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Neonazi Terrorism in Germany

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  • Originally posted by Ironduke View Post
    Is Germany seeing a lot of "cross-pollination", if you will, between American and German groups?
    In my opinion not as much as it used to, and mostly through the traditional networks such as Blood & Honour or skinhead associations. There's plenty of contacts with other European groups: from National Action in the UK to the Azov Batallion in Ukraine (they were openly recruiting at the last such festival a year ago), from Sweden's Nordic Resistance Movement to - more recently - contacts with the Assad regime. Not hearing much about cross-atlantic ties on this side though. Part of the reason for that may be a difference in level of ambition - evident in those groups German neonazis have contact with - while another part may be that the remaining infrastructure of the much smaller US hard-right takes some effort to be accessible from over here (Stormfront and such are banned in Germany).


    • Full article:

      German police bust human trafficking ring linked to Reichsbürger scene

      Three people have been arrested in northern Germany on suspicion of trafficking Moldovan nationals on fake Romanian passports. Evidence suggests the networks may have links to the far-right Reichsbürger scene.

      Some 800 German police officers in the German states Bremen, Hamburg and Lower Saxony raided several apartments and offices connected to a human trafficking ring late on Monday and in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

      According to local media reports, three men were arrested — two Germans and a Russian national — on suspicion of smuggling Moldovan citizens into Germany on fake Romanian passports and employing them in security services.

      Police said they had been investigating the smugglers since October last year. At least five other people are believed to be part of the trafficking network, including an Austrian family that reportedly owns the security firm that illegally employed the trafficked Moldovans.

      The company had allegedly won contracts to supply security services on Hamburg's ports, a number of constructions sites and even homes for asylum seekers.

      Connections to the Reichsbürger

      Reports also suggested that police found evidence linking at least one of the traffickers, the accountant for the security firm, to the far-right Reichsbürger movement. The accountant's ex-husband and son reportedly run the security company. According to local media, the accountant — whose office was raided overnight on Monday — is currently living with a former officer from Germany's special SEK police unit.

      The term Reichsbürger, which roughly translates as "Citizens of the Reich," is used as a label for a loosely connected group that rejects the legitimacy of Germany's federal government. Its followers believe that the 1937 borders of the German Empire still exist and that today's Germany is an administrative construct in a country still occupied by foreign powers. Many also subscribe to far-right or anti-Semitic ideologies.

      German authorities estimate that some 18,000 people subscribe to the movement, around 1,000 of whom identify with extreme right-wing ideology.

      The threat posed by the group has become increasingly prominent since late 2016, after one of its members in Bavaria opened fire on a group of police officers during a raid, killing one.

      Probes into the far-right have since uncovered a handful of public servants who identify with the movement, including four civil servants in the state of Hesse, three police officers in Saxony and policeman in Bavaria.
      "Every man has his weakness. Mine was always just cigarettes."


      • The Reichsbürger group that those Austrians belong to is considered to be extremist, but not rightwing. The accountant is the self-declared mayor of a Reichsbürger community of about 30 active participants which is under surveillance by the Verfassungsschutz in Saxony-Anhalt.

        The Reichsbürger connection is not considered vital to the arrests, it's predominantly about exploiting illegal immigrants. Most of the officers in the raids were therefore Federal Customs Service - not police. Customs in Germany has checking for illegal work and social security fraud as part of its portfolio. Beyond the three arrested there are ten others under suspicion of belonging to the trafficking group, including also Russians and Ukrainians. 49 illegal immigrants were also arrested as part of the raids. Investigations against the group had been ongoing since October 2017.

        Without the Reichsbürger connection it wouldn't have made the press though. Raids against human trafficking networks occur pretty much at least once every week. Today for example police in Munich arrested some traffickers accused of smuggling about 40 people from Turkey onboard trucks. The agency press release in the German press on that is about six lines. The last large raid was against human trafficking with prostitutes btw. Exactly one month ago, 1600 officers involved to grab a near-60-year-old Thai woman who was the ringleader of a network of over 50 people.

        According to local media, the accountant — whose office was raided overnight on Monday — is currently living with a former officer from Germany's special SEK police unit.
        The "former" is because the man was suspended for his own Reichsbürger connections.


