This article was originally published in German.
The target of the action is a story time for kids aged three to ten. Masked neo-Nazis disrupt the event on October 16 at the Tanzhaus Zurich with smoke grenades and far-right slogans. „Family instead of gender ideology“, reads their banner. Also in tow: flyers, a megaphone and a camera to record the disruption. It is the latest action of the neo-Nazi group Junge Tat (Young Action) from Switzerland. A provocation made for social media.
The occasion is Drag Story Time. For four years, drag queens and kings have taught kids about diversity, tolerance inclusion, about gender identities and roles – and how varied they can be. For Junge Tat, the event is a thorn in their side, a “decadent doing”, as they will later describe it on the messenger service Telegram. Their action strives to be an “aesthetic intervention” against “gender mainstreaming” and “woke madness”.
In reality, the action merely led to children being intimidated. “Our guests were massively disturbed and frightened”, writes the Tanzhaus in a statement. “The fact that an event for families, of all things, was attacked appals us even more”, they continued.
Hip and homeland-loving
It’s with actions like these that Junge Tat is currently trying to build up a far-right youth movement in Switzerland. They present themselves as an Identitarian Movement 2.0: hip and homeland-loving, social media-savvy and trained to fight. “Sport, action, education”, read the three principles of the group.
From YouTube to Instagram, Junge Tat has profiles on the big social networks. They gladly accept donations in cryptocurrency. And their actions are documented in slickly edited videos set to electronic beats: be it banner drops against “mass migration”, or flares against “global capital”. Alpine hikes and theory evenings round off their patriotic programme.
The language of Junge Tat is reminiscent of the so-called new right: “Remigration instead of indoctrination”, is written on a banner against an imam who teaches at a Swiss school for, instance. Or they promote the identitarian project “Counter-University” and Philip Stein’s new-right publishing house Jungeuropa.
They also have a connection to the far-right media collective Kvltgang, from which the studio Kvltgames and far-right computer game Heimat Defender emerged: 19-year-old Moritz F. from Zurich, known under the pseudonym “Spooky”, is part of Kvltgang and active in Junge Tat. Music by Kvltgang or the identarian rapper Komplott also appears in the videos of Junge Tat.
One person well-versed in the actions of Junge Tat is journalist Fabian Eberhard, head of research at the Swiss newspaper Blick. The group is very important for the extreme right in Switzerland, he told Belltower.News: “Purely in terms of size, Junge Tat is negligible. But the group is currently more present in the media than any other.”
Junge Tat represents a generational change within the Swiss scene and gives the image of the far-right a fresh coat of paint, said Eberhard. “Junge Tat manages to make right-wing extremism seem attractive to young people again.” They influence the social discourse and make far-right content accessible to a bourgeois audience, he continued.
Old hatred in a new guise
Behind the new-right rhetoric and flashy videos of Junge Tat are long-standing neo-Nazis. Junge Tat emerged from the neo-Nazi groups Eisenjugend Schweiz (Iron Youth Switzerland) and Nationalistische Jugend Schweiz (Nationalist Youth Switzerland), on which Belltower.News already reported.
Eisenjugend first emerges in December 2019. It sees itself as the Swiss arm of the US neo-Nazi group Iron Youth, but the aesthetics and appearance of the far-right terrorist group Atomwaffen Division are seemingly also an influence. The stated goal of Eisenjugend: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children” – the “14 Words” by David Lane.
At the core of the Eisenjugend ideology: Nazi glorification, white supremacy and the coming race war. “The Jews, the Blacks and bureaucracy would very quickly die the death they richly deserve in a civil war”, the group for example writes on their Telegram channel, which has since been deleted. In propaganda videos, members pose masked and heavily armed. In one, a masked young man burns the flags of Israel and the European Union. Eisenjugend also shares on Telegram the manifesto of the far-right Christchurch killer – as recommended reading, as it deals with “highly topical issues”.
