“Max” stands for new beginning

"Max" stands for a new beginning. With this pseudonym, the then 20-year-old came to Silvia Eilhardt and confessed to her his alcohol problems – and that he had slipped into the right-wing scene. For Eilhardt, such confessions are part of everyday work life. The founder of the Witten Sekten-Info is now employed as an exit counselor by the city of Witten.

"Max was a particularly serious case," Eilhardt reports. For six years, the teenager had been active in the right-wing scene, had even been pursued by the State Security Service. "That gave him an extra kick, he felt even more connected to his 'comrades'. People in the scene talked about his 'heroic deeds,'" Eilhardt recalls the young man's stories.And yet: at some point, the 20-year-old found himself at the door of the Witten exit counselor – even if his first visit was not entirely voluntary. "A girl I had helped earlier to get out of Satanic circles noticed that Max seemed to have a problem and brought him to me," Eilhardt reports. This is how it works in most cases. Often friends, parents or schools mediated the contact, says the exit counselor.According to the Interior Ministry's observations, young people are the most important target group for right-wing extremists. In the process, the right-wingers tried to penetrate the everyday lives of young people with the help of websites, music, clothing and concerts. At first glance, many of the right-wing extremists could no longer be recognized. For example, the so-called Autonomous Nationalists – a group of unorganized right-wingers ready for violence – hardly distinguished themselves from militant left-wing extremists by their uniform black clothing with hooded sweaters. Up to 60 people belong to this group in NRW alone, and the number is rising. Not only for Satanists, but also for right-wing extremists. Those who want to leave the scene have been finding support from Eilhardt since 2002. She became an exit counselor for private reasons. "15 years ago, my children started to be interested in scrying and glass moving." At that time she began to read everything she could find about occultism and Satanism. She attended seminars in her spare time and sought to talk to experts. In 2002, she finally began her work as an exit counselor for the city of Witten – not only for Satanists, but also for right-wing extremists.The exit from both groups is extremely difficult, says Eilhardt. Although they rarely exercised psychological terror, for example, in the form of constant telephone calls. "But the psychological prere that those who want to leave put on themselves is enormous. They know very well that they will be labeled as traitors by their former comrades-in-arms. That gets to them," says Eilhardt. "Some stick with it" Another difficulty is the strong group bond among right-wing extremists. What is initially seen positively as security and reinforcement, becomes a problem when leaving the scene. "The young people spent large parts of their free time with this group and now have to look for new contacts and leisure activities."As far as she can, Eilhardt tries to support the young people in the process. "If they want, I take them to soccer games or to sports clubs. Some of them stay with it," says the exit counselor.Last year, she helped five girls and three boys leave the far-right scene. "You can see from this that right-wing radicalism has long since ceased to be a problem that primarily affects young men," says the exit counselor. However, many girls have not slipped into right-wing circles because of their ideology. "Some simply fall in love with a guy from the right-wing scene and then accompany him to meetings with his 'comrades' as well."

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