Short Film Jamel Rockt Shows How German Musicians Respond to Neo-Nazi Occupation of Small Town

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.

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