Calling themselves the “German Apple Front,” the group dresses in black, wears armbands stitched by one of their grandfathers and carries a blood-red flag with a picture of a black apple on a white cross. Members protest the “foreign infiltration of German fruit supplies” and demand, “Down with southern fruit!”
They’re using their summer school holidays to hit the streets of Brandenburg, where the neo-Nazi NPD party has been trying to build on recent successes in local elections.
“We want the NPD out of our county councils and city parliaments,” group leader Willy told German press agency DDP in the small city of Beeskow, southeast of Berlin.
Willy, 18, and fellow Apple Front member Jonas, 19, declined to give their last names – out of concern, they said, for reprisals from any neo-Nazis in Beeskow might be harbouring. Willy, who is paying for the petrol for the group’s week-long pre-election tour through Brandenburg, considers himself to be the regional leader – or Gauleiter. He wears a new suit and a gold tie clip – a step up from the leftist style some real neo-Nazis have affected recently, he notes dryly.
The boys said that some 50 young people are active in the Apple Front in Brandenburg. The group is an offshoot of a satirical protest group begun in 2004 by Leipzig performance artist Alf Thum – mockingly called Führer – after an NPD victory in the state parliament in the German state of Saxony. The group’s name is a play on leading Saxon NPD politician Holger Apfel, whose last name means apple in German.
So far the Brandenburg group’s biggest event was a counterprotest to neo-Nazis in the city of Rüdersdorf, where they chanted, “What gives the German youth strength? Apple juice! Apple juice!”
It’s better to laugh at extremists than to ignore them, Jonas said.
Still, he admitted to being apprehensive about how the boys’ antics would go over on their road trip, away from the protecting presence of police at organized protests. Though most passers-by smiled at the boys, not everyone looked pleased – including a pair of burly tattooed men who hid their faces from photographers.
Willy, the leader, said he would return with reinforcements.
“It looks a lot more impressive with 30 people,” he said.