Moustache and side parting
Head of Eisenjugend: Manuel C., born in 2000, resident in Winterthur. A gun nut with a moustache and side parting. On Instagram and Twitter, he posts selfies at demos or stories from the gym. Online he calls himself “Eszil” or “Aktiver Winterthurer”. He was also active in the neo-Nazi group Nationalistische Jugend Schweiz, which has since been disbanded.
The size of Eisenjugend remains modest: The city of Winterthur estimates only five to ten people in 2020. But what they lack in size, they compensate with action. In this year, Manuel C. is still studying at the Zurich University of the Arts. Racist and antisemitic stickers appear on campus and a lecture is disrupted with chants of “Heil Hitler” and “Sieg Heil”. C. and his comrades are sentenced to fines and he is expelled from the university.
In the summer of 2020, Manuel C. receives a visit from the cantonal police, after they suspect he is in illegal possession of weapons. The officers find what they’re looking for, seizing several firearms. In January 2021, C. and his friends disrupt an online event of the Jewish Liberal Community in Zurich. And once again, the police ring his doorbell. He is later convicted of “racial discrimination”, offences against the weapons act and damage to property. C. has to pay the equivalent of 3,600 euros in fines, as well as 13,000 euros in court costs, as the Swiss paper Tagesanzeiger reports.
Today, Manuel C. is a leading figure of Junge Tat, a group that emerges around this time: In September 2020, the Telegram channel is created, and from November 2020, the first propaganda videos appear. The rebranding is to a certain extent a success, and the group grows. Information obtained by Belltower.News suggests that the hard core of the group includes just under 20 members. According to a report by the Swiss paper Blick, one of them serves in the Swiss military police. On Telegram, Junge Tat now has some 6,200 subscribers, on Instagram around 1,500 followers.
Manuel C. plays a central role. The former art student often also acts as the group’s cameraman to document their “aesthetic interventions” and broadcast them online. At least the rhetoric that Manuel C. and Junge Tat adopt with the outside world has now become comparatively tamer. Today, instead of “race war”, they speak of “remigration”. The pandemic has also become a hot topic: “Homeland security instead of face masks” is written on a flyer. Or one banner reads: “Youth against compulsory vaccination”. But the hatred remains the same.
The true ideology of Junge Tat is already evident through their logo: the Tyr rune, which in National Socialism was the sign of an SS volunteer division, a Hitler Youth achievement badge and also a loyalty badge of the Reichsführer schools. The logo, including the green and white colours, is almost identical to that of the Scandinavian neo-Nazi network Nordic Resistance. The green and white colours of the fascist Iron Guard under Codreanu in Romania may also have served as inspiration.
Until recently, Junge Tat and its now disbanded predecessor organisation Nationalistische Jugend Schweiz were part of the National Action Front (NAF) – an umbrella organisation of far-right “comradeships” in Switzerland whose members overlap with the Blood & Honour network, which is banned in Germany. On Facebook, Junge Tat presented itself through its profile photo as a kind of youth organisation of the NAF.
It’s not the only connection to Blood & Honour: According to information obtained by Belltower.News, at least three people from Junge Tat are also active in the Blood & Honour network, acting as links between the younger and older generations of Nazis. In the summer of 2021, members of Junge Tat also took part in a far-right memorial march, complete with torches and a wreath-laying ceremony, in honor of the historic Battle of Sempach – a popular pilgrimage for neo-Nazis. Also in attendance: members of Blood & Honour as well as activists from Der III. Weg (The Third Path) and the Hammerskins. Since then, however, all traces of the memorial march have disappeared from the social media channels of Junge Tat without comment.
Friends in Germany
Junge Tat maintains close contact with German neo-Nazis. With the group Junge Revolution, Sanny Kujath, formerly part of Der III. Weg and currently a far-right media activist, wanted to build on the success of his Swiss comrades, as Belltower.News has already reported – through martial arts, hikes and propaganda clips. However, Junge Revolution comes across as more of a cheap copy of the Swiss original.
