Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Europe’s largest right-wing extremist martial arts event will take place online this year.
“Kampf der Nibelungen” or “Kampf um die Nibelungen”, a reference to old Germanic and Nordic legends, is loved by white supremacists from all over Europe and beyond – they are both fans and fighters.
With the German authorities keeping a close eye on them after their previous event was banned in 2019, the organizers are planning to stream their far-right fight night of boxing, kickboxing and mixed martial arts (MMA) online this Saturday.
Observers warn Al Jazeera that far-right groups in Europe are using martial arts to recruit young men and train them to literally fight on the streets.
“They are violent neo-Nazis who train for physical violence,” said Robert Claus, a German journalist and author of a new book on martial arts and European rights.
The people behind Kampf der Nibelungen are violent and “dangerous,” he added.
There is “a very long list of racist attacks that stem from the fight of the Nibelungs network”.
In addition, Claus is concerned about the longer-term consequences if the Battle of the Nibelungs goes as planned.
“You are showing the German authorities a middle finger,” he said. “If they manage to broadcast this event despite the German authorities, it will undermine the state’s monopoly on the use of force and the state’s authority.”
A representative from Kampf der Nibelungen informed Al Jazeera that all fights, including those with a number of international participants, have already taken place and will be streamed on October 10th.
Those who announced a few months ago that they would be fighting in this year’s Battle of the Nibelungs include members of the American Rise Above Movement (RAM), a group that currently has three members who are serving prison terms for violent assaults in August 2017 Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia – a now famous event for the murder of anti-racist counter-protester Heather Heyer.
Rundo and other members of RAM took part in one of the events of the Battle of the Nibelungs in 2018.
RAM chairman Robert Rundo refused to answer Al Jazeera’s emailed questions about whether RAM members would continue to participate in the Battle of the Nibelungs, instead accusing this reporter of “collaborating with law enforcement” to “dissent.” to silence “.
However, there is a chance that the event will not take place as planned at all.
The German authorities have started to look more closely at the activities of right-wing extremists. At the end of September, the police attacked a motorcycle club about 160 kilometers southwest of Berlin. Inside, they found a martial arts ring and about 90 contestants and others pre-filming bouts to be broadcast on October 10th.
The organizers of Kampf der Nibelungen told Al Jazeera that their show would go on.
The event, which has been secretly organized since its inception in 2013, got much more open until 2018 and took place twice that year. According to the German authorities, the last event, Kampf der Nibelungen, in October 2018 attracted 850 fighters and spectators from all over Europe.
The 2019 event was banned by a local German court with the support of the country’s national intelligence agency, which viewed the event as a threat to public safety.
Nonetheless, the organizers of Kampf der Nibelungen said to Al Jazeera that their event was nothing “extreme” or illegal and that they were challenging the 2019 ban in the German supreme court.
“We paid every tax, fulfilled every legal aspect and only demanded the same rights [as] every German citizen, ”a representative for Kampf der Nibelungen told Al Jazeera.
In July 2020, Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer identified the right-wing hardline ideology as the country’s greatest security threat.
Recently there has been a spate of right-wing extremist attacks in Germany, from the murder of the refugee-friendly politician Walter Luebcke in June 2019 to attacks in the cities of Halle in October 2019 and Hanau in February 2020, in which a total of 11 people were killed.
Right-wing extremist martial arts scenes avoid any connection to right-wing extremist violence – the Russian neo-Nazi Denis Kapustin, who lives in Ukraine and has been an organizer of right-wing extremist martial arts events for many years, mocked the attack in Halle as “dead” in an interview in September 2020. End … the dumbest thing to do. “
According to Pavel Klymenko, head of politics for the FARE network, a global surveillance and human rights organization, the connection between the scenes and violence is clear.
“The far right is training and professionalizing its violence,” said Klymenko, who monitors and researches discrimination and violence in football and related fan scenes. “They are open to it and want to use it against minorities and their ideological opponents.”
It’s no surprise that the far-right party has become involved in martial arts, says an expert on far-right ideology, Cynthia Miller-Idriss.
“It’s an environment in which young men have to be involved in a right-wing extremist ideology,” said Miller-Idriss, professor at American University and author of a book on right-wing extremist fashion and youth scenes in Germany in 2017.
“It’s an intersection between overmanliness and ideas of being a warrior, being a fighter and defending the nation,” said Miller-Idriss. “It’s a crossbreed ripe for recruiting.”
However, solving the problem of far-right and martial arts requires a much more coordinated international approach, Claus told Al Jazeera.
“We need a Europe-wide strategy against discrimination and right-wing extremist violence,” said Claus.
He warned that right-wing martial arts events without this can avoid a ban in one country by simply postponing their events to another.
For Klymenko, the mainstream martial arts venues need to be involved in efforts to stamp out the far-right party, including raising awareness and introducing regulations to prevent them from being exploited for far-right recruitment.
Klymenko also argues that openly right-wing extremist venues and gyms that target this audience must be closed.
“As a matter of principle, these must be treated as criminal organizations,” said Klymenko.
Even so, the organizers of the Battle of the Nibelungs continue to adopt a defiant tone. With social media posts in the past week with hashtags that are translated into “KdN remains stable” and “The press is lying” – and with organizers reminding their fans that the time to buy their tickets is running out – the show could go on.