The Blog

Far-Right Triumph in Europe: In Conversation With Rainer Hess

"Far-right National Front triumph in France as voters across Europe turn to anti-EU parties" read the news headlines. A wake up call to politicians who for years, recklessly considered the far right a loud but powerless minority.

The fresh far right victory is the outcome many warned against, the result tireless campaigners have tried desperately to avoid. Concerned groups such as the SSU (Swedish Social Democratic Youth League) whose Never Forget. To Vote ominous video features Rainer Hess, the grandson of Auschwitz commander Rudolf Hess.

My heart is beating fast as I speak with the young Hess. I feel his anguish as he agonizes over his personal past and Europe's future. I listen intently, frighteningly aware that I am engaged in conversation with Rudolf Hess's own flesh and blood; the man who under Hitler's rule, has so efficiently perfected the method of exterminating millions of jews in the name of Aryan supremacy.

"It is no longer just jews who are at the receiving end of far right hatred but all minority groups" Rainer Hess tells me, "it pains me to see that politicians are complacent about the scary reality. We must deprive the far right of any political power by voting against them, I want politicians to act immediately, not in five or fifteen years time when it is too late and we have fallen into the abyss".

Rainer's passion is unmistakable as he talks about fronting the SSU's hard hitting campaign . "I was already deeply concerned about rising far right groups and outright racism in Europe when the guys at the SSU contacted me with an offer to join the campaign and be the link between the present and the Nazi past"

The impact of the video has been tremendous with the Hess name attracting the attention the SSU had hoped for. "Political power is at the heart of this burning issue" Rainer explains" the idea was to get people to vote in the European elections and understand that if they don't vote, they miss out on a historic opportunity to silence the far right".

"Do you see similarities between today's Europe and that of the 1930's? I ask

"Most definitely" comes the swift reply," the economic hardship in Germany, the frustrated disillusioned and unemployed raging its anger upon minority groups, far right gaining political power, its all there. The Nazi party of the 1930's started with very few seats but soon became the ruling party".

The SSU's powerful video shows the young Hess sifting through family photos as he ominously expresses his fears for Europe. He speaks of his inability to forget his painfully heavy to bear personal past as he dramatically reveals his identity; "my name is Rainer Hess" he says ominously, "my grandfather was Rudolf Hess, the Nazi commandant of the Auschwitz extermination camp".

The video has been watched by hundreds of thousands of people and I wonder if Hess is at all scared of far right hatred.

"No, because that would be falling into their hands" he replies, "this is exactly what they want. Yes, I get hateful emails but I also receive thousands of messages from people all over the world praising my stand, from the depth of Martin Luther King territory to Maori tribesmen; places where I never knew computers existed. This is a living reality, I hear from people fearing for their lives and emigrating, fleeing. The far right is organised and so should we be; a dialogue can only exist when the Social Democrats in Europe build a strong movement".

"How many seats should they win to alarm you?" I ask

"Even a single seat alarms me" says Rainer defiantly, "it amazes me that they have seats at all because I know that the hatred soon gets out of control, look at Breivik. We need to urgently update some ancient government laws so they apply to todays politics and address political correctness and freedom of speech;some government say they fight against racism but on the other hand allow disturbing groups into schools. Sweden for example is too tolerant, allowing such groups to meet with young children, if I did this in Germany I would be arrested".

I ask Rainer about his family's reaction to his worldwide exposure. "My wife and children support what he do says Rainer, "but the wider family is a different matter" with some still openly denying the holocaust.

I conclude by asking Rainer what his message to today's European leaders would be and he replies with a swift "wake up!", consider the past and learn the lessons of history. "I am on a mission to ensure a Nazi free Europe" he adds, "I am the grandchild of a mass murderer, I cannot change that fact but I can use my name for good".