A lively exchange has developed between the two groups, though: Junge Tat hosted members of Junge Revolution for example in the Swiss mountains in the summer of 2020. Kujath’s Junge Revolution has been quiet of late, however, and the group has officially disbanded. But some members have since joined the JN, the youth wing of the NPD. And Junge Tat continues to maintain contact with them.
According to information obtained by Belltower.News, members of Junge Tat have also visited German neo-Nazis in Baden-Württemberg several times. They also took part in an “activist weekend” of the Identitarian Movement there in Hohenlohe in March 2022.
Leading members of Junge Tat also visited Berlin this year: Manuel C. and Tobias L. took part in the AfD’s demonstration in the German capital on October 8, 2022. A video shows Tobias L. chanting, “If you don’t love Germany, leave Germany” in front of the block of AfD youth wing Junge Alternative (JA). As counter-demonstrators hold up an anti-AfD banner in front of the JA block, a scuffle breaks out. Among those involved: Tobias L. and Manuel C.
Or there is the connection to the far-right fighting tournament Kampf der Nibelungen (Battle of the Nibelungs): A masked member of the group posed with Alexander Deptolla for a photo published by Junge Tat on Telegram. Deptolla, a key figure in the Dortmund neo-Nazi scene, organises the neo-fascist MMA event. He is also a leading head of the party Die Rechte (The Right).
The connections also extend to Italy: In July 2021, four young far-right terrorists from Avanguardia Rivoluzionaria (Revolutionary Vanguard) were arrested in Milan, as reported by Belltower.News. They were planning attacks in Italy. Shortly before the arrest, they visited Junge Tat in Bern.
An Instagramable neo-Nazi group with a penchant for firearms and close contacts abroad: With this in mind, Swiss security authorities appear surprisingly relaxed. Although Junge Tat is mentioned once briefly as an example in the yearly report “Security Switzerland 2021”, they no longer appear in the 2022 report. In general, the focus of the Swiss authorities seems to be rather on Islamism.
In response to a request for comment from Belltower.News, a spokeswoman for the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service said that an ideological or political background is not sufficient to take preventive action. “The decisive factor here is actual links to violence”, the spokeswoman said. She went on to say that the intelligence service does not comment on individual cases or groups.
The far-right’s willingness to seek confrontation as well as the likelihood of violence, however, have both increased since 2020, the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service writes in its report for 2022. And this comes despite the fact that the Swiss extreme right is actually in a deep crisis: The Partei National Orientierter Schweizer (Party of Nationally Oriented Swiss, PNOS) called it a day in February after 20 years, and the Parti Nationaliste Suisse (Nationalist Party of Switzerland, PNS) and the French-speaking Swiss group Kalvingrad Pariote also disbanded at the end of 2020.
“By now, the security authorities do seem to have Junge Tat on their radar”, investigative journalist Fabian Eberhard told Belltower.News. “In Switzerland, however, it is still the case that violent right-wing extremists are in principle not allowed to be monitored electronically, in contrast to Islamists.” With a revision of the Intelligence Services Act, however, this is set to be changed, Eberhard continued.
In the meantime, regional research collectives have proven to be more active: The identities of the complete leadership of Junge Tat have since been leaked. Facebook has also apparently deleted the group’s page. On Instagram, which belongs to the Facebook parent company Meta, their profile has also been removed – by the “Globo-Homo censorship machine”, as the group writes on Telegram. But they were able to create a new profile in December 2021, which is still active to this day.
The latest action of Junge Tat against a story time for children in October 2022 shows above all a confident group that feels it currently has little to worry about – despite all the court cases and outings so far. A few days after the action at the Tanzhaus Zurich, Manuel C. and Tobias L. openly admitted to the action in a video, without balaclavas and apparently without any fear. On the same day, the group posted an invitation on Telegram for an autumn hike in St. Gallen – with the promise of “right-wing lads” and “heated discussions”.