By FOIA Research
on September 8, 2021 - Last updated: September 10, 2021

Gerhard Frey

Gerhard Michael Frey (18 February 1933 – 19 February 2013) was a far-right German publisher, businessman and politician. He was the chairman and main financial backer of the right-wing extremist party Deutsche Volksunion ("German Peoples Union," DVU), which he founded in 1971 first as an association, and in 1987 as a party, which at times joined forces with the neo-Nazi party NPD, with which it finally merged in 2011.

Heir to a vast fortune, Frey ran also a far-right publishing empire together with members of his family, including the Druckschriften- und Zeitungsverlag GmbH (DSZ-Verlag), and later the, FZ Freiheitlicher Zeitungsverlag GmbH (FZ-Verlag), as well as a mail order business (Deutscher Buchdienst) and a traveling agency (Deutsche Reisen).

Throughout his career, Frey maintained close contacts with right-wing extremist circles across Europe, but also in Russia, among them the British Holocaust denier David Irving, the Belgian far-right party Vlaams Block (later Vlaams Belang), Jean-Marie Le Pen of the French Front National, and far-right Russian politicians, such as Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Vyacheslav Dashichev. Frey was also closely associated with CSU politicians, such as Alfred Seidl, former Bavarian Minister of the Interior, and Theodor Maunz, former Bavarian Minister of Education.1

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Family background

Gerhard Frey came from a wealthy merchant family in the Upper Palatinate, in which a reactionary and militaristic attitude prevailed. His father Adalbert Frey (1889-1944) was a member of the Bavarian People's Party and from 1919 to 1929 city councilor in Cham.2 He was a soldier in both World Wars, and in 1919 was a member of the Bayerwald Battalion, one of the Freikorps that were used by the social democratic government of Johannes Hoffmann against the Bavarian Soviet Republic. The family was well off, owning a chain of the still existing department stores (Frey), which Gerhard Frey's older brother Adalbert Frey jr., an economist, inherited first.

Already during his high school years, Frey pursued his passion for far-right politics, militarism and writing, contributing to the Deutsche Soldaten-Zeitung (see below). After graduating from high school in Cham, Gerhard Frey studied law and political science, and completed his two years of legal clerkship with the government of Upper Bavaria. This was followed by a two-year traineeship at the Passauer Neue Presse. In 1960, the Karl Franzens University in Graz awarded Frey a doctorate in law and political science with a dissertation on Austria's trade links with Germany. Frey's supervisor was the constitutional law teacher Erwin Melichar, who was President of the Constitutional Court of Austria from 1977 to 1983.

Frey was a multimillionaire. His family's fortune was estimated at 250 million euros in the early 2000s.3 In addition to his publishing houses and newspapers, he owned over 30 multi-story apartment buildings in Munich and Berlin with an annual rental income estimated at 2.5 million euros.34 When his older brother Adalbert died in 2006, Frey inherited half of the family's department store chain.

Frey was married to Regine Frey, and together they had four children, of which two became lawyers as well. His wife Regina became director of Frey's FZ-Verlag, and later headed the entire DSZ-Verlag. Frey's daughter Michaela, a lawyer, had also been working in the management of the publishing enterprise.5 His son, Gerhard Frey Jr. has represented the DVU and the publishing house as a lawyer in court.2 He published a revisionist book about "Poland's concealed guilt" (Polens verschwiegene Schuld) in the family-owned FZ-Verlag, and occasionally represented his father at right-wing extremist gatherings. Today, a certain Matthias Frey is running the Frey department store with seat in Cham,6 whose annual revenue is estimated at 10-50 million euros.7

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1950s

Deutsche Soldaten-Zeitung

From 1951 onward, Gerhard Frey had been active as a freelance writer for the Deutsche Soldaten-Zeitung ("German Soldiers' News," DSZ), launched that year by former SS and Wehrmacht officers with American support. Geared at former soldiers, the DSZ's line was staunchly nationalist, militaristic and anti-Soviet, pledging for Germany's rearmament, and rallying for the country's accession to the NATO. Furthermore, the paper frequently published historical revisionist and anti-Semitic articles.89 The DSZ was originally devised in 1950 in an American internment camp by the former NSDAP district leader Holland Helmut Damerau, the Wehrmacht colonel and district administrator of Stendal Heinrich Detloff von Kalben,8 the Waffen-SS colonel Joachim Ruoff, and the Waffen-SS general Felix Steiner. Money for the endeavor came from the CIA, among others.10

Issue of the Deutsche Soldaten-Zeitung from October 1950.

According to a CIA research aid, the DSZ was supported in the framework of project KMMANLY11:

KMMANLY (1951-53) was originally designed to counter the actions of pacifist and neutralist groups in West Germany who were opposed to ratification of the contractual agreements. In practice KMMANLY sought to win support for the European Defense Community (EDC) in areas of veterans' affairs and military publishing. To achieve these aims, three publications were utilized under KMMANLY -- Die Deutsche Soldaten Zeitung (The German Soldiers' Newspaper, (DSZ)), Europaische Wehrkorrespondenz (European Defense Newsletter, (EWK)), Wehrwissenschaftliche Rundschau (Military Science Journal, (WWR)). In addition KMMANLY supported the Gesellschaft fuer Wehrkunde (GfW), a military science study group composed of former high ranking German Army officers. Wilhelm Classen (PA), Eberhard Von Nostitz, Burghard Von Preussen, Felix Steiner associated with GfW part of Project. Josef Berschneider, Hans Iglhaut, Werner Strecker considered for possible use on KMMANLY.

In 1954, financial support from the U.S. government and the Federal Press and Information Office dried up.

Druckschriften- und Zeitungsverlag GmbH (DSZ-Verlag)

In 1958, Frey founded the far-right publishing house Druckschriften- und Zeitungsverlag GmbH (DSZ-Verlag), and succeeded in acquiring half of the DSZ newspaper in 1959. That year, Frey also became the publisher and editor-in-chief of the DSZ.

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1960s

Since 1960, Frey owned the DSZ in full. The DSZ was renamed to Deutsche National-Zeitung und Soldaten-Zeitung in 1960–61, and to Deutsche National-Zeitung (DNZ) in 1963. The DNZ appeared from 1963 until 1999, when the newspaper was merged with another of Frey's publications, the Deutsche Wochen-Zeitung – Deutscher Anzeiger, and became the National-Zeitung. The newspaper continued under that name for 20 years, until December 2019, when it was discontinued.12

In his weekly political organ, Frey repeatedly underlined his friendship with Reinhard Gehlen, the head of the military intelligence service Abteilung Fremde Heere Ost in the Third Reich, who later became the first head of the West German federal intelligence service Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND). Gehlen was taken over by the U.S. for their own purposes in the American Occupation Zone of southern Germany during the Cold War and installed in the BND.

In 1962, the Gesamtdeutsche Partei (GDP) proposed Frey as a candidate on its list for the Bavarian state elections on November 25, 1962. As the National-Zeitung reported, Frey declined the "honorable offer" because building up the newspaper required his strength.

For the 1969 Bundestag election, Frey unsuccessfully sought to be nominated as a candidate for the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) party. In the same year, Ernst Benda, then Federal Minister of the Interior, applied to the Federal Constitutional Court for a ruling that Frey had forfeited the fundamental right of freedom of the press on the grounds of abuse under Article 18 of the Basic Law. However, the application was ultimately rejected by the Federal Constitutional Court in 1974.

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1970s

FZ Freiheitlicher Zeitungsverlag GmbH

In 1971, Frey founded a second publishing company, the FZ Freiheitlicher Zeitungsverlag GmbH (FZ-Verlag), together with the mail-order business Deutscher Buchdienst and the travel agency Deutsche Reisen. The purpose of the publishing house was the dispatch of militaristic devotional objects (books, flags, cards, pennants, records, etc.) as well as the organization of readers' trips. In 1986, he changed the name of the company to "FZ Freiheitlicher Buch-und Zeitschriften-Verlag GmbH." In 1991, Frey added "DSZ-Druck GmbH" to his group of companies.2

Deutsche Volksunion (association) (1971-1987)

The NPD under Adolf von Thadden's (1921-1996) leadership had continuously lost votes in the late 1960s and early 1970s 1.9 million (1967), 1.5 million (1969) to 200,000 (1972). To that end, Frey founded the association Deutsche Volksunion ("German People's Union," DVU) in 1971, as a catch-all for disillusioned former NPD members, whose activities were primarily directed against Willy Brandt's Ostpolitik. In addition to the former NPD politicians Walter Brandner (1920-1998), an SS-Obersturmbannführer in the Nazi era, and the former Nazi writer Wilhelm Pleyer (1901-1974), officials from the union parties (CDU-CSU) were also among the co-founders of Frey's association, which officially did not register as a party until 1987.13

In 1975 Frey became a member of the NPD and tried in vain to be elected deputy federal chairman. He did, however, become an assessor on the federal executive committee, but resigned from that post a year later. The NPD's co-founder and former federal chairman, Adolf von Thadden, who had been working for the MI6 as an informant,14 resigned from the party in anger over Frey's election to the federal executive committee. In 1979, Frey also turned his back on the NPD.

