BERLIN—The mechanic who ordered a gun from a website called Migrantenschreck (‘migrant deterrent’) told the German reporter who came to his home in the outskirts of Berlin that he did not intend to “kill” anyone. But still, he insisted: “The problem is (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel. Something needs to change here or there will be civil war.“
The founder of Migrantenschreck, Mario Rönsch—a German banker with a bald spot who describes himself as a “full-time activist”— was arrested in his fancy apartment in Budapest last Wednesday for illegally selling guns on the site. He advertised the arms as defense weapons against “Merkel’s raping invaders“ and “unwashed and impudent antifascists.“
The 34-year-old is accused of using the Internet and lax Hungarian gun-control laws to illegally export permit-requiring guns, along with rubber bullets that can kill from a short distance, back home to Germany.
Rönsch, who used to hang out at esoteric peace rallies in Berlin before he was radicalized, fled from his hometown in eastern Germany to Budapest in 2016. Back then he was already suspected of operating Anonymous.Kollektiv and Anonymousnews.ru— propaganda blogs that published various conspiracies to fuel hate against refugees and left-wing politicians. These sites got more readers than certain popular German news sites.
Rönsch’s sudden arrest comes a week before what some are calling the “last somewhat free and fair elections” in Hungary, which its strongman leader Viktor Orban looks set to win—not least because he has used his past eight years in power to rig the electoral system, the constitution and the judiciary in his favor.
For the international far right, Orban, who talks about protecting “Christian Europe” from “Muslim invaders,” is a hero. And yes, Milo Yiannopoulos has already been invited to attend a conference about the future of Europe in Budapest, which is organized and funded by Hungary’s foreign ministry.
But Orban’s government does not roll out the red carpet for every white nationalist who is ready to come and express support for, as one alt-right publisher put it last year, “the strong nationalist feelings.”
In fact, Cas Mudde, a Dutch scholar on the European far right at the University of Georgia, says that “former mainstream” parties like Orban’s Fidesz Party (which is still a member of the European People’s Party, an association of Christian Democratic and center-right parties in the EU) that co-opt the radical right’s agenda, “are usually extra repressive towards the ‘real’ far right. This serves to prove they are not really radically right themselves.“
Last year, 81-year-old and wheelchair-bound Horst Mahler, a German right-wing extremist and former Marxist urban guerilla (he got inspired to switch sides after reading Hegel in prison) tried to ask Orban for political asylum. He wrote the Hungarian prime minister a note in which he promised to “put my destiny in the hands of (Orban’s) regime.”
But when the old man then skipped a court date in Berlin and arrived in a city at the western Hungarian border to try his luck, police officers greeted Mahler with handcuffs and sent him back to Germany, where he was given a 10-year prison sentence for denying the Holocaust.
For his part, Rönsch did not write a personalized letter to Orban asking for political asylum before he settled down in the capital to allegedly traffic 193 guns to customers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland (buyers included a doctor and a single mom who kept her gun by the bedside table because she had read online that “they assault women and grope them.“)
But Rönsch still appears to have had political contacts: the radical right-wing Jobbik Party—Orban’s main electoral competitor—invited him to view the Hungarian Parliament last year. A photograph taken on the balcony shows Rönsch standing and smiling with two Jobbik party members.
In recent years, the Jobbik Party has become more moderate by focusing its wrath on the “corrupt tyrant” Orban rather than on Hungary’s Jewish and Roma communities. If the party joins forces with the other opposition parties this week, then there is a chance that the prime minister will be unseated. But the radical party’s neo-fascist past remains the same (and right-wing extremists are still sitting in its ranks). Even though Fidesz tries to outflank Jobbik on the right, Mudde points out that the Fidesz Party can “weaken Jobbik” by “linking them to crime, extremism and violence.”
Since Rönsch’s arrest, Magyar Idok, a pro-government daily, has run the group picture with Rönsch on the balcony multiple times, while Index.hu, which is considered to be one of Hungary’s few trustworthy news sites but belongs to Orban’s Jobbik-supporting enemy Lagos Simicska, has remained silent on the case. One Fidesz politician called on Jobbik’s leader Gabor Vona to explain his contact with the German weapons dealer and accusing him of having relations with “Islamist and other extremist organizations.” (Vona denied that he had any contact to Rönsch.)
Ferenc Almassy (a pseudonym) is a national conservative French blogger who moved to Budapest when he was young. The 30-year-old used to be the Jobbik Party’s “advisor for French-speaking countries.” Now, Almassy says he no longer wants to work with a party that he sees as “corrupted“, because they “converted to liberalism“ and are doing things like promising to combat official corruption “only to get into power.”
A few years ago, Almassy appeared on Echo TV, a national television channel that belongs to Orban's childhood friend, where the anchor cheekily asked him: “Where has the shine of France gone?” Almassy grinned and replied: “The France that I love doesn’t exist anymore. The ethnic proportions are changing so fast.”
Still, Almassy is skeptical of the other ultranationalist “expats” in Budapest. He says that most of the “other guys who came here, thinking it was a ‘white race safe space’ or whatever,” have already left again. He believes the reason is that “these men understood that being white and ‘right-wing’ was not enough to be warmly welcomed.”
The notorious Swede Daniel Friberg, who arrived in 2014 with a criminal record that includes weapons offenses and a dream to run his alt-right publishing company from the most expensive living quarter in the Budapest, has moved back to Stockholm, for example.
Meanwhile, Mario Rönsch is waiting to be extradited to Germany. The latest headline on Anonymousnews.ru reads “Civil Courage against Left-Wing Extremism: Brave Citizen Beats Jutta Ditfurth with Spirit.” The post celebrated the current real-life allegations that a young man ambushed a well-known leftist politician on the train with a metal pole last week. After four years of online terror, it looks to be his last post for now.