Six years on, he has succeeded in filming around fifty undercover shoots. Documentarian Peter Ohlendorf filmed Thomas Kuban on his journey across Germany and Europe to revisit venues where Kuban had secretly filmed. The film focuses on political decision-makers, authorities and ordinary citizens.
What’s the greatest threat to German national security? Islamic terrorism, according to the Interior Ministry. That’s no surprise in a lingering post-911 climate of tensions between religious ideologies and oil. Okay, so what’s next? Left-wing extremism. But what about the rising Right? This is the central question posed by undercover journalist Thomas Kuban in the documentary “Blood Must Flow” – Undercover Among Nazis, which investigates the clandestine community of far-right-wing rockers across Germany’s rural areas. In recent news, ten murders in Germany – nine men (most of them of Turkish origin) and one policewoman – have taken place since 2000, but the neoNazi gang blamed for their deaths has emerged only recently.
The National Socialist Underground (NSU) had been undetected for years, prompting criticism of police and intelligence services. But only last November, when two suspected founders were found dead and another gave herself up to police, was its existence confirmed. In February of this year, a ceremony took place in Berlin and a minute’s silence was held across the country to remember the victims. With the German government being called upon to address the Nazi violence, it’s too bad that, as a film, Blood Must Flow falls just short of becoming a truly important work. With engaging content and shocking undercover footage, the film has the potential to shake this issue out of the shadows where it has lain dormant. But it fails in its construction and stylistic approach to give the subject the professional platform it needs to address the urgency of what we’re seeing.
Using the pseudonym Thomas Kuban, the protagonist must remain unknown and undercover after having widely exposed his face in the underground neoNazi rock scene for the past six years. His ‘daytime’ disguise, while he’s traipsing around press conferences in Berlin in attempts to draw the government’s attention to his findings, is so outlandish and downright gaudy that it takes a certain immediacy away from the issue. Apparently, the aim of the guise is to address the way in which society responds to him as an individual. And the way they respond to him is as a lunatic. Why, with proof of the encitement of racist hate crimes in your briefcase, would you enter the Berlin Parliament looking like a suspicious screwball yourself? Yet still, it cannot be ignored that Kuban’s undercover work is both courageous and critical to the case against right-wing extremism among youth culture. And for its truism and authentic rendering of a very active scene, the film is a must-see that is much deserving of all the media attention it can get. It should also be mentioned that Blood Must Flow received no financial support from funding bodies.
In fact, the closing credits include only a handful of names. For six years, Kuban’s spy camera has been inconspicuously tucked in the buttonhole of his bomber jacket, rigged with wires, cables and recording devices on the inside. And what he captures is unnerving – explosive, hatefilled rockers screaming racist obscenities in seedy, sweat-filled caves, seducing impressionable minds to join them in the slander and violence. In unison, singer and fans chant the anti-Semitic lyrics of Blut muss fließen, a favorite among the scene. As Kuban’s research plainly shows, right-wing rock seems to be the perfect way to lure young people into the fold and thereby radicalize them. Just watching the rolling rural scenery outside Kuban’s car window on his eastbound journey is enough to understand that there’s not much going on here, culturally speaking, for young people to engage in. Moreover, there are absolutely no foreigners, encouraging the notion that the Other is something which should remain excluded as it can pollute the “purity of their nation.” It’s a frighteningly dangerous prospect that right-wing extremism might become Germany’s largest youth movement.
A flourishing market has sprung up around these music events, too, with home produced CDs and merchandise sold in specialized shops or via the Internet, which in turn creates a source of revenue for the expansion of the movement. Traveling from small town to small town in the Saxony region of Germany, Kuban meets townsfolk both on the streets and under them. In the city of Wurzen he discovers that right-wing rock has become almost mainstream, whereas in another small region a close-knit community put a task force together to stop neo-Nazi concerts from taking place. They’ve been abolished now for four years. Kuban goes beyond Germany, too, and ventures into Switzerland where the cops claim that they cannot control the content of the concerts, so unless there is physical violence, neo-Nazi or right-wing extremist events are legally allowed to proceed. But in Berlin, lyrics that declare hatred towards Jews are hardly tolerated, as one police officer explains to Kuban at a Nazi rally. In Austria, Kuban catches footage of police officers on the inside of teeming Nazi club. They’re filmed smiling and joking with the skinheads. At a certain point an officer shakes the hand of one Nazi before leaving the premises, allowing the Nazis to carry on with their show.
In Budapest, where Thomas Kuban also travels, extremist rightwing politics is surfacing with no shame. The Hungarian capital has become an international hub for Nazi marches; concerts are larger than ever and have wormed their way out of the underground and set up in public parks. For example, 10,000 people came out for a farright wing concert in Budapest’s historic Freedom Square. But it’s no surprise in Hungary, where Jobbik – a Hungarian radical nationalist political party that has been pegged as neo-fascist, anti-Semitic, anti-Roma and homophobic – is the nation’s third largest party since the parliamentary elections of 2010. But in Germany, enciting such violence even in song could be criminal. According to German law, public singing or performing of songs identified exclusively with Nazi Germany is illegal and can be punished with up to three years imprisonment. Right-wing extremism is a pressing matter that until very recently has failed to be addressed in national affairs and the German media. But in order to fight this underground from strengthening, it’s in Germany’s best interest to confront it publicly now, while understanding that drawing attention to the Nazi issue does not mean encouraging it.