From the outset, the DVU had tangible links to the right-wing extremist milieu. For example, Harald Neubauer was a NPD member from 1969 to 1972 and again from 1975 to 1981, while also becoming associated with Frey and the DVU. Neubauer was editing Frey's newspaper Deutscher Anzeiger (1975–1983).15  According to Germany's most well-known neo-Nazi in the 1970s and 1980s, Michael Kühnen (1955-1991), Neubauer used to be a functionary of the U.S.-based NSDAP/AO of Gary Lauck from the early 1970s until the mid-1970s in Northern Germany, and was a treasurer of Lauck in Schleswig-Holstein.16 Kühnen said furthermore that he had provided security services for a DVU rally in 1977 co-organized by Neubauer, which featured the Nazi flying ace Hans-Ulrich Rudel (1916-1982), a key figure in the reformation of Nazi networks worldwide after the war.17

Wehrsportgruppe Hoffmann

In 1977, the fascist terrorist Wehrsportgruppe Hoffmann ("Military Sports Group Hoffmann," 1973-1980) occasionally provided security services for DVU events. In the following year, Frey paid a fine of DM 8000 for the groups' leader Karl-Heinz Hoffmann.18 The National-Zeitung wrote of a "bizarre hobby of the Wehrsport leader" and his "masquerades," to obfuscate the affiliation.19

The WSG Hoffmann was banned by the Federal Minister of the Interior in 1980. Prior to that, the neo-Nazi Gundolf Köhler (1959-1980), who had participated in paramilitary exercises of the WSG Hoffmann, had carried out the explosive attack at the Munich Oktoberfest in the same year, in which 13 people died and 211 people were injured, some of them seriously.

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1980s

From 1982 until 2001, Frey hosted a large annual gathering of DVU members and other right-wing extremist forces in Passau, Bavaria, which took place in the local Nibelungen Hall. Every year, several thousand DVU members and sympathizers from all over Germany and abroad, especially from Austria and Italy, were brought to the city with buses. The rally in Passau's Nibelungen Hall was one of the DVU's most important events nationwide. In the early 2000s there had been a significant decline in the number of participants. While in the past up to 3000 DVU supporters came to Passau, in September 2001 there were only 1200. Speakers at the Passau events, which were held since August 1982, included the notorious Holocaust denier David Irving, the Russian right-wing extremist Vladimir Zhirinovsky and the Nazi icon Hans-Ulrich Rudel. On the occasion, right-wing extremists were regularly awarded the "Freedom Prize of the Deutsche National-Zeitung."20

David Irving

Since the early 1980s there had been a friendly relationship between Gerhard Frey and the Briton David Irving (b. 1938). In 1982, Irving was awarded by the DVU the "European Freedom Prize of the National-Zeitung. In the following years he appeared several times at lectures of the DVU and at large DVU events in Passau. In 2004, Frey's DSZ-Verlag published Irving's book "Battle for Europe. With the courage of despair against the invasion of 1944," which was sent unsolicited to the "Friends of the DSZ Book Circle" in June 2004 at the price of 20 euros. Irving, arguably the world's best-known Holocaust denier, was sentenced by the Munich Regional Court to a fine for insulting and denigrating the deceased, and was banned from entering the Federal Republic of Germany. In the same year, he was defeated in a libel suit brought by him against the historian Deborah Lipstadt in the London High Court, who had called him "one of the most dangerous Holocaust deniers." In its verdict, the court described him as a racist, an anti-Semite and a falsifier of historical facts.21 Journalist Michael Schmidt, who made a documentary about holocaust deniers and the neo-Nazi scene of the early 1990s, mentioned that Irving was cashing in on the successes of the DVU, since he was regularly appearing as speaker on the events of the party.22

It has been reported that among the far-right groups present at the DVU rallies were members of various Nazi-revivalist organizations, such as the Wiking-Jugend.23 In a 1993 ZDF documentary about the DVU, a former member of the DVU's security team, Ulrich Schwetasch, recalled that Frey also had power over certain militant neo-Nazi groups. Schwetasch, whose neo-Nazi career led him from the Wiking Jugend over paramilitary groups (Wehrsportgruppen) to the NPD and finally to the DVU, alleged that Frey had used him and his companions as goon squads against counter-protestors at various rallies.24

ZDF documentary about the DVU in 1993.