        • Update for the NSU case, still ongoing:

          - The defense lawyer for Andre E. (that's the guy with the "Die Jew Die" tattoo) held his defense speech, going through it as agreed with his client.
          - He opened this speech with "Our client is a national socialist who will stand for his convictions neck and crop".
          - As part of his defense he explained how his client was obviously "not yet a full nazi" at the time of his crimes, just another kid skinhead - citing that when military intelligence during his conscript service inquired about his tattoos he mistakenly told them that one of them was a Waffen-SS slogan - instead of a Hitlerjugend slogan.
          - He also basically stated that his client is after all only accused in this case because of him being a National Socialist.

          If you do not get the date - today, May 8th, is V-E Day.

          And to continue with the "Heer/Stahl/Sturm" theme of Zschäpe's laywers: Andre E.'s court-appointed main defense lawyer, the one holding the above speech, is only missing the y for his name to be Heydrich.
          Like Zschäpe, E. also asked for a new lawyer - and finally got one two weeks ago. That lawyer - the only volunteer on his bench - laid down his mandate immediately following the above speech citing insurmountable differences with his client.
          Last edited by kato; 08 May 18,, 18:27.


          • Doubt this will hit any media outlets outside Germany:

            As background from Newsweek, more there:
            Fake News, the Frankfurt 'Sex Mob' and Why Germany Has Taken an Aggressive Stance Against False News Stories

            The story played on some of Germany’s worst fears.
            Just after 1 a.m. on New Year's Day, in a crowded bar in Frankfurt, a group of roughly 50 “Arab” men, as the bar’s owner, Jan Mai, later said, stumbled in and soon began to dance, push and grope female customers, some of them putting their hands up the women’s skirts.
            It was a “sex mob,” involving “masses” of migrants, or at least that’s how Bild, a popular German tabloid, described it after an interview with Mai. The story went viral on social media after right-wing outlets like Breitbart News picked it up.

            In a press conference on February 14, the police announced that the allegations were baseless. Now, McCormack tells Newsweek, Mai and Irina are under investigation for starting false rumors and wasting police time.
            The two "under investigation" in the above were:
            • German national Jan M., 50, a club owner in Frankfurt with plenty of "contacts" that included certain Hells Angels chapters and the mafia; former investment banker; plenty of details that firmly put him in a nationalist-xenophobic scene too.
            • Serbian national Irina A., 29, supposedly "working as a waitress" in one of his bars - while herself owner of various real estate and businesses herself - also with contacts among biker gangs and the redlight scene.

            By now only Jan M. will go on trial when it starts on June 8th.
            His co-conspirator Irina A. was killed a few days ago. Police arrested M. for it yesterday after analyzing his cell phone's movement.

            "Right-wing outlets" similar to the one cited above in the original story of course place suspicion towards the "other contacts" above, while also pretty crudely putting up the Frankfurt Sex Mob story as not proven fake with some clever application of quotation marks around words and conditionalizing sentences.


            • Updates for NSU case:

              Zschäpe's defense is getting a bit... haywire. More than it already was. She has three court-appointed lawyers (Heer, Stahl, Sturm) that she has refused to talk to for the past three years, plus a fourth court-appointed and one paid-for lawyer who she cooperates with. The Heer, Stahl, Sturm team are basically just doing their job properly as they should, despite her non-cooperation - even if they've repeatedly been trying to get out of the job, and she's trying to get rid of them anyway.

              These two teams have by now pleaded different defenses. And to top that the team that she refuses to talk to is the one that are trying to get more for her out of it - i.e. a conviction for simple arson. The other two pleaded for a conviction on general arson. Both carry a 10-year maximum sentence, the difference is that with "simple arson" what they're demanding is that she be released until the end of the trial since she's already done more than 2/3rds of that in jailtime so far. Both teams refuse any of the other accusations she's charged with (murder, terrorism and so on).

              The arson component of her trial is about her setting fire to her own apartment after the other two of the NSU trio shot themselves. Both teams acknowledge the arson, the Heer, Stahl, Sturm team though claims she didn't intend to harm others when doing so, and that it was a complete surprise to her that dumping gasoline all over the flat could result in it effectively acting as a fuel-air explosive when lit - like it did.


