Can a whole family have NPD

Right-wing extremism

Andreas Foerster

Andreas Förster is a journalist and publicist. Among other things, he writes for the Berliner Zeitung as an expert on right-wing terrorism, right-wing extremism and security policy.

Tanja Privenau has spent more than half of her life in the right-wing extremist scene and founded a “ethnic family”. But in 2005 she got out. Since then, she and her children have been living with a new identity, always in danger of being tracked down by their former comrades.

A protester at a NPD rally on May 1, 2012 in Neumünster, Schleswig-Holstein. (& copy picture-alliance / dpa)

When Tanja Privenau appears in the Berlin café on this gray November morning, she first pauses at the door and looks through the bar, which is still almost empty. Then she heads for a table on the far wall of the room and sits facing the door. "I have my rules," she says later in the conversation. "Never sit in the middle of a café, just cross marketplaces at the edges, always have an unobstructed view of the room. This is now quite automatic for me."

For years she lived in the right-wing extremist scene and raised her children to be National Socialists. She got out of this sect-like life. And fears for her life ever since. (© 2016 Federal Agency for Civic Education)
Tanja Privenau, who is no longer called that and now lives in a secret location somewhere in Europe, is on the run. Still. [1] It is now ten years since she left the right-wing scene, that she disclosed her knowledge of the NPD and neo-Nazis to the police and the protection of the Constitution, about ethnic settlers and beating comrades, their arming and fantasies of violence. But she is still an ostracized, an outlaw, for the right. A traitor who - if one believes the relevant neo-Nazi forums on the Internet - the "Reichsgericht" is waiting. The scene does not forgive and do not forget, says Tanja Privenau. "But neither do I."

She is 47 years old today. An energetic, resolute woman with a firm voice and a happy smile. Engaging, personable, open. If this woman is afraid, you will at least not notice that. "I had to go through hell with five children, because you learn not to be afraid," she says. She was married twice and she has children from both men. There are four sons, the oldest is 29 today, the youngest 14 years old. She lost the fifth child. It died in 2010, when it was just 20 years old. "My child broke from fear because it never got the physical threat from my ex-husband out of mind when we were still living together," says the mother quietly. "It was terrible for all of us."

Brown everyday life from youth

Tanja Privenau comes from Lower Saxony. She grew up there, near Hanover. At 13, she slipped into the right-wing scene. She becomes a staunch National Socialist and gains respect among her mostly male comrades. She drinks with me, shouts with me, hits with me. And rises in the scene: She joins the Freedom German Workers' Party (FAP) and the Wiking Youth, is involved with other neo-Nazi women in the "German Women's Front" and finally even takes over as leader of the neo-Nazi comradeship in Hanover. She holds training courses and organizes marches where she sometimes throws cobblestones. "I was a neo-Nazi by profession and saw myself as a political soldier," she says today. On the weekends, she meets her right-wing extremist friends in Hetendorf, the training center run by neo-Nazi functionary Jürgen Rieger. To "training in functioning", as she calls it. "The full program ran from Friday to Sunday: marching training, carrying out orders, roll call, communal kitchen, military sports exercises. And brainwashing, because there were training sessions with old SS men and other Nazi celebrities. We cooked in our brown sauce."

In this scene Tanja Privenau meets her first husband. They move to his farm together. She is not yet 20 years old when she already has two children. That changes little in the weekly routines: "Demonstrations, party meetings, camaraderie evenings and at the weekend Hetendorf - that was our life in addition to everyday life on the farm."

At the end of the 1990s she met Markus Privenau and fell in love. Privenau is also - to this day - a staunch neo-Nazi with close ties to the NPD. Especially in Bremen, Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, he has many friends and supporters among the violent right-wing extremists. Tanja gets a divorce, marries the new man and moves with him to a farm near Bremen. She brings her two children into the marriage, and Privenau has three more sons. Not much changes in family life at first. "Even in my first relationship, we always saw each other as national, ethnic families," she says. "We wanted to live an alternative to the state image of the family." Specifically, this means that the children have to live their lives as much as possible within the scene. Attending a state school is only tolerated, albeit grudgingly. "There was once the idea of ​​setting up a private school for the children of ethnic families in Hetendorf, but that ultimately failed because of the money," she says. The children have to come home right after class. They are not allowed to meet friends from school. For this they work on the farm. From an early age it was about duties and discipline, about community and subordination, says Tanja Privenau. Above all, her second husband - "the Privenau", as she calls him - also struck once when the children did not obey the rules.

Like the other ethnic families, the Privenaus also try to exert as much influence as possible on their children and to isolate them from the "evil outside world". "We met regularly with the other families, and the conversations showed that it was the same everywhere," she says. “Like a cult.” “There are no televisions, computers and cell phones in the house, the children are not allowed to wear jeans or printed T-shirts. Instead, the girls with braids put on self-made dresses and skirts and the boys put on trousers and shirts. They sing German songs together, a table saying is recited before each meal, the children's books tell of the ideal folk world. In the conversations at home, the parents call the state and the parties "enemies", they scold the "bad Americans" or scoff at the "Jewish food" in the fast food restaurants. On the weekends you meet with the other families at Riegers Artgemeinschaft in Hetendorf. "We saw ourselves as a völkisch, conspiratorial community that brings up its children in a people-and-soil ideology," says Tanja Privenau. "These are all families with umpteen children, the more children you have, the better you stand in the community of species. The women are real throwing machines. It's about producing enough children in order to preserve the breed." The image of the German mother is exemplified for the girls, the boys are raised to be fighters. "Drill and pressure, a strict tone and the principle of punishment with beating - the children have to work around the clock. And when they get older, everything is done to keep them within this community and, if possible, to marry them off again to found racially pure families. "

The doubts are slowly coming

"At the beginning of my marriage to Privenau, I was still a staunch National Socialist," she says today. "But after the first two children with him, doubts crept into me." In addition to the farm, Tanja Privenau and her mother run two retail stores with several employees. In addition, during this time she begins training as a naturopath. "So my world wasn't that closed off, I wasn't the housewife and mother that is so typical of ethnic families. But that also opened my eyes."