Klaus Barbie

When the Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie (1913-1991) was finally indicted in 1984, and tried in 1987, Frey contributed money to his legal defense, which the Swiss banker François Genoud collected. Genoud, a staunch Nazi, had become a rich man after he had negotiated the exploitation rights of Joseph Goebbels' writings with his relatives after the death of the Nazi propaganda minister.25 Genoud was a close friend of Otto Skorzeny, Karl Wolff, and Klaus Barbie during the years of the Third Reich,26 and after WWII became an eminent terrorist financier and arms dealer in the Middle East.

The Swiss banker and staunch Nazi François Genoud, here on March 18 1965, became a rich man after he negotiated the exploitation rights of Joseph Goebbels' writings with his relatives after the death of the Nazi propaganda minister.

According to the German historian Peter Hammerschmidt27:

Meanwhile, while [Jacques] Vergès was getting to know the defendant in his cell, Genoud was organizing a levy in the "Nazi circle of friends" to cover the costs of the prominent lawyer. At the end of October 1983, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution [Germany's domestic intelligence service] identified the radical right-wing publisher and federal chairman of the DVU, Gerhard Frey, as one of the main financiers. An inside source at the Bavarian State Office for the Protection of the Constitution had succeeded in gaining access to business documents of Frey's "Druckschriften- und Zeitungsverlag" (DSZ) in Munich. The State Office subsequently came to the conclusion that as early as October 3, 1983, 5000 DM had been transferred from the DSZ special account "S" (donations) to Barbie's daughter in Kufstein. However, it did not remain the only "down payment." Based on the close relationship between Barbie's daughter and DSZ publisher Frey, the latter agreed to arrange further payments:
"For a long time, we have been contributing to the financing of Barbie's legal struggle through annual support contributions, usually DM 10,000. Since Mrs. Messner [Barbie's daughter, author's note] asked for additional support, I gave an additional DM 10,000.00 to her."
Between 1983 and 1987, therefore, at least DM 55,000 had been provided by Frey to finance Barbie's defense.
Frey had never made a secret of his friendship with Gehlen. Even after Gehlen's death, he claims to have been in contact with the secret service. Whether he also tried to instrumentalize his BND contacts to support Barbie remains unclear. In a conversation with Herbert Kukuk, an employee of the BND between February 1, 1947 and March 31, 1978, Kukuk claimed to Michael von der Goltz in October 1983 that Frey had approached the service with a request for Barbie's support. However, "official" support was out of the question; that "would only be possible via a parallel channel and in complete secrecy," the BND retiree had announced at the time. Kukuk himself had declared his solidarity with Barbie ...

Thies Christophersen

In 1986, the anti-Semitic journal Bauernschaft ("Peasantry") of the notorious Holocaust denier Thies Christophersen (1918-1997), a former SS special leader at Auschwitz and author of the "Auschwitz Lie," banned in the Federal Republic, published a letter from Frey, in which the latter offered Christophersen legal assistance.18

Deutsche Volksunion (party) (1987-2011)

In 1987, Frey founded the DVU as a party under the name Deutsche Volksunion - Liste D. Frey put considerable sums into the promotion of the new party, including extravaganzas, such as flying a plane with a banner sporting the parties' name.

Frey financed his party to a not inconsiderable extent from his private fortune, which allowed him an authoritarian style of leadership.13 The DVU succeeded several times in entering state parliaments, but many DVU members turned their backs on the party because of its leadership style. For this reason, the DVU was often referred to as the "Frey Party," and sometimes as a "phantom" or "virtual party." The party was considered by many to be a power and economic instrument of Frey, as there had also been no clear separation between the publisher, the newspaper and the party.

The party's discourses were nationalist, racist, anti-Semitic, anti-American, anti-liberal, anti-democratic as well as comprehensively revisionist, reaching from the trivialization to the glorification of Nazism.

The newly founded party entered into alliances with the NPD until the early 1990s, which were renewed from 2005 in an electoral alliance called Deutschlandpakt ("German Pact," 2005-2009). In between, the relationship between the two parties was very tense.

