UC Santa Barbara > History Department > Prof. Marcuse > Courses > Hist 133c Homepage > 133c Book Essays Index page > Student essay

Hasselbach, cover

Neo-Nazism: A False Fantasy

Book Essay on: Ingo Hasselbach , Fuhrer Ex: Memoirs of a Former Neo-Nazi
(London: Random House, 1996), 379 pages.
UCSB: does not own

by Rachel Gelb
December 5, 2008

for Prof. Marcuse's lecture course
Germany, 1945-present
UC Santa Barbara, Fall 2008

About the Author
& Abstract
and Links
Plagiarism Warning & Links
Amazon.com page

About Rachel Gelb

I am a junior Global Studies major and Labor Studies minor. I have German ancestry, and am extremely interested in history. Many of my relatives were victims to the Holocaust, so WWII is a very significant part of my personal history. I chose to write about Hasselbach's book because I wanted to understand what ideals the Neo-Nazi Party was founded upon. In addition, this book was attractive to me because I was curious to know how anyone could deny the Holocaust.

Abstract (back to top)

Ingo Hasselbach's Fuhrer Ex: Memoirs of a Former Neo-Nazi, tells the story of a young, rebellious boy in search of stable identity in East, Communist Germany. Without a father and with few role models to turn to, Hasselbach resorts to Neo-Nazism. Hasselbach argues that Neo-Nazism distorts reality through propaganda such as the media by manipulating its members' minds to believe that they are supporting a beneficial cause. He believes that Neo-Nazism limits those involved to a belief that is based on hate and lies. I contend that Hasselbach joined the movement to escape from his rigid society, so he could create his own fantasy world where he was admired and accepted. The memoir recounts Hasselbach's decision to help establish the Neo-Nazi movement and then his radical choice to denounce the party and start a new life.

Essay (back to top)

Ingo Hasselbach’s autobiography, Fuhrer-Ex: Memoirs of a Former Neo-Nazi, recounts the experience of a young boy who feels suffocated in his East German, communist town. As a child, Hasselbach recognized his constant desire to rebel “in a world where everything was fixed” and every move recorded by the overbearing German Democratic Republic, specifically bythe Stasi (Hasselbach, 1996, p .26). In a rigid society that refused to appreciate his individuality and perpetually repudiated his self-empowerment, Hasselbach was made to feel menial and insignificant. He asserts that the Neo-Nazi Party is “especially useful for those who [feel] inferior themselves. They [come] into the group, and we [give] them a feeling of specialness, of superiority, of belonging” (Hasselbach, 1996, p. 317). Hasselbach's memoir illustrates the inner-workings of the Neo-Nazi movement to reveal how the party's ideals and propaganda are utilized as a vehicle for indoctrinating the masses. He employs this book to send out a message that urges people to ignore Neo-Nazism because he believes that it is founded on false pretenses that incites its members to elude the truth and lose themselves in an organization of sadism and hostility.

Ingo Hasselbach describes the Neo-Nazi mentality as a “psychological horror” filled with conflicting concepts that force one to “live in a realm that [is] beyond rational thought” (Hasselbach, 1996, p. 318). Scholars such as Andrew Phillips, David Cesarani, Stephen Kinzer, and Noah Isenberg have reviewed Fuhrer-Ex: Memoirs of a Former Neo-Nazi , and offer additional insight on both Hasselbach and the organization. I argue that Hasselbach joined the Movement because he was unable to deal with his miserable life and feelings of displacement in a state that refused to accept his nonconformist attitude. He utilized the Neo-Nazi party as an escape from his rigid society, so he could create his own fantasy world where he was admired, autonomous, and satisfied.

Children are strongly influenced by the environment where they are raised. Hasselbach recounts one of his earliest childhood memories of when he was being punished to stand in a corner alone and depressed, when all he wanted to do was, “ to move, to leave, to go play” (Hasselbach, 1996, p. 10). He was under a constant surveillance by his teachers, his parents, and his government, which essentially paralyzed him. His superiors prevented him from experiencing a carefree childhood. As a young boy, Hasselbach’s surroundings were not conducive to his rebellious character, so he chose to seek elsewhere for acceptance and freedom. He was unaware of who his biological father was, and his stepfather treated him terribly. “ Growing up fatherless and alienated in the old East Berlin, he found refuge in the tiny skinhead movement that resurrected the symbols and ideology of Nazism as a way of protesting the Communist system” (Phillps, 1996, p. 75).

