Roughly one in 20 15-year-old German males is a member of a neo-Nazi group, a higher proportion than are involved in mainstream politics, according to a study released on Tuesday.
Many politicians fear a resurgence of right-wing extremism as unemployment creeps higher in Germany, which is facing its deepest recession since World War II. Government figures have shown anti-Semitic crimes rose at the end of last year.
"It is shocking that right-wing groups have more success recruiting male youths than the established political parties," said Christian Pfeiffer, author of the report issued by Lower Saxony's criminal research institute.
Pfeiffer said fewer than 2% of young men were active in mainstream politics, compared to the 5% involved in far-right groups.
The study, conducted in 2007 and 2008, also revealed that neo Nazi-symbols – in either rock music, stickers or special clothing - were used by one in 10 of the youths surveyed. The swastika and other Nazi symbols are banned in Germany.
The highest proportion of neo-Nazis was in former communist eastern Germany, where almost one in eight youths were in such groups. More than 14% of those questioned were described as racist, and anti-Semitism was rife.
More than 14% of those asked were inclined to brush off the Holocaust as "not awful" while a similar number tended to believe that Jews, through their behavior, were not entirely blameless for their persecution.
Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany's interior minister, said at the presentation of the state-sponsored report he would push for the creation of more sports clubs in regions with social problems.
Late last year, a violent attack on Bavarian police chief Alois Mannichl, who had taken a stand against far-right supporters, stoked a debate over the rise of neo-Nazis.
Earlier this month, an EU agency reported
that peaks in anti-Semitism in Europe tracked tensions in the Middle East.