              Holger G. had his defense team deliver their final speech in May. They claim that since NSU after 2007 was only robbing banks and not killing foreigners he was only supporting a criminal organization, not a terrorist one - and demanded "under two years" as maximum sentence. Holger G., for some detail, provided his own IDs repeatedly for one of the two men of NSU and basically schooled him - with regular updates - in how to pretend to be him. There were similar illegal actions in the 1990s between him and NSU - buying a health insurance card from a friend for Zschäpe, delivering a gun to them once - but those have hit the 10-year statute of limitations before he was charged (the gun would have had a higher one, but it couldn't be tied to any NSU shootings). Federal Attorney is only asking for five years too - from a 10-year maximum sentence - partly because he was very cooperative in investigations.


              Ralf Wohlleben ... well, his defense is a story in itself. Wohlleben is the NPD party official. His main defense attorney? His former deputy in the NPD. Who herself is under Verfassungsschutz surveillance. For the last 22 years. Her current avenue is that she's trying to convince the court to hear a witness who supposedly provided the NSU with a perfectly identical copy of the Ceska pistol that Wohlleben is charged with providing (the gun was used in 9 out of 10 NSU murders).


              • P.S., to remind ourselves:

                Originally posted by kato View Post
                Trial is starting in a couple weeks, with 85 planned court dates reaching into January 2014
                We're on court day 480.



                  Racism is socially acceptable in Germany, says lawyer in neo-Nazi trial

                  The impending verdict in Germany's notorious NSU murder trial will not end the work of lawyer Mehmet Daimagüler. The son of Turkish immigrants fights racism in Germany, which he says is "socially acceptable."

                  After a five-year-long trial, a verdict is finally expected in the coming days in Germany's far-right extremist National Socialist Underground (NSU) case, which centers on multiple racially motivated murders committed by the terror group between 2000 and 2007. It will be the end of a long era for Mehmet Daimagüler, who represents several co-plaintiffs, relatives of those who were killed.

                  Daimagüler is not just a successful lawyer, but also the author of books and newspaper articles that have raised heated debate about racism in Germany. He has personally experienced what it means to be discriminated against and to overcome almost insurmountable obstacles.

                  Born in 1968 in Siegen to Turkish parents, Daimagüler faced an uphill struggle from day one. "We were always treated as foreigners. We did not have German citizenship and only had a temporary residency permit." Whenever his family dealt with German authorities, they were made to feel they did not belong in the country, he recalls.

                  These experiences shaped Daimagüler, and most likely influenced his decision to fight racism and promote integration. He highlights an odd paradox: "On the one hand, we were always told to integrate, and on the other we were expected to leave the country as soon as possible."

                  Daimagüler was confronted with racism throughout his childhood. The parents of German kids openly rejected him. His primary school teacher suggested sending him to a special needs school. But despite all this, Daimagüler persevered, going to high school and later even studying at the American Ivy League universities Harvard and Yale.

                  Defending murder victims' relatives

                  All this helps understand why Daimagüler later went on to represent several co-plaintiffs at Germany's NSU murder trial — a job that means a lot to him. Daimagüler represents the siblings of Abdurrahim Özüdogru, who was murdered on June 13, 2001 while working in his tailor shop in Nuremberg, as well as the daughter of Ismail Yasar, who was also killed in Nuremberg on June 9, 2005.

                  Between 2000 and 2007, Germany's neo-Nazi NSU cell murdered eight individuals of Turkish decent, one individual of Greek heritage, and a German police officer. For a long time, German investigators had classified the killings as "migrant-on-migrant crime." Daimgüler, who between 2000 and 2007 worked as an assistant to numerous high-ranking politicians in the Free Democratic Party (FDP), suspected the murders were in fact racially motivated, but he did not speak out.

                  "As a Turk, talking about racism would have had negative political consequences," he explains. Looking back, he now feels ashamed of having been so cynical, and has apologized to the relatives of murdered NSU victims.

                  Read more: NSU victims' families sue German government over investigation errors

                  Why did investigators discount a racist motive?

                  Despite witness reports saying two German-looking men had been spotted at the crime scenes (supposedly NSU killers Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos), German investigators believed the murders had been committed exclusively by foreigners, the lawyer explains. "We need to acknowledge the racism of the Nazis, but we also need to acknowledge that the police were racist for not believing that Turkish individuals could actually be victims," Daimagüler says.