I contend that Neo-Nazism was appealing to Hasselbach because its propaganda implored him to believe that Neo-Nazism was the only place where he could freely project his feelings of hatred and hostility towards his family and state somewhere other than within himself. For instance, when Hasselbach was beating up an innocent, married man in a disco, he recalls how he felt no mercy or shame. He discusses how it was easy for him to channel his outrage onto a middle-aged man because, as he states, “it was a chance to get my father back for all the beatings he’d given me” (Hasselbach, 1996, p. 29). Hasselbach utilizes his pent up anger and aggression from childhood as fuel to harm immigrants, commit crimes against the GDR, and ultimately uphold an ideology that is evil and prejudiced. Phillips agrees and asserts that the Neo-Nazi Movement mobilizes thousands of disaffected young people by making it easy for them to channel “their frustrations against easy targets like foreigners and refugees” (Phillips, 1996, p. 75).

Hasselbach explains how the Cause is at the forefront of the Neo-Nazi Party. I argue that the Cause skewed Hasselbach’s reality because it encouraged him and other members to disregard human life. This artificial mindset compelled Hasselbach to thoughtlessly desecrate a building when he writes, “the people in the house didn’t exist for me. Only my friends and I existed” (Hasselbach, 1996, p.175). Neo-Nazism also articulates that supporting Nazism translates to supporting a pro-German state. In a published review, David Cesarani discusses how Neo-Nazi propaganda articulates that, “Patriotism [is] indistinguishable from Nazism. The health of the nation [rests] on racial and biological purity” (Cesarani, 1996, p. 46). Neo-Nazi propaganda creates the illusion that supporting the movement translates to encouraging the country’s well-being. I think that Neo-Nazism veils reality by infecting its members’ psyches to believe that they are fighting for a beneficial cause when they are really only limiting themselves to a belief that is based on hate and lies.

Hasselbach writes that it was easier for him to be a part of an organization like Neo-Nazism because to him, the GDR created a cruel environment that taught him how to slight his ownneighbor. Hasselbach states, “No wonder I eventually was drawn to terrorism; I was living in a state governed by people who behaved like a giant bureaucratic terrorist gang” (Hasselbach, 1996, p. 12). Hasselbach was raised in a society where protest culture was evident; the state profited by spying on these outcast groups, and so they let the ideologies survive. I believe that Neo-Nazism falsely advertizes its organization as a place where outcasts of society can come together and form a superior group where members will never have to worry about being subjugated by the state again. This appealing idea to be a part of an organization that is protective, empowering, and secure is extremely captivating to someone who is already rejected from the whole of society, or disagrees with its socially constructed norms.

A huge avenue that supported Neo-Nazism in 1980’s Germany was the media. Television shows, radio stations, booklets, newspapers, videos, and board games advertized the Movement as a positive venture. For instance, Hasselbach discusses a movie called Eternal Jew, which depicts Jews as “rats, parasites,” and inferior beings that sucked the life and economy out of Aryan Germany (Hasselbach, 1996, p. 317). Neo-Nazi propaganda tries to make its audience believe that it is for the good of Germany to abuse foreigners and sabotage their homes. Another specific form of propaganda that Hasselbach briefly mentions is a pornographic film that was distributed to Neo-Nazi members involving a naked woman who masturbated in front of a swatstika flag (Hasselbach, 1996, p. 316). Hasselbach argues that the connection between this woman’s state of ecstasy and excitement for the movement were hard to ignore, and thus this perverse form of propaganda captivated many young men to be proponents of Neo-Nazism.

It was easy to broadcast an interview across a nation and spread its prejudiced ideology. It was also effortless for Neo-Nazi leaders to twist the truth and create facades that “conferred legitimacy on the movement and spread its message” (Cesarani, 1996, p. 46). I support that Hasselbach also legitimized himself when he was interviewed for the Neo-Nazi organization because this form of national attention made him feel important and superior. These exciting feelings clouded his conscience and made him only want more of this media frenzy; whether or not the attention was favorable, attention translated to recognition of the movement, and most importantly, recognition of Hasselbach.

Hasselbach conveys his obsession with attention and publicity when he recounts, “the ultimate Fuhrer Feeling [was] a moment when ideology and violence came perfectly together to give me utter control over a group of violent followers” (Hasselbach, 1996, p. 304). In a published review titled About Face, Noah Isenberg takes Hasselbach’s infatuation with the media a step further when he says “Hasselbach may have left behind the Neo-Nazi scene for good, but he clearly has not abandoned the propaganda strategies” that he presently uses to breed more personal power (Isenberg, 1996, p. 28). Isenberg states that the purpose of Hasselbach’s book was not to shy others away from Neo-Nazism, but instead he says that it was written for selfish reasons. Isenberg believes that Hasselbach’s goal in writing the book was to overemphasize the importance of his past life so that he could inflate the significance of his current, normal behavior.

