by Kevin Coogan
Achmed Huber is not only a devout Muslim and supporter of political Islam; he also a leading member of the avowedly pagan Swiss-based Avalon Gemeinschaft (“Avalon Society” also known as the Avalon Kreis or Avalon Circle). Avalon’s estimated 150 members include aging Swiss SS volunteers, youthful far right fanatics, and died-in-the wool Holocaust deniers. Each summer solstice this motley mélange of characters journeys deep into the Swiss woods to ritually worship the pre-Christian Celtic gods of ancient Europe. They then spend the rest of the year bemoaning the Enlightenment and denying the Holocaust.
Although Huber is one of Avalon’s leading members, he was not involved in founding the group. Avalon began as a curious mixture of Old Right and New Right currents that reflected its founding members involvement in a far right youth group known as the Wiking-Jugend Schweiz (WJS) as well as their later rejection of cadre-based politics for the creation of Avalon as a self-proclaimed elite society. Besides being steeped in mystical imagery, Avalon’s founders also embraced “New Right” jargon most frequently associated with the French theorist Alain de Benoist, his Paris-based think-tank, GRECE (the Groupement de Recherche et d’Etudes pour la Civilisation Européene), and GRECE’s German counterpart, Pierre Krebs‚ Thule Seminar.
Avalon’s origins begin in the end of 1986 with the formation of the WJS by two young far rightists, Roger Wüthrich and Andreas Lorenz. After Wüthrich and Lorenz returned from a winter camp in Germany sponsored by the Wiking-Jugend Deutschland (WJD), they were granted permission by the WJD to form a Swiss branch of the organization. The WJS was formally launched in April 1987 and began publishing a paper, Nordwind, that specifically targeted Swiss youth. As WJS propaganda put it, “Have you had enough of degenerate art, jungle music, environmental destruction, immorality, and Coca-Cola culture? Then come to us! Work with us for a better worthwhile future. Travel, camps, sports, adventure, comradeship and love of our home belong to our program. Hard work, discipline, good manners, courage, and honor are things that for us again have meaning. The zero (Null) bloc of youth is already shuffling off to its decline with a Walkman in its ears and hamburgers on its brains. Not us! Join us! Viking Youth! That is the youth movement faithful to the people of Switzerland.”
In the summer of 1988 the WJS, with help from the WJD, organized a summer camp in Seelisberg, Switzerland. Participants were told that they would learn things like folk dancing, old German letters, and sports like boxing. The WJS promised all who signed up the experience of “forced marches in ankle deep mud” until the “dead tired” finally reached their goal “filthy, soaked with sweat, with a banner in hand, and a proud smile on [their] face.” The forced marches were a necessary camp experience, Nordwind explained, because “in the all masculine cultural circles to which we belong, discipline and morals are the keystone of our view of life.”
Alas, few Swiss youth seemed willing to part with their blue jeans and Coke cans for folk dance lessons and forced marches. In February 1991, at the WJS‚s fourth convention in Worblaufen, Switzerland, the group voted to dissolve itself. Along with its failure to recruit youth cadres, the WJS was equally concerned about possible adverse publicity. Just a month earlier, a Swiss far rightist named Robert Burkhard – president of the Nationalrevolutionären Partei der Schweiz (NPS) – had been arrested for a hand grenade attack on a journalist in Winterthurer, Switzerland. After the police discovered WJS material inside Burkhard‚s apartment, the WJS feared that it too might now come under scrutiny by the Swiss authorities. Equally troubling was the development of ideological dissent inside the WJS itself. The Aargau Canton branch, for example, openly broke with the WJS‚s leadership and embraced a “national revolutionary direction” complete with open overtures to the Swiss Left. Roger Wüthrich, the WJS‚s co-founder, was particularly appalled by this move because he considered National Bolshevism a political dead end, particularly given the fall of Communism.
The Birth of the Avalon Gemeinschaft
Following the official dissolution of the WJS, Wüthrich and another rightist named Andreas Grossweiler decided to build a new elite cadre organization, the Avalon Gemeinschaft. They structured their new group on the New Right model espoused by de Benoist and GRECE in France and by Pierre Krebs and the Thule Seminar in Germany.
Wüthrich and Grossweiler‚s turn from a failed cadre-based political activist model to a self-proclaimed elite structure did not occur out of the blue. The formation of the Avalon Gemeinschaft came after the Swiss far right had learned about French and German “New Right” theory, which primarily occurred through the activity of a young Geneva-based rightist named Pascal Junod. In 1983 Junod first established the Centre national de la pensée européene with former members of the New European Order (NEO) backed student group, the Nouvel ordre social, to help popularize New Right ideas in Switzerland. One year later, Junod next established another Geneva-based organization, the Cercle Proudhon, in 1984. Junod also helped organize the Swiss branch of the Thule Seminar while he also served as the Swiss correspondent for GRECE’s journal, Nouvelle école.
In his book Strategie der kulturellen Revolution, Pierre Krebs, head of the Thule Seminar, gives a useful overview of New Right thinking when he embraces the theory of “intellectual hegemony” taken from the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci and “detourned” by the New Right. Krebs also articulated New Right themes when he attacked the “principle of equality” and instead demanded a “War against Egalitarianism and Rootlessness: For Originality and Identity! Against Americanism and Collectivism: For Culture and Organic Humanism! Race is Class! For a Heterogeneous World of Homogeneous Peoples! Vive la difference!”