Her husband does not get along with the wife who is becoming more self-confident. He wants her to take care of "Scholle and children", he railed against the hated, state-run day care center for the young children. But he has to give in, because his wife is the only breadwinner in the family since he failed with a far-right mail-order business. Again and again there is friction because work is left behind on the farm or in the household. Mr. Privenau prefers to pursue his political ideas. "He became more and more uncontrolled, yelled at the little ones when they broke something or chatted in between at the table, he started beating my eldest son," she says.

Tanja Privenau's eldest son is disabled. Her husband cannot deal with it, illness and disability have no place in his worldview. "How often did I have to hear from him that it was an unworthy life, that I should give the boys to the home, how would we be compared to the other, 'healthy' families, '" she says. "Those were endless debates in which he then also felt how I began to detach myself from the scene, from this right-wing extremist world of thought. "When finally her eldest son is mistreated by the watchdogs because of his handicap in a tent camp of the" Heimattreuen Deutschen Jugend ", her decision is made: "I wanted to get out of the scene and finally lead a normal life."

The year is 2003. She wants to convince her husband Markus to get out with her. Again there is endless debate, eventually he seems to give way. When he says she should find out how this could work, Tanja reports to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Cologne. She makes demands: exit of the entire family, new identity and apartment abroad, witness protection. The protection of the constitution are skeptical and at a loss. The Privenaus are considered a big number in the scene, their exit would be a sensation. But getting a whole family out of the scene has never been done before. The Federal Office is renting a holiday camp in the Netherlands for Tanja and her children. The season is over, it's empty there. She stayed in the cottage settlement for three weeks, and repeatedly had conversations with incoming intelligence officials. But because they can't promise her, she leaves again, home.

The exit attempt failed, but the marriage seems to be going better again. She is withdrawing more and more from political work, although she had already finished thinking about leaving. But then the situation at home worsens again. Again and again there are arguments, her husband - as Tanja Privenau says - beats her and the children. Markus Privenau will deny this in later custody proceedings. In 2005 the disputes escalated. "He accused me of treason because I wanted to get out and threatened to kill me." In order to get rid of him, she finally reports her husband to the police for his allegedly illegal mail-order business with neo-Nazi clothing and right-wing rock CDs. And she throws him from the common yard. "The next few months were hell," she says. "The Privenau didn't show up, but his friends kept showing up in front of our yard, such thugs, they filmed us or just stood around to scare us." Her five children no longer dare to go out, they all sleep in one room of the house for six months. "We had axes and hatchets in the room to defend ourselves." She no longer sends the little ones to daycare either because she is afraid that their father might kidnap them. The police do frequent patrols by the yard, but as long as nothing happens, the officers cannot do anything.

The exit succeeds with Exit

In 2005 the exit initiative finally saved her and the children from Markus Privenau and his right-wing extremist comrades. The security authorities are finally ready to help her, give her, her children and her mother a new identity and give them an apartment in Saxony. Tanja reveals her knowledge of the scene and with her statements supports the prohibition proceedings against the Bund Heimattreuer Jugend and the "Aid Organization for National Political Prisoners and Their Relatives" (HNG). Meanwhile, her husband is railing in right-wing Internet forums about the "traitor" who stole his children from him. "You could read that one day I would be found and that I would be handed over to the 'Reichsgericht'," says Tanja Privenau. "I already understood it to mean that the Nazis released me to be shot down among their own kind." It will be tracked down after just a year. "Suddenly there was a car in front of my house with right-wing extremists in it. Then I knew, now they have you, now they know your name."

Privenau and her children have to change their identities and move twice in the following years, because the right wing has always managed to find them. How? "The right-wing scene is a network that has people everywhere," she says. "I know that. I've worked long enough myself to compile lists of political opponents, members of parliament and prosecutors." And if, as in her case, a new identity is assigned, but the old pension insurance number is retained, then you can track her down.

The authorities have now learned from it. Tanja and her children now have an identity that is relatively secure and live in a secret place. Behind her lies a long legal, but ultimately successful, battle with her ex-husband for custody of the three sons they share. Markus Privenau is no longer allowed to see or interact with the children. "I can now say that this year my exit from the scene has finally been completed," she says and adds sarcastically: "Ten years of leaving - that's not bad, isn't it?" Does she finally feel safe? Tanja Privenau shrugs her shoulders. She no longer follows the scene with such intensity as in the first few years. "But the thirst for revenge is still there. They want to punish me, also as a deterrent for the scene."

But she worries more about her children than about herself. After their escape, the three sons received psychotherapeutic treatment for a long time. "This treatment helped them a lot to come to terms with their torn identities, with what they had heard from their older siblings about the threats at the time and the violence in our family," she says. In the meantime they led the normal life of adolescents and are now at an age where they have the opportunity to reflect. "Of course, her Nazi father will remain an issue for her, and that shouldn't be burned out at all," she says. But you can now see him with completely different eyes. "We just have to come to terms with our past," says Tanja Privenau. "And continue to live with it."