I disagree with Isenberg’s argument that says “Hasselbach wants us to sympathize with him as an impressionable young anti-communist corrupted by hardened, older Nazis” through the over exaggerated media because Hasselbach never asks his audience to show compassion for him (Isenberg, 1996, p. 28). Hasselbach’s story shares his personal account of growing up in the GDR as a troubled child who gets sucked into an organization that enables him to hide behind his insecurities. In an interview by David Gergen, Hasselbach describes Neo-Nazism as “the society against human people” (Hasselbach, 1996). Cleary Hasselbach wants people to know that Neo-Nazism is not what it proclaims to be.

Hasselbach depicts a parallel between the Neo-Nazi movement and the mindset of a bloodthirsty dog when he says, “the best way to train a dog to attack strangers is to abuse him yourself” (Hasselbach, 1996, p. 261). I believe this passage means that in order for members of the Neo-Nazi party to be able to commit their atrocious crimes against people they do not know, their minds must be exploited and brainwashed through manipulation and propaganda. Hasselbach’s memoir is far from propaganda; instead, his story is “the only first-person account of life as a modern German Neo-Nazi” that shares the horrid realities behind this corrupt organization (Kinzer, 1996, p.1). Hasselbach’s memoir should be used as an example for other struggling youths who are unable to come to terms with their political or social atmosphere. It proves that resorting to an organization that forces one to think “defensively, building up this alternative view of history in which the Holocaust was merely a Jewish trick” has the power to veil one’s conscience and cover the truth (Hasselbach, 1996, p. 294).

Hasselbach says that the reason that Neo-Nazis believe in many of the corrupt ideals that the party is founded on is that “nobody every looked at it in detail. It was simply a prop used for dazzling a young person eager to hear that Germans were not, in fact, guilty of the worst crime in history” (Hasselbach, 1996, p. 333). For instance, the Leuchter Report, written by an American scientist, declares that Jews were never gassed in concentration camps because supposedly there was no evidence left in the soil. Neo-Nazis are so consumed with the movement, that they usually never have a reason to question the propaganda they are given. Hasselbach says “I had seen in national socialism something both humanitarian and heroic. In order to maintain this view, I had to look the other way” (Hasselbach, 1996, p. 334).

Neo-Nazism is attractive to its members because it empowers a group of people to defy something that is larger than their uncertain characters. This fantasy that one day they may overcome the Jews, the state, or the immigrants permits Neo-Nazis to join together and fight in what they see as a defensive struggle for a cause that is based on artificial truths and deceiving material. Hasselbach utilizes his memoir to bear light on the inner workings of Neo-Nazism with the hope that his experience will educate others on why not to support this erroneous organization.

I believe that Hasselbach was drawn to Neo-Nazism because he was living in a society that was too rigid for his dissident lifestyle. The Neo-Nazi movement captivated Hasselbach because it made him imagine that Neo-Nazism was the only option for him to deal with the strict conventions of the GDR. Neo-Nazism propaganda depicts the Cause as the solution; however, for Hasselbach, the Cause eventually turned into his worst nightmare. Fuhrer-Ex: Memoirs of a Former Neo-Nazi dissects this nightmare to demonstrate the blinding and detrimental effects that Neo-Nazism had on Hasselbach’s conscience. I strongly feel that this book was solely written to indicate the manner in which Neo-Nazism infected Hasselbach’s soul. Upon reflecting on his experience as a Neo-Nazi, Hasselbach writes, “I had done only shit- and not merely worthless shit, as so many do. Evil shit. Shit that was getting women burned alive in their homes. Shit I couldn’t even begin to explain now, when ordinary people asked me why I’d done it.” (Hasselbach, 1996, p. 330). Hasselbach was so consumed with Neo-Nazism that he lost himself and his morals. This book should be viewed as an educational piece of literature that reveals the reality behind an organization that is disorderly and sick. Hasselbach’s book was his antidote to this corrupt disease, and it is my hope that it can serve as a precautionary remedy for others too.

