set You Free" (Wahrheit Macht Frei), he was seen together with Bela Ewald Althans, a central figure in the German neo-Nazi scene at the time.14
Worch had also organized a speech for Irving in Hamburg.15 Furthermore, he appeared at a historical revisionist meeting in Haguenau, France, where Irving was invited as a speaker. One of the hosts was Robert Faurisson, who had for many years taught literature at the University of Lyon while pretending to be a leftist, but in April 1991 was sentenced to 100000 Francs because of denying Nazi war crimes by a French court. Also present at that event was the holocaust denier Ernst Zündel of Samisdat Publishing fame, and gave an insidiously racist and anti-Semitic speech.
In November 1994, Worch was sentenced to two years in prison for violating the ban of the ANS/NA, and started his jail time in February 1996, but was released early in 1997.3
National Democratic Party of Germany
After the NL was banned in February 1995, Worch was close to the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) for a time in the 1990s and was one of the crucial liaisons between the NPD and the "Free Comradeships" (Freie Kameradschaften), a neo-Nazi organizational structure that Thorsten Heise, Thomas Wulff and he had been instrumental in developing, built on loosely associated local neo-Nazi cells.16
Since the NPD leadership announced in August 2000 that it was suspending the "fight in the streets" for the time being in order to provide the state with fewer targets in view of the application for a ban, Worch increasingly distanced himself from the party. He was also critical of the NPD's propaganda of a so-called popular front from the right, which led, among other things, to disputes with his longtime companion Wulff and resulted in a temporary "ban on appearances and speeches" at party events for Worch, who had previously been offered the chairmanship of the Hamburg NPD.17 Worch was an active opponent of the merger of the NPD and the DVU, which was ultimately completed in 2011.18
Although not much is known about their contact there exists a picture of Worch together with Horst Mahler from 2001, a former RAF member who later became a neo-Nazi.
Logo of Die Rechte
In 2012, Worch founded the neo-Nazi party Die Rechte after the dissolution of the far-right party Deutsche Volksunion (DVU) in 2011, in the hope of filling a market gap between the neo-Nazi NPD party and more moderate right-wing populist parties such as the Pro-Bewegung ("Pro Movement") or Die Republikaner ("The Republicans").
In order to woo former DVU members to join the newly founded party, DR copied the language and strategies of the DVU, particularly its delimination towards the NPD. Also in other aspects DR was orthodoxly adhering to former DVU strategies, since it had - basically verbatim - taken over the DVU's party program.19 However, various political observers classify the party as openly neo-Nazi and even more radical than the NPD.20
This was just a year before the swooping success of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, when it emerged in 2013. Worch remained leader of Die Rechte until 2017.
In October 2017, Worch was confirmed in his position as party leader at the small party's federal convention with 78.4% of the votes. Subsequently, however, there was a motion from the Thuringia state association demanding that the federal party congress resolve "that the Die Rechte party is fully committed to the German national community (Volksgemeinschaft; i.e. the Nazi concept of society)." Worch gave "a counter-speech and stated that he rejected the motion primarily for legal but also for political reasons." A clash ensued, as the majority of the members did not follow Worch, but rather the Thuringian state association. Worch then resigned from the presidency, and his acting successor became the Dortmund neo-Nazi cadre the repeatedly convicted felon Christoph Drewer.21 However, at a federal party congress in early January 2019, Worch took on the position of treasurer and assessor on the Federal Executive Committee.
The current party chairmen are Sascha Krolzig and Sven Skoda, the vice chairmen are Michael Brück and Kevin Koch. The assessors are Leon Dreixler, Markus Walter, Christian Worch, Christoph Drewer and Alexander von Malek.22
- 1. "Verfassungsschutzbericht 2018," Bundesministerium des Innern, für Bau und Heimat, https://www.verfassungsschutz.de/embed/vsbericht-2018.pdf.
- 2. Patricia Schlesinger, "Gewalt, Chaos, Umsturz – Die Strategie der Hintermänner des Nazi-Terrors," Das Erste, Panorama, August 24, 2000, https://daserste.ndr.de/panorama/archiv/2000/erste7366.html.
- 3. a. b. c. Jens Mecklenburg, Handbuch Deutscher Rechtsextremismus (Elefanten Press, 1996), 543-544.
- 4. Mecklenburg, Handbuch Deutscher Rechtsextremismus, 486-487.
- 5. Hartmut Gieselmann, "Neo-Nazi Lauck schnappt sich Verfassungsschutz-Domain," Heise Online, March 5, 2001, https://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/Neo-Nazi-Lauck-schnappt-sich-Verfassungsschutz-Domain-41680.html.
- 6. Martin A. Lee, The Beast Reawakens (Warner Books, 1997), 196-197.
- 7. Lee, The Beast Reawakens, 198.
- 8. Felix M. Steiner, "Die Rechte: Kaum Erfolgschancen für neue Neonazi-Partei," Sueddeutsche Zeitung, August 14, 2012, https://www.zeit.de/politik/deutschland/2012-08/partei-die-rechte-christian-worch/komplettansicht.
- 9. “Neonazis: Solche Elemente,” Der Spiegel, June 8, 1981, https://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-14337637.html.
- 10. "Friedrich verbietet neonazistische Gefangenen-Hilfe," Süddeutsche Zeitung, September 21, 2011, https://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/rechtsextreme-hng-friedrich-verbietet-neonazistische-gefangenen-hilfe-1.1146880.
- 11. "Rechtsextremisten: Schön bunt," Der Spiegel, January 20, 1989, https://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-13496283.html.
- 12. Bernd Siegler, "Geburtstag unterm Hakenkreuz," taz, April 15, 1989, https://taz.de/!1815467/.
- 13. Schmidt, Wahrheit, [00:28:30].
- 14. Michael Schmidt, "Wahrheit macht frei," Documentary, 1991, [00:28:00]. Available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsQsgei98sk.
- 15. Schmidt, Wahrheit, [00:28:22].
- 16. "Kameradschaften als Strategieelement," Bundeszentrale fuer politische Bildung, April 23, 2007, https://web.archive.org/web/20170925180825/http://www.bpb.de/politik/extremismus/rechtsextremismus/41761/kameradschaften?p=all.
- 17. Andreas Speit, "Brauner Block leidet," taz, January 8, 2005, https://taz.de/!654493/.
- 18. Andreas Speit, "Konkurrenz unter Nazis: Auf den Trümmern der DVU," TAZ, June 17, 2012, https://taz.de/!5091232/.
- 19. "Warum DIE RECHTE?," Die Rechte, June 8, 2012, https://web.archive.org/web/20120622053756/http://www.die-rechte.com/warum-die-rechts/.
- 20. Christoph Asche, "Die Rechte: Diese Neonazi-Partei ist gefährlicher als die NPD," November 25, 2014, https://www.huffingtonpost.de/2014/11/25/die-rechte-npd-neonazi-partei_n_6217690.html.
- 21. Sebastian Weiermann, ""Die Rechte" verliert Vorsitzenden," Die Zeit, November 2, 2017, https://blog.zeit.de/stoerungsmelder/2017/11/02/die-rechte-verliert-vorsitzenden_24926.
- 22. Oliver Cruzcampo, "Sven Skoda: Vom Parteilosen zum Parteichef," Endstation Rechts, January 7, 2019, https://www.endstation-rechts.de/news/sven-skoda-vom-parteilosen-zum-parteichef.html.