Filmaker sits with Neo-Nazis and gets the experience of a lifetime

Filmaker sits with Neo-Nazis and gets the experience of a lifetime

Emmy Award- winning filmmaker Deeyah Khan was scared for her life when she met with Neo-Nazis for the first time.

Her fear perpetuated her. As Khan filmed members of the group, some of them followed her around, threatening to kill her if she made one wrong move.

“In my mind, I was just thinking if anything happens right now, which it probably will, they could just bury me right here and nobody would ever know,” Khan said.

Despite her fear and distrust and dislike from the neo-Nazis, she wanted to know why men could hate so much.

“I decided to pick up my camera and go and see if I could sit down with people who feel this intense dislike, or even hatred, towards people like me,” Khan told Peace News.

The question of why men could hate so much, inspired her to release her film “White Right: meeting the Enemy.”

“For me it’s about primarily getting in touch with our common humanity,” Khan told Peace News. “To see if it’s possible for us to break down the prejudices that exist between groups.”

Her first interview was with Ken Parker, a member of the National Socialist Movement, the biggest white supremacist organization in America.

Parker’s bare torso was adorned with a swastika tattoo on the right of his chest and a Klan tattoo on the left.

Khan asked him, “Does it matter to you that I think what you are doing is wrong?” 

Parker answered with a “no” and became increasingly frustrated and nervous as the questions rolled on. He admitted he was “not responsible for other people’s feelings.” 

Khan went on to describe the experience. First describing it as awkward without the anticipated context of angry mobs shouting — but then conveyed  a dynamic shift. She continued to be a listening ear.

Overtime, Khan interviewed other white supermarkets and neo-nazis, trying to figure out their motivations.

She figured out that most of the hate stemmed from the stories of their past rooted in abandonment, not fitting in, hopelessness, shame and humiliation, and longing to belong.

“They’re rejected for various reasons in other aspects of their lives,” she explained. “So whether it is feeling rejected by women, or by the job market, by society at large, or feeling as if you don’t measure up, not feeling good enough, shame, feeling humiliated, feeling emasculated.”

Khan added on stating that while there are hate groups — a lot of their actions are driven by love — a love for fellow members of the group who have given them a sense of family and a sense of purpose.

After Khan interviewed Parker and others like him, she felt a sense of liberation.

“It reminded me that they are just people, they are just human beings,” she said. “I have spent my entire life being stereotyped, I am not going to turn around and do that to somebody else.”

The Norwegian born filmmaker, who now resides in the UK recently earned an International Emmy award for her film and was previously nominated for BAFTA awards. Her film was released to Netflix in June and is streaming in America and the UK.

Parker eventually became touched by Khan’s actions. So touched, he removed all his hateful tattoos and renounced his membership in these organizations.

“He turned his back on the entire community,” Khan said. “He left them behind based on a principle he no longer wants to subscribe to.”

Overall, in reflecting on her documentary, Khan realized her project’s main aspect. 

“We all have the capacity to effect change,” she said. “Just being human beings with each other, threatening each other with respect and dignity. You know how we feel when someone smiles at us or says something nice, it makes us feel great. The same if someone gives us a dirty look, it shifts how we feel.”

Divided Opinions over a Swastika on a church bell

Divided Opinions over a Swastika on a church bell

Out of all places in the world, I would not expect nazism to occur in Germany, another country I consider home. Afterall, Germany has outlawed the glorification of nazism.

This leads me to question: is the engraved swastika on a church bell in Herxheim Am berg, Germany a matter of glorification? In other words, should the swastika be taken down? Many native Germans had various positions in regard to my question.

The swastika on the bell was put up in 1934 by a Nazi mayor in Herxheim am Berg, a village composed of 750 people in the wine country. The swastika reads, “everything for the Fatherland- Adolf Hitler.”

Herxheim native and former organ player for the church, Sigrid Peters, refused to continue playing her organ during church services after finding out about the bell.

“People have been getting married under the swastika and they didn’t even know it,” Peters said.

When Peters spoke up, this “Nazi bell” became popular among German news. The local church ordered the ringing to stop, the church body offered to pay for a replacement and Jewish organizations insisted it be taken down.

Despite the Herxheim village deemed a “Nazi village,” mayor Georg Welker will not take down the bell.

“We will not allow the rest of the world to dictate what we do with our bell,” Welker said.

Welker also mentioned the pertience of the bell’s history.

“It’s a monument of history,” he said. “We shouldn’t forget that history or pretend it didn’t happen. That is why the bell should stay.”

Despite the importance of history, Germany, a country I call home and adore; it is scarred. The country was dictated by a man motivated by hate responsible for the mass killing of six million Jews and other groups such as homosexuals, those with mental or physical challenges and other races.

Germany has moved forward as a country and should not allow to have what happened in the past occur again.

Markus Krass, a metal worker and Herxheim native, shares my view agreeing that the bell must go and does more harm than good.

“We’re talking about a bell that was hung during National Socialism and is dedicated to a mass murderer,” he said. “Our whole postwar identity in Germany is built on a break from that history.”

The bell must go, there is no doubt.  Neo Nazis already organized a march in the village since the bell became of popular German news. One native villager noted her experience.

“It was scary. They were very professional,” she said, who saw the march with her 2-year-old son and 90-year-old father.

Moreover, I understand the emotional ties the bell has for some individuals, much like Dora Jetter, who has lived in the village her entire life. She was 12 when she wrote a school essay about the 1934 bell arrival ceremony. She described it as “splendid.”

I also understand this perspective. I understand the nostalgia, but I believe it should be taken down as it spews hate, it is seen as living in the past and it leaves a huge scar from what happened in the past.

Having the swastika remain on the bell will demonstrate a practice of hate to younger generations. What kind of example would that be if their parents and grandparents supported a belief of hate?

The village should not have to worry about marches coming to town. Most importantly, history should not repeat itself.

Although, I do not live in Herexim, the situation still has an affect on me. I was heartbroken to find out this issue still occured today, in my other country.  I do not condone this behavior. Our world has enough suffering and problems, this bell shoudn’t add to the fire.

No one is born with hate, it’s something that evolves overtime. If Germany were to get rid of this bell, it would be a step to assuaging hate. History should not be repeated, especially if it had a terrible outcome.