News

My Berlin meeting with an ex Nazi

Thirty years ago, Jay Rayner sat down for lunch with a Holocaust denier and rising star of the far right. So how did Ewald Althans end up working in the arts and marrying his Taiwanese boyfriend?I sent Ewald Althans a message suggesting we meet in a coffee shop, not far from my East Berlin hotel. I thought it might be a more relaxed place in which to talk. He declined. “I do not feel too comfy any more sitting in a cosy place having an intense talk about National Socialism, Hitler, Auschwitz, etc,” he texted back. “I suggest we have a nice long walk.” I felt terribly naïve. After all, he had a point. Sitting in a Berlin coffee shop, chatting openly about the Nazis, really might not be the best way to go. I agreed to wait for him at the hotel. It required patience; he sent me repeated messages apologising for being late. “No worries,” I replied. “It’s been 29 years since we last met. I can wait another hour.”Despite both the three decades that had passed and the Covid mask, I recognised him immediately. He wore drainpipe jeans ripped at the knee instead of an expensive sculpted suit, and his once straw-blond hair was now grey. Nevertheless, it was still recognisably him: the man once tipped to lead Germany to a new fascist glory. We turned out of the hotel and began to stroll down one of Berlin’s sun-dappled, tree-lined avenues. “So,” I said, “You’re no longer a neo-Nazi then?” He laughed, but did not answer. Perhaps he didn’t consider it a question deserving of a response. Continue reading…