Bibliography and Links (back to top)(links last checked 12/x/08)

Book Reviews

  1. Cesarani, David. "The Voice and the Fist." New Statesman and Society 9 (1996): 46-47. (ebsco)
    This review discusses the manner in which Neo-Nazism falsely portrays its purpose as a positive venture. It claims that Neo-Nazism brainwashes its supporters through propaganda that forces them to overlook the many flaws that the organization contains. Cesarani states that it was easy for Hasselbach to relate his hatred towards the foreigners and Jews because Neo-Nazism connected these malicious feelings to a pro-German state. David Cesarani is a r esearch professor in history at Royal Holloway, University of London. This book review is intended for anyone with an interest in a scholar's approach to Hasselbach's book.
  2. Isenberg, Noah. "About Face." New Republic 214 (1996): 28-31. (ebsco)
    This review considers how Neo-Nazis employed mass media to broadcast their politically skewed ideas. Isenberg criticizes Hasselbach's recount of his life as a Neo-Nazi and believes that his obsession with mass media still drives him today. Isenberg argues that Hasselbach's fascination with media has disfigured his memory of the actual facts regarding his past affiliation with Neo-Nazism. Noah Isenberg is a professor at The New School. He specializes in German Studies, German Literature, and European History. His review is intended for anyone who wishes to hear a well-researched perspective on Hasselbach's book.
  3. Kinzer, Stephen. "The Blond Beast." The New York Times 4 Feb. 1996. (NYT link)
    This book review states that Hasselbach turned to Neo-Nazism in order to deal with his non-conformist attitude in Communist, East Germany. Kinzer believes that Hasselbach utilized Neo-Nazism as his radical means of defying the state. He argues that Neo-Nazism attracts young people to its organization through the propagation of hatred and violence. Stephen Kinzer is a New York Times correspondent. He has also served as chief of the Berlin bureau in 1990. This review is intended for anyone who has an interest in an intellectual's opinion with first-hand experience in Germany in relation to Hasselbach's book.
  4. Phillips, Andrew. "Aryan Poster Boy No More." Maclean's 109 (1996): 75. (ebsco)
    This book review claims that Hasselbach's fatherless childhood played a significant role in his decision to support Neo-Nazism. In addition, Phillips argues that Hasselbach was attracted to Neo-Nazism because the organization offered him a sense of acceptance when he was being so alienated from his society. Phillips believes that Hasselbach was drawn into Neo-Nazism so that he could project his feelings of insecurities onto another party- the Jews and the foreigners. Andrew Phillips is the editor of “Gazette” magazine. He has an extensive background in history and economics and has served as Chief senior editor, European bureau chief and Washington Editor of Maclean'” magazine. This review is intended for anyone with an interest in a scholar's position on Hasselbach's book.


  1. "Fuhrer Ex." The Internet Movie Database. 23 Nov. 2008 <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0329106/usercomments>.
    This website is dedicated to the movie that was made in 2002 modeled after Fuhrer-Ex: Memoirs of a Former Neo Nazi. The reviews regarding the movie discuss the major role that relationships, violence, and social frustration play in depicting a true representation of the book. Other reviews also argue how the film does an excellent job of portraying East-German Communism in a tone that can be comprehended by many. This website is intended for anyone who has an interest in this movie. It serves an informational database to offer some insight into “Fuhrer Ex” and many other movies as well.
  2. "Neo Nazis." Rick A. Ross. Nov. 24, 2008. <http://www.rickross.com/groups/neonazis.html>.
    This website is a substantial database and archive for information on Neo-Nazis. The Rick A. Ross Institute of New Jersey offers electronic records of many international destructive cults, movements, and organizations. This website is a public resource that contains a mass multitude of documents, articles, reports, books, excerpts, research papers, etc. that can be used for obtaining more information and knowledge on the Neo Nazi Movement. This website is intended for anyone with an interest in learning about Neo-Nazism.
  3. "Neo-Nazism." The Danish Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. 24 Nov. 2008 <http://www.holocaust-education.dk/eftertid/nynazisme.asp>.
    This website offers a thorough explanation of Neo-Nazism. It discusses the basic characteristics of Neo-Nazism so that one can understand the principal foundations to this movement. It then goes on to illustrate the conditions, and finally the presence of Neo-Nazism in Germany, today. It also provides additional sources to research in order to better understand Neo-Nazism. This website is intended for students and teachers who wish to know the elementary characteristic to Neo-Nazism.
  4. "Neo-Nazi Skinheads and Racist Rock:." Poisoning the Web: Hatred Online. Anti-Defamation League. 24 Nov. 2008 <http://www.adl.org/poisoning_web/racist_rock.asp>.
    This website is rooted in justice, equality, and the prevention of hate-related crimes. The article on this page is written to illustrate that Neo-Nazism still exists. It demonstrates the impact that globalization has had on the movement, by making it much easier for Neo-Nazis to distribute propaganda and malicious ideas. It recounts the history of the Skinhead Neo-Nazis and shows the way in which they have combined their cruel efforts with other hateful organizations. The Anti-Defamation League strives to inform every one of organizations such as Neo-Nazis so that people can better recognize such terrible ideologies and hopefully come together to finally get rid of them.


