Amid the many disturbing reports of rising fascist groups in Europe comes one particularly egregious story of the small town of Jamel in the east German region of Mecklenberg. According to The Independent, in the tiny village of some 40 people, seven of the ten houses are owned by members of Germany’s far right National Democratic Party (NPD), making the village “almost a pure neo-Nazi stronghold,” where other residents and neighbors of the town are frightened into silence. Der Spiegel writes that the NPD, “which glorifies the Third Reich,”
has been in the state parliament since 2006 and neo-Nazi crimes are part of daily life. In recent months, a series of attacks against politicians from all the democratic parties has shaken the state. Sometimes hardly a week goes by without an attack on another electoral district office, with paint bombs, right-wing graffiti and broken windows.
Despite their dominance in miniscule Jamel, however, the NPD does not go unopposed. Two residents, Horst and Birgit Lohmeyer, have decided to fight back with the most potent weapon they could find: music. The Lohmeyers, who migrated to Jamel from Hamburg, seeking a rural retreat, have instead found themselves organizing a music festival in their backyard to counter the neo-Nazi presence. The short film above, Jamel Rockt, documents how the Lohmeyers were galvanized into action after their town was occupied by NPD. The film is full of captivating performances and interviews.
The Lohmeyer’s mode of protest resembles any other small-town outdoor rock festival, but its significance is thrown into high relief by the threat posed by their fascist neighbors. Kay Sondgen, of the band Youth Red Cross, sums up the feelings of the participants quite well, saying, “if you don’t fly the flag and just look away, then fear gains the upper hand. And later people will say, ‘It wasn’t my fault. Nothing to do with me.’ You have to fly the flag! If everyone does that then extremism, in whatever form, simply can’t gain the upper hand.” Sondgen’s phrase “flying the flag” could mean any number of things. For the rockers and fans of the Jamel festival, it means countering extremism with art, and refusing to be intimidated in a place “where right-wing extremists can do virtually whatever they want.”
Josh Jones is a doctoral candidate in English at Fordham University and a co-founder and former managing editor of Guernica / A Magazine of Arts and Politics.