                  He's also convinced the NSU terror triumvirate Uwe Mundlos, Uwe Böhnhardt and Beate Zschäpe had been part of a wider network that supported their murder spree. He thinks assuming the NSU consisted of only the trio is implausible. The fact that four other suspects are on trial alongside Zschäpe makes that plain, argues Daimagüler. "During the trial 24 witnesses admitted having had direct contact these individuals," he adds. "They supplied the NSU with weapons, money, places to stay and documents."

                  Widely accepted forms of racism

                  Daimagüler not only wants those responsible for the NSU murders brought to justice; he also fights against forms of everyday racism. In an effort to initiate public debate on the matter, Daimagüler writes books about xenophobia. His first one, published in 2011, caused heated debate. Carrying the subtitle "The Fairy Tale of Failed Integration," it examines the notion of one's homeland and what it means to immigrants, as well as how being marginalized by mainstream society hinders integration.

                  Read more: 'People, not monsters': Controversial films on NSU murders show in Germany

                  In 2017 Daimagüler published his latest book, "Outrage is Not Enough! Our State Has Failed. Now it's Our Turn" (Empörung reicht nicht! Unser Staat hat versagt. Jetzt sind wir dran), in which he draws a personal verdict regarding the (still ongoing) NSU trial. He argues that a racist mentality explains the German state's failure to stop the murders. "We are today faced with a socially accepted from of racism," argues 50-year-old Daimagüler. "It assumes that 'our' culture is superior to that of Muslims or Jews." But, Daimagüler argues, nobody is willing to talk about this racism.

                  He says he is glad the NSU trial is winding down. Over the years, he found himself face-to-face with the main NSU suspect Zschäpe and several other suspects. These years have had a profound impact on him and have strengthened his resolve to fight all forms of racism, wherever they may manifest themselves.


                  • Aaaand... it's come to an end.

                    Beate Zschäpe given life in German neo-Nazi murder trial

                    After a five-year trial, a member of a neo-Nazi gang has been found guilty of 10 racially-motivated murders.

                    Beate Zschäpe was the main defendant on trial over the murder of eight ethnic Turks, a Greek citizen and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007.

                    The verdict carries an automatic life sentence.

                    The connection between the murders was only discovered by chance in 2011, after a botched robbery led to the neo-Nazi group's discovery.

                    Zschäpe shared a flat in the eastern town of Zwickau with two men, who died in an apparent suicide pact. The bodies of Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt were found in a burnt-out caravan used in the robbery.

                    Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt had formed a cell called the National Socialist Underground (NSU). An explosion at their home - apparently in an attempt to destroy evidence - led to Zschäpe turning herself in.

                    The NSU's seven-year campaign exposed serious shortcomings in the German state's monitoring of neo-Nazis, and led to a public inquiry into how German police failed to discover the murder plot.

                    Four other defendants were also given jail terms for their role in helping the NSU gang:
                    • Ralf Wohlleben, a former official of the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD), was sentenced to 10 years for procuring the Ceska pistol with silencer used in nine murders. He was convicted of aiding and abetting murder.
                    • Carsten S was given three years of juvenile detention. He is believed to have been a key contact for the Zwickau cell during their secret life, and was found guilty of handing the gang the Ceska pistol and silencer
                    • André E was given two years and six months for helping a terrorist group. He had visited the Zwickau trio often, sometimes with his children, helping to give the neo-Nazis an air of normality.
                    • Holger G received three years for giving his birth certificate and other ID to Uwe Mundlos, to protect him from the police.


                    The court also found "grave guilt" with Zschäpe which means that instead of a parole hearing in 15 years they'll only then set when to have a possible parole hearing. Factually in a sentence it means that a person will only be released for old age or heavy sickness, basically to live out the last year or so of their life outside prison. Zschäpe is 43.

                    Andre E. was acquitted of the charge of assistance to murder, hence why his sentence is that low. This verdict seems to be partly centered around Zschäpe's account that he knew of the NSU's bank robberies, but not of their murders when supporting them. The prosecution had asked for 12 years for him.

                    Holger G. also got off easy; the prosecution had asked for 5 years for him, his defense lawyers tried for "under 2 years". Verdict is pretty much in the middle.
                    Last edited by kato; 11 Jul 18,, 10:04.


                    • Hans-Georg Maassen, the president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany's domestic intelligence service, told the DPA news agency that the latest police crackdowns had seen the number of Reichsbürger with a firearms permit fall below the 1,000 mark.
                      According to the latest BfV estimates, 920 members of the far-right scene still own firearms, around 700 fewer than last year. However, that latest numbers show that up to 7 percent of suspected Reichsbürger still have a permit to own sporting or hunting rifles — far higher than the national average of 2 percent.