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1990s

After the death of Theodor Maunz (1901-1991), a law professor and commentator on the Basic Law, it became known that he had closely collaborated with Frey.1 Maunz (FDP) had to resign as Bavarian Minister of Culture after his Nazi past as a commentator on Nazi police law became public.1

Vladimir Zhirinovsky

Since the 1990s, the DVU has maintained intensive contacts with Vladimir Zhirinovsky (b. 1946) and his far-right "Liberal Democratic Party of Russia" (LDPR), founded in 1991. In 1992, Zhrinovsky was an acclaimed speaker at the annual DVU event in Passau. Earlier, Gerhard Frey Jr. took part in the LDPR's party congress in Moscow in April 1992 at the invitation of the LDPR. Frey Sr. was a guest of the LDPR party congress in 1994. Zhirinovsky and Frey, in their five-point "Moscow Declaration" of June, 29, 1994 gave expression to nationalist demands, in addition to reaffirming the friendship between the Russian and German far right.
The Brandenburg DVU state deputies Sigmar-Peter Schuldt (DVU state chairman in Brandenburg and parliamentary group managing director) and Markus Nonninger took part on February 21-22, 2004, at the invitation of Zhirinovsky (in his function as vice-president of the Russian State Duma) in the Second World Congress of European and Asian Patriotic Parties in Moscow. According to the DVU, the opinion expressed by the DVU delegation that Turkey "does not belong in the European Union was undividedly applauded by all congress participants."28

Vyacheslav Dashichev

The DVU maintained a particularly close relationship with Vyacheslav Dashichev (1925-2016). Dashichev was a guest speaker at the state party convention of the DVU in Brandenburg on June 27, 2004, and had been a regular author and interview partner of the National-Zeitung. Dashichev was one of the advisers on Germany to Russian President Michael Gorbachev. At the same time, he was head of the Department for International Problems at the Institute for the Economy of the Socialist System (1972 to 1990) and chairman of the Scientific Advisory Council at the Office of Socialist Countries of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1987-1989). Dashichev played a major role in influencing Soviet policy on Germany with various memoranda. After 1990 Dashichev was a member of the Moscow Academy of Sciences and a visiting professor at the FU Berlin and the universities of Munich and Mannheim. At the same time, his involvement in far-right circles in the Federal Republic of Germany began. Dashichev had been a frequent speaker at the right-wing extremist "cultural association" Gesellschaft für freie Publizistik ("Society for Free Journalism," GFP), for example on GFP's annual congress in the spring of 2004. Founded by former SS officers and Nazi functionaries, the GFP became Germany's most important far-right ideological organization, bringing together right-wing extremist publishers, editors, publicists, writers and booksellers.

Jean-Marie Le Pen

On June 15, 1998, there was a meeting between Frey and the Front National chairman Jean-Marie Le Pen (b. 1928) in the Strasbourg European Parliament. A joint resolution stated, "The two parties will develop and strengthen their ties. Both party leaders agree on the basic commonalities of their political programs. Both FN and DVU are fighting against the establishment of a new world order by powers that hold the natio- nae sovereignty of France and Germany in low esteem. They want the interests of their citizens to be given priority over those of foreigners in their countries. They advocate limiting immigration."29

The DVU maintained friendly contacts with the Front National, which Le Pen had founded in 1972 as a rallying movement of various right-wing extremist organizations in France. Le Pen has been accused and convicted several times at home and abroad of xenophobia and anti-Semitism.

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2000s

Alliance with the NPD

The DVU's membership had been in steady decline since the turn of the millennium. In 2005 the Deutschlandpakt ("Germany Pact"), an electoral alliance between the DVU and the NPD was concluded. It was sometimes referred to as the right-wing “popular front.”30 In 2009. in the context of the state elections in Brandenburg, the Germany Pact was dissolved by the NPD.31 This step was justified with the poor performance of the DVU in the European elections in the same year. At the DVU's national party conference in January 2009, Frey did not run again for the office of national chairman.

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2010s

At the end of 2010, the DVU was dissolved in favor of the NPD. Frey remained editor of the National-Zeitung. In October 2010, he donated an amount of over one million euros to the DVU he once led by waiving repayment of a loan he had granted. Frey did not provide an explanation for this. It is possible that he wanted to pave the way for the merger with the NPD, as the DVU's debts had been an obstacle to this.32

Frey died in Gräfelfing near Munich in 2013, from where he had run his far-right empire for decades. His family carried on Frey's publishing work beyond his death. The National-Zeitung, however, closed shops in 2019, and also the publishing house seems to have gone defunct.

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