Nazi grandma Ursula Haverbeck has been jailed - but her far-right family keeps growing

Ursula Haverbeck seen in court (Getty)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Ursula Haverbeck-Wetzel was just 16 years old when the Nazi government collapsed. In the following 70 years she became a leading figure among the world's Nazi apologists, at the centre of an international network of Holocaust denial.

Haverbeck operated a number of networks, speaking at events such as a recent gathering in Walsrode, northern Germany, which ended in a police operation. Now 87, Haverbeck steadfastly refuses to admit the Nazi camps witnessed mass extermination.

Earlier this month she was sentenced to eight months in jail on charges of sedition, having been found guilty of writing a letter to Rainer Heller, mayor of the city of Detmold, suggesting it was "clearly recognisable" that Auschwitz was nothing more than a labour camp.

It was the second time in less than a year Haverbeck had been found guilty of Holocaust denial; last November a Hamburg court gave her 10 months in prison for describing the Holocaust as "the biggest and most sustainable lie in history" on television. She had appealed the original verdict.

Haverbeck's crimes centre on the trials of former Nazi functionaries. Her letter to the Detmold mayor was written when a former Auschwitz guard was on trial there, and the claims which led to her Hamburg conviction sprang from the case of Oskar Groening, a man dubbed 'the accountant of Auschwitz' in recognition of his role as a book-keeper and money collector at the death camp.

Sadly for Germany, Haverbeck is just put of a wider network which won't be silenced by her incarceration. The network also includes Horst Mahler, a former lawyer from Germany, his compatriot Ernst Zundel, the Swiss Bernhard Schaub, the Franco-Briton Robert Faurisson, and the Austrian Gerd Honsik. This group continues to see itself as part of the German Reich and believe in the struggle for its liberation from democracy.

Many are at an advanced age, but their spirit is maintained by a younger generation of Nazis such as Frank Rennicke and Thomas Wulff. Their crusade is no longer all about Adolf Hitler and his extermination dictatorship. There are many new issues and actions aimed at globalisation, embracing today's conflicts in Europe and further afield. If Haverbeck is the Nazi grandma, these rabble-rousers are her children and grandchildren.

Their cause centres on financial capitalism, multiculturalism and democracy, and their own version of the apocalypse. They believe political and economic power have been seized of treacherous power groups, especially Jews, who stand in their view against the people and exploit them. They are also fiercely anti-Islamic, railing against mass migrations. They see themselves as racially and nationally threatened on all sides. 

Some of these 21st century Nazis limit themselves to denying the Holocaust, and lauding the twisted tenets of the Nazi state. Others go further: they demand that Jews and other groups be exterminated en masse, to realise Hitler's vision.

Ursula Haverbeck was described as a hopeless case by one of the judges who sentenced her, and that's a fair description - up to a point. She won't change now, not even with censure and incarceration. She will die one day and gradually be forgotten. 

But the world she inhabited, the ideas she espoused, will live on. Jailing one or two Holocaust deniers isn't enough to extinguish their collective flame. People will continue to defend the indefensible, adapting their message to modern atrocities.

In debates about the mass crimes of today, in the hateful speeches of those who apologise for evil, Ursula Haverbeck's vile creed will continue to be reflected.

Bernd Wagner is a former police detective and co-founder of German anti-Nazi organisation Exit Deutschland. You can find out more about the group by reaching out to them on Twitter: @exitdeutschland

Many of Haverbeck's network are at an advanced age, but their spirit is maintained by a younger generation