                      • German politician known for support of refugees shot dead in his garden, murder investigation launched
                        By Kaylie Piecuch | Fox News

                        A German politician was shot dead at close range in the head early Sunday in his own garden.

                        Walter Lübcke, a 65-year old regional politician from Angela Merkel’s party, was found left for dead at 12:30 am on Sunday, police confirmed the following day.

                        Initially discovered alive by a relative, Lübcke, was declared dead two hours later after attempts to revive him failed.

                        When police arrived at the scene there were no weapons or residue on the body, leaving officials to rule out suicide and begin a homicide investigation.

                        “We have no concrete information on a suspect or a motive,” State prosecutor, Horst Streiff, told the AP.

                        The main piece guiding prosecutors was the autopsy discovery that Lübcke was killed by a gun fired at close range to his head.

                        Lübcke is most notably known for his support of refugees.

                        In October 2015, the Christian Democratic Union leader spoke out in strong defense of Merkel’s policies on asylum-seekers, saying “whoever does not support these values can leave this country at any time.”

                        He received death threats following the incident, but investigators believe the events are not connected.

                        Sabine Thurau, the head of the German-Hesse state criminal police, said there was “no connection to the current crime, according to our knowledge.” She also emphasized, “we don’t want speculation to endanger the investigation.

                        Thurau has created a special commission with 20 police officers to investigate the politician’s death.

                        For his friends and the community around him, the news comes as a shock.

                        “We are deeply shocked by the sudden death of our friend,” said CDU colleague, Volker Bouffier, in an official statement. Other party members credit him as a “bridge-builder who could not have been better.”
               (yeah, i know... but the political slant in the above is just too tempting)

                        Lübcke was a member of the Hessian state parliament until 2009 and since then has been chief of administration of the Kassel province in Hessen.

                        This part:
                        "In October 2015, the Christian Democratic Union leader spoke out in strong defense of Merkel’s policies on asylum-seekers, saying “whoever does not support these values can leave this country at any time.”"
                        is a probably rather intentional misleading partial quote: His sentence before that was "This country is built on Christian values like assistance to people in need."

                        The murder nicely coincided with a fair being hosted next door to Lübcke's house with a few thousand attending, thus police not being able to just get a list from the local mobile phone tower and check possible suspects from that (standard method of investigation here), as well as the noise likely drowning out the gunshot from a small-caliber pistol. Lübcke's home address in a small village of under 500 people was publicized in extreme-right online media in 2015 side-by-side with death threats.


                        • They've arrested a 45-year-old man in connection with the murder of Lübcke based on DNA evidence at the crime site.

                          Guy was active with the local chapter of neonazi party NPD. Was previously sentenced for attacking a union rally with 400 Autonomous Nationalists ten years ago - to 7 months on probation for breach of public peace - and apparently was part of a bomb attack on a refugee home in 1993 for which he was sentenced to 6 years prison in 1995. He's got a couple instances of illegal firearms possession, battery, theft and stuff like arson in his backlog as well. Some claim he's connected to Combat 18, i.e. the terrorist sub-branch of Blood and Honour.

                          Investigations focus on "a possible right-wing motive". Federal Attorney has drawn the case to himself (i.e. regards it as terrorism).
                          Last edited by kato; 17 Jun 19,, 15:48.



                            Killing of German Politician Is Treated as Possible Terrorist Act

                            By Christopher F. Schuetze and Melissa Eddy

                            June 17, 2019

                            BERLIN — Germany’s attorney general’s office took over on Monday the investigation into the killing of a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right party, days after the authorities arrested a suspect with a history of violence and ties to far-right extremists.

                            Federal prosecutors take over cases that are thought to be politically motivated and pose a nationwide threat. They said that they were still investigating whether others might have been involved in the death of the official, Werner Lübcke, but said that so far they had no indication that a terrorist organization was involved.

                            The prosecutors assumed control of the investigation into Mr. Lübcke’s death two weeks after he was killed and as the authorities began to treat his case as possibly the first case of fatal right-wing terrorism since a killing spree by a far-right terror cell ended in 2007.

                            The suspect, a 45-year-old German citizen with longstanding ties to right-wing extremists, was identified and