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12 Aug, 2010 04:27

Street fashion company as a Nazi bogie of German establishment

A company accused of peddling clothing for neo-Nazis is suing a left-wing collective that has satirized it with a clothes line of its own.

It looks like a reprisal of the Nuremberg trials 65 years later, but this time the roles are reversed.

An industrial dispute between two clothes manufacturers is an unlikely headline grabber, but it’s stirred up heated debate in Germany.

Thor Steinar makes casual-wear inspired by Nordic mythology – closely linked with the ideology of the Third Reich.

Founded just eight years ago, its line has already become de rigour for German neo-Nazis.

But last year, the Youth Wing of the left-leaning Social Democratic Party decided to strike out against Nazi-chic with a label of their own.

“We wanted to do something about the subtle methods they use to attract younger people: with fashion, with contemporary music, with outdoor activities,” said Julian Barlen, co-founder of Storch Heimar. “This isn’t like the old Neo-Nazis in uniform and with their baseball bats.”

The new label, Storch Heimar, an obvious pun on the original, prominently features a power-hungry stork obsessed with Nordic mythology and its plan to rule the world of fashion.

Thor Steinar failed to see the funny side and sued for damage of brand, choosing to file their lawsuit at a court in Nuremburg.

Although they had to change their logo because it resembled the swastika, they say now their clothes do not carry any Nazi symbols – which are banned in Germany – nor do they cater to a specific market.

“I have people here who buy clothing for their children, I have people here who could be my parents, and I have people here who are my age,” Thoralf Meinl, Thor Steinar Shop Owner in Braunau, Austria, acknowledged.

Thor Steinar says their critics are overly-sensitive, and have no respect for people’s right to choose what they want to wear.

Their clothes have already been banned in many official buildings.

“They want to be the good ones in society and they want to say what is good and what is bad,” blames Alfred Volk, Thor Steinar’s lawyer.

However, their court opponents say that they will not be happy until Thor Steinar is no more.

Another Storch Heimar co-founder, Julian Barlen admits “It is very difficult to ban it for the whole country, for example, but most Germans know the Thor Steinar is a sign of far right activists. We don’t want these kinds of activities, these kind of people.”

As of now, the Thor Steinar store fronts in Berlin have been defaced in numerous night-time attacks, and there are few customers.

The threat of Thor Steinar’s expansion seems to have been laid to rest, for the moment.

Despite what many here want, it is business as usual for this Thor Steinar outlet in central Berlin.

But what the controversy around the court case and the company itself proves is that there is nothing the German establishment fears quite as much as its history.

However, Germany is not the only country with a far-right political base.

This week Tokyo is hosting a conference for representatives from European nationalist groups organized by a right-wing Japanese Party.

It comes as fears grow over the rise in popularity of far-right groups following gains in European elections last year.

The leader of the Conservative party in the European Parliament, Timothy Kirkhope, says the voting system is to blame.

“The voting system which is applied in European elections is not the same as ones in our national elections. And we’re therefore seeing people coming in on the basis of PR-systems, which are relying on these people, even though they don’t represent more than a minority opinion,” he told RT.