20 April 1995, Vienna, Austria The eyecontact made that I never blamed him.
I was an adolescent, 14 years old and rebellious. With friends I went downtownto demonstrate against rightwing extremism. I identified with anarchism andleftwing views. What leftwing and rightwing exactly stood for I did not know.Neo-nazis were this societys evil animals.
Even before we got there, we encountered a group of neo-nazis; identifiable bytheir skinheads and clothes. They were looking for a fight. The initialaltercation ended in a fight. One boy of about 17 was right opposite me. Heheld a knife in his hand.
We looked at each other for a few seconds. I did not see an evil animal butrather a person like me, young and craving attention. We were both in the wrongplace. Even so, probably due to peer pressure the boy decided to stick theknife in my belly.
November - December 2006, Wismar,Germany
Eleven years later my experience in Vienna formed the reason for my going to Wismar in former East Germany. I asked myself questions like: who are these people who call themselves neo-nazis, what drives them, and why do they express themselves the way they do? Is there love in this world of hatred? My searchbegan in a neo-nazi store selling clothing and rightwing extremist music. With my heart beating in my throat I entered. There was a chance they would literally kick me out. The first encounter was crucial to the success of my project.Via this store I came into contact with a group of men who advocate neo-nazism. These rightwing extremists are all from Wismar and environs with ages ranging between18 and 32.
From the very first contact I was open, frank and transparent to them and to myself. I kept reiterating my personal intentions. I gained their trust without pretending to be a neo-nazi. This was not always easy. These were tense months,during which I met much resistance and suspicion and even received death threats.
February - March 2007, Wismar, Germany
On my second visit to Wismar I received a warm welcome. I had kept my promise to return with photos of my first visit. They responded positively, their suspicions removed. I had total freedom to make photos. I am not a rightwing extremist but still was accepted into their group and treated with great respect.This was in stark contrast with other experiences. I have attended trials where the men in this book were tried for destruction of property and violent crimes. Four men,with whom I have also been in contact, have been sentenced to imprisonment from six to eight years and nine months for causing fatal grievous bodily harm.
November 2009, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Despite theshocking events, I personally did not encounter any evil animals. The people I documented deeply believe in their extreme rightwing ideas. Violence is part of their lives and critical to acquiring status in the group. This puts them onthe edge of society. Characteristic are equally their pride and loyalty towards comrades and family.Vanity and the craving for attention gave me the freedom to register the fineline between hate and love.