On a bright autumn day this month, I took a series of trains down to Themar, a town of almost cartoonish old-world German charm in the central state of Thuringia, which will elect its parliament on Sunday. In a slightly different world, Themar would be the kind of place outsiders know only as a brief stop on a cycling or hiking excursion. Its main features are a medieval wall and a handful of church spires set against the area’s rolling foothills.
Spend more than a few seconds researching the place, though, and you’ll pretty quickly find that its reputation is less idyllic than the scenery suggests. An image search turns up photo after photo after photo of black-shirted men and women flipping off cameras and brazenly skirting Germany’s bans on displays of Nazi support as they crowd into one of the several large-scale far-right concerts the area has hosted in recent years. I HEART HTLR, MASTERRACE EUROPE, and matching ADOLF and EVA T-shirts are just a few of those on display.