Starting in 1987, members of the Swiss branch of the Thule Seminar took part in a pagan gathering around the Celtic holiday Lugnasad, along with a delegation from the WJS and various neo-Nazis from across Europe. In 1988 the Swiss branch of the Thule Seminar, along with the Circle Proudhon, organized seemingly scholarly-sounding talks on topics like “The History of the Templers and “The Heritage of the Indo-Europeans” on the grounds of Geneva University.
Although lacking the scholarly chops of a de Benoist or a Krebs, Avalon’s founders were quick to proclaim their own elite status as well as their embrace of pagan ideas. Grossweiler, for example, said that Avalon’s members “consider ourselves as an intellectual/spiritual elite and know that our ideas are incomprehensible to simple people.” Avalon’s emergence also came wrapped in a heavy dose of Celtic mysticism. One Avalon tract began, Avalon – white mist covered island in an icy sea. Avalon, land of inner rest and the confident, holy land of the Celts. Avalon, original homeland and secure pole of our European culture. The land of King Arthur gives our society its name. Many of our way and beliefs shall find the power in the circle to resist the time of the wolf (the destruction of value). This is our spiritual place of refuge, [the] place of the calling to mind of Europe‚s eternal values, Courage, Honor, Loyalty.
Huber and Avalon
Achmed Huber’s later emergence as a key Avalon leader no doubt reflects both his well-developed networking skills as well as his powerful contacts inside the European right. Huber’s particular association with Avalon, however, may also be due in part to Avalon’s New Right trappings. New Rightists are almost by definition extremely anti-American, and many look favorably on collaboration with the Islamic world. In traditional Islam they see a culture that has resisted the siren song of the Enlightenment. GRECE leader Alain de Benoist (who has visited both Iran and Libya) also regularly criticizes Jean-Marie le Pen’s Front National for its harshly anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant views.
That said, Avalon appears to be a rather poor copy of the GRECE model. The New Right, it should be recalled, emerged in Paris in the late 1970s and early 1980s as a response not just to the cultural Americanization of Europe but also as a reaction by a post ’68 generation of young right-wing activists to the failed Old Right’s tedious embrace of Hitler nostalgia and crude anti-Semitism. Against this, the New Right reveled in rediscovering unorthodox theorists, particularly from the 1920s “Conservative Revolutionary” movement in Germany; thinkers like Carl Schmidt, Moeller van den Bruck, Ernst Niekisch, and Ernst Junger. All of these men‚s ideas had either been highly marginalized or actively suppressed during the Nazi era. Under Huber and Wüthrich, however, Avalon is far more close to intellectually spurious groups like the California-based Institute for Holocaust Review than with the elite Parisian salon world of de Benoist.
Still, Huber and Wüthrich have tried to give Avalon some veneer of respectability. In March 1998, for example, on the two hundredth anniversary of his death, Huber and other Avalon members laid a wreath at the memorial to General von Erlach, who was killed by Napoleon‚s troops in 1798. Erlach’s death symbolized not just the end of Bern’s Ancien Régime and the triumph of Napoleon‚s army but the victory of the Enlightenment ideals of equality, democracy, and brotherhood associated with the French Revolution that both Avalon and the New Right so despise. By laying a wreath at Erlach’s tomb, Huber and Avalon were suggesting that they were willing to fight once more to recapture a world once thought hopelessly vanished.
Huber and Wüthrich have also portrayed Avalon in a press communiqué as a highly respectable group that sponsors gatherings dedicated to scientific and cultural themes – particularly the honoring of Europe‚s “Celtic Germanic inheritance” – as well as to groundbreaking critical research into questions of contemporary history. Avalon’s eager embrace of Holocaust deniers, even more than its strange celebrations of the summer solstice, have stripped it of even a vague sense of legitimacy as an serious organization engaged in historical research.
Avalon functions as a kind of umbrella organization for the Holocaust denial movement in Switzerland. Under the cover name of the Studiengruppe für Geschichte (History Study Group), for example, Avalon sponsored a 1993 presentation by leading French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson at a hotel conference room in Bern. Some 70 people, including the NEO’s Gaston-Armand Amaudruz, attended the gathering. Huber’s close friend Jürgen Graf, a leading Swiss Holocaust denier who is now living in Tehran, provided the simultaneous translation from French to German when Faurisson spoke. Robert H. Countess, an American editor of the Institute for Historical Review, also addressed an Avalon gathering in April 1995. Huber’s later participation (along with Graf and the German NPD’s Horst Mahler) in an IHR conference that was to have occurred in Beirut in the spring of 2001 can be seen as a logical extension of the kind of Holocaust denial activity that both Huber and Avalon have been involved with for years.
Finally, it seems particularly ironic that a self-proclaimed Muslim like Huber would be associated at all with any “New Right” grouping, even with a pale parody of the New Right, as Avalon appears to be. Huber, after all, is a self-proclaimed devotee of Islam, an utterly monotheistic religion. In the New Right canon, monotheism has always been portrayed as the original sin. This has been so ever since de Benoist identified the Enlightenment‚s universalistic values as a secular extension of a monotheist worldview; namely the Judeo-Christian tradition which Islam claims to complete.
New Right theorists insist that they embrace paganism and the pagan notion of a universe of pluralistic gods precisely out of their desire to dethrone monotheistic thought structures which they see as essential to the future elimination of American “monoculture.” That a fanatical Islamic monotheist like Huber could spend each summer solstice out in the woods worshiping Celtic gods is one more bizarre twist to his already bizarre life.