  1. Baron, Lawrence. Projecting the Holocaust into the Present. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005.
    This book discusses many Holocaust-themed films in history and brings to light a variety of difficult topics to discuss on this subject. It raises a multitude of issues regarding the Holocaust that are often hard to relate to. Baron analyzes the Holocaust in film with great detail and conveys a better sense of understanding to his readers so that this important historical event can be remembered and correctly interpreted. Lawrence Baron is a history professor at San Diego State University and has written many other research books as well as assisted as a co-editor. His intended audience is mainly for students; however, this book can be read and appreciated by anyone with an interest in the realities of the Holocaust.
  2. Eatwell, Roger. Fascism: A History. Michigan: Allen Lane, 1996.
    This book offers an extensive review of fascism. Eatwell illustrates the structure behind the Fascist party that has had a significant impact on history. This book reveals the manner in which Fascism has recruited millions of followers through its manipulative charismatic leaders and skewed political ideology. Eatwell argues that the 21 st century may very well be the time when Fascism resurrects itself and once again becomes a powerful organization. Through analysis of history and important events, Eatwell portrays Fascism and its relevance in our increasingly global society. Roger Eatwell is a history professor at the University of Bath. This book is intended for the student as well as any individual with an interest in Fascism.
  3. Hoffman, Bruce. Inside Terrorism. New York, NY: Columbia University, 1999.
    This book articulates the history of terrorism. It attempts to relate the reasoning behind what compels a person to join a terrorist organization and commit a terrorist crime. Hoffman essentially breaks down terrorism, and utilizes extensive research to allow the reader to understand this difficult and touchy subject. This book employs relevant history with the intent of detecting a specific pattern to help one understand a terrorist's reasoning and behavior. Bruce Hoffman is a professor at St. Andrews University in Scotland and has served as the director of the Center for Terrorism and Political Violence. This book is intended for both the academic student as well as anyone who has an interest in this relevant topic.
  4. Harmon, Christopher C. Terrorism Today. Great Britain: Frank Cass, 2000.
    This book reviews modern terrorism. Harmon contends that the means of terrorism can never be justified. He draws this conclusion through extensive research on the politics, economics, and social aspects of terrorism. He employs terrorist propaganda to better educate readers and allow his audience to relate to the kinds of terrorist material that is circulating today. He conveys terrorism as a means of social struggle for those who partake in such extreme organizations. Harmon reviews both international and domestic terrorist organizations, yielding a complete study of topic. Christopher Harmon teaches military strategy and policy as professor at the Command and Staff College, Marine Corps University. He has also served as a foreign policy advisor to a member of the House Armed Services Committee. The intended audience of this book is anyone with an interest in modern terrorism.
  5. Milburn, Michael A., and Sheree D. Conrad. The Politics of Denial. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996)
    This book illustrates the way in which devices such as the media are employed to distort reality by omitting the facts. Milburn and Conrad discuss how people have difficulty with recognizing pain and cruelty in relation to their own character and country. This book argues that when people deny such distressing emotions, they deceive themselves and those around them. Excluding important relevant facts creates false identities. This book illustrates the way in which the media is manipulated in order to create an artificial relationship between the people and the political leaders. Michael Milburn is a professor in political and social psychology at the University of Massachusetts. Sheree Conrad is also a professor in the psychology department at the University of Massachusetts. This book is intended for anyone with an interest in understanding the way in which people perceive reality.

(back to top)

Any student tempted to use this paper for an assignment in another course or school should be aware of the serious consequences for plagiarism. Here is what I write in my syllabi:

Plagiarism—presenting someone else's work as your own, or deliberately failing to credit or attribute the work of others on whom you draw (including materials found on the web)—is a serious academic offense, punishable by dismissal from the university. It hurts the one who commits it most of all, by cheating them out of an education. I report offenses to the Office of the Dean of Students for disciplinary action.

prepared for web by Harold Marcuse on 12/13/08; last updated:
back to top, to Hist 133c homepage, 133c Book Essays index page; Prof. Marcuse's Courses page; Professor's homepage