European intelligence services are concerned with the upcoming Iron Festival in Ypres, West Flanders which is notorious for attracting neo-Nazis. Belgian and German neo-Nazis are expected to flock to the Frontnacht festival on Saturday 27 August.
The festival is organised by IJzerwake, an organisation of radical Flemish nationalists. The weekend event on 27-28 August will combine camping with music from controversial figures, Het Nieuwsblad reported.
"I absolutely do not understand that this festival can take place," Thorsten Hindrichs, a musicologist at the University of Mainz told Het Nieuwsblad. Hindrichs focuses on the far-right music scene and believes that it is at best incredibly naive to allow neo-Nazi groups to perform.
"At worst it is negligent and a form of complicity. Both Flatlander and Neumann (musical acts) have clear links to the terrorist network Hammerskins. That in itself is a reason to ban this festival. Several members of Hammerskins have been convicted for murder or attempted murder."
Musicians with neo-Nazi links
Headline acts include Neumann and Dutch singer-songwriter Flatlander who have ties to the neo-Nazi movement Hammerskins. Dutch Flatlander is connected with the British white nationalist Blood and Honor group, while the festival headlines with the Italian Bronson, who is linked to the neo-fascist movement CasaPound.
Two Flemish acts will also take to the stage, including DJ Dré Likes Playing Records. The man behind the name, Andreas VH, was tied to the investigation into Schild & Vrienden – an extreme right-wing Flemish nationalist youth group founded in 2017 by Dries Van Langenhove, a far-right independent politician. Langenhove was found responsible for creating racist and sexist posts on the youth group's page, however, the public prosecutor didn't ask to prosecute Andreas VH.
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Yet despite the controversial musicians performing at the Frontnacht festival, the city of Ypres has permitted the festival to take place. Ypres' city council has been in contact with a coordinating group for threat analysis CUTA, although their advice was inconclusive. Posters of the festival feature groups linked to neo-fascist groups.
"We notice here in Germany that young neo-Nazis in Telegram channels are planning to go to Frontnacht," said Hindrichs. "I advise people of colour or LGBTQ+ people not to come near Ypres on that weekend. Another danger of such festivals is that they normalise neo-Nazi thinking. One of the goals of such events is to recruit people."
Damage to the city's reputation
Ypres' city council will again consult CUTA as well as police due to concerns for the city's reputation and fears of not having sufficient police to manage Frontnacht.
However, IJzerwake chairperson Win De Wim dismissed the talk of cancelling the festival: "The far left and the lying press are trying to get the government to ban the nationalist music festival 'Frontnacht' and abolish free speech for right-wing people." He added that if Ypres withdraws the permit for the festival, the city will have to pay for the costs incurred.
IJzerwake was created in 2003 as a hardline alternative to the comparatively moderate IJzer Pilgrimage, an event which commemorates those who died in World War II.
The group appears to have taken a more radical course in its choice of musicians for its festival. However, the aim of the festival is to make "our message more contemporary", according to IJzerwake co-organiser Rob Verreychen in De Standaard.
Ypres city council will debate holding the event again on Tuesday.