A portrait of Hitler hangs in the living room of Edgar Geiss' home in this farming village 40 miles west of Hamburg.In a corner, a caged parrot occasionally screeches, "Heil Hitler!"
"He doesn't say that on command," remarks Geiss. "We didn't indoctrinate him to do that. It's just that it was said repeatedly in this house and he picked it up."
At 49, Geiss is what German security officials describe as "a bridge" between whatever remains of old Hitlerites and ultra-nationalists, and the small bands of neo-Nazi thugs that have sprung up in West Germany.
In January, Geiss formed a citizens' action group to combat what he calls the "lies" about German war guilt and the gassing of Jews in Nazi concentration camps. He doesn't say how many members are in his group, but no more than a handful is likely.
Feeding off a spate of revisionist "histories" that have popped up in many countries lately, such as "The Auschwitz Lie" by former SS officer Thies Christopherson, Geiss says Germany "was not responsible for the outbreak of World War II. It is a historic fact that international Jewry declared economic and political war on Germany in 1933. And we didn't commit genocide on the Jewish people. Lots of Jews lost their lives as a result of the war, and we accept the fact that some subordinates mistreated Jews. But we refuse to accept that there was a genocide plan, and there is no order from Hitler existing."
Citing another "historian," Geiss claims U.S. soldiers forced SS officers in 1945 to build a fake gas chamber at Dachau to fool postwar generations.
As outrageous as these views are, their distribution by Geiss' group in newsletters to young, rootless, uneducated and frequently unemployed teenagers is of major importance to the neo-Nazi movement here. "There are many youth organizations in West Germany which simply do not want to believe that their fathers were criminals," Geiss says.
Though that is overstated, "you can't underestimate the importance of people who want to prove that the killing of the Jews wasn't true," adds Warner Poelchau, a young freelance writer who has uncovered many of the neo-Nazi activities.
"When you go into the pubs you can still hear some people say, 'If only he hadn't killed the Jews, then Hitler and National Socialism would not have been so bad. After all, he did find jobs for 6 million unemployed in two years, and what's wrong with that?'"
"An occupied country"
In Geiss' view, Germany today has "no national policy. We live in an occupied country, with no national government but rather people who simply receive orders, either from Washington or Moscow."
Since 1945, according to the figures he distributes, some 20 million people have been killed in 100 wars around the world, but because these were not Germans doing the killing, there were no war crimes trials and no international outcry.
Geiss admits that his arguments have not made many converts. "The mass of people believe what is printed in the West German press and what has been shown as 'Holocaust' on television. They have been reeducated for 34 years, and even I believed the Jews were gassed until a few years ago.'"
Geiss attracted national attention of sorts a year ago when he gave the "Sieg Heil" salute at the funeral of the former Gestapo chief in Rome, Herbert Kappler, who had escaped from an Italian jail and come back to Germany to die. For that., Geiss was fined $4,600.
Today he lives behind drawn curtains and locked doors. On the steps leading to Geiss' brick house, glass lies shattered and unswept from a window through which somebody threw a rock. Someone else, he says, tied a fake bomb under his car. Threatening phone calls and letters are constant. All of it, Geiss believes, is tthe work of Communists and left-wing extremists. CAPTION: Picture, no caption, By Ulrich Pape for The Washington Post