Bela Ewald Althans
|Other names||Bernd Althans|
|Known for||Neo-Nazism political activism|
Bela Ewald Althans (born 23 March 1966 in Bremen) is a German former neo-Nazi activist. Once the leading organiser in Germany's neo-Nazi underground Althans left the movement following his imprisonment in the 1990s and is no longer involved in political activism.
Althans was born into a middle-class family where he was taught to reject Nazism but rejected their views and from the age of thirteen was involved in neo-Nazi groups. He became a follower of Michael Kühnen and led the Hanover branch Action Front of National Socialists/National Activists until it was banned in 1983. Following Kühnen's imprisonment, by which time Althans had been thrown out of the family home by his parents, Althans went to live with Otto Ernst Remer in Bad Kissingen. Remer made Althans the youth leader of the Freedom Movement, a group that Remer had founded, and taught him about organising cell-based movements as well as introducing him to a number of leading figures on the international neo-Nazi scene. In 1988 Althans spent several months in the United States where he worked closely with Tom Metzger, appearing on his radio show where they discussed their mutual admiration for the antisemitism of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
On 20 April 1990 Althans organised a Holocaust denial conclave in the Löwenbräukeller in Munich at which the guest of honour was David Irving. The evening consisted of both speeches and performances mocking the Holocaust. By this time Althans had broke from Remer, leading to personal bitterness between the two, and he sought to develop his own profile internationally, working closely with Yvan Blot in France and CEDADE in Spain. Within Germany Althans, working with Christian Worch, sought to expand neo-Nazi operations be it through working in secret with less underground groups that officially disavowed Nazism like the National Democratic Party of Germany and the German People's Union, reuniting the pro- and anti-Kühnen factions after his death or building stronger organisational bases in the former East Germany. Althans also allied himself to the Institute for Historical Review and attended a number of their conferences.
In the early 1990s the charismatic Althans emerged as a press representative for German neo-Nazism, taking advantage of his sophisticated rhetoric, his imposing personal appearance (6'4" tall) and his fluency in French and English. At the time he had his own office in a high-end district of Munich with a picture of Adolf Hitler displayed in the window. At a time when the use of computers for activism was still in its infancy Althans was able to use his own communications skills to utilise such tactics, notably in late August 1992 when he was able to arrange for hundreds of supporters to enter into Rostock at night in order to protest at a refugee apartment complex. The protest turned into a three-day riot in which the complex was badly damaged by petrol bombs.
Althans began to look for new allies in Eastern Europe and spoke at events for the veterans of the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Ukrainian) in Ukraine in 1993, whilst also making trips to Russia to open contact with Russian National Unity leader Alexander Barkashov. Althans' journeys were mostly funded by Holocaust denier Ernst Zündel and the two went to Russia together in August 1994 where relations with Barkashov and other far right leaders were cemented. The pair also met Vladimir Zhirinovsky, although Althans was unimpressed with the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader, suggesting that Zhirinovsky's anti-Semitism was merely opportunistic rather than ideological like his own.
In December 1994 Althans was sent to prison for distributing a video that denied the Holocaust and, whilst still in jail, faced further charges relating to comments he made in a documentary about him, Beruf Neonazi , claiming that Auschwitz concentration camp was little more than a holiday resort. During the trial Althans attempted to defend himself by claiming that he had renounced neo-Nazism and had been an agent for the Verfassungsschutz since 1991, whilst also getting witnesses to testify that he was bisexual.
On 10 July 1995, Der Spiegel reported that Althans had been working for the Bavarian Intelligence agency, until the collaboration had been terminated by the agency because of “lack of truthfulness of reports”. During the Althans trial at Berlin Regional Court, Bavarian intelligence chief Gerhard Forster on 1 August 1995 denied the Spiegel's allegations, but admitted to two meetings of intelligence officials with Althans in 1994. During a first meeting on 23 February 1994 Althans offered “extensive files” on the German neofascist scene for a sum of DEM 360,000. During a second meeting on 10 March 1994 this offer was rejected by the intelligence officials.
Ultimately his defence failed and he had an additional three and a half year sentence added on to that which he was already serving.
Althans, who subsequently acknowledged his homosexuality, left the neo-Nazi scene following his release and disappeared altogether, later being reported as living under a new identity in Belgium. He subsequently gave his private papers from his neo-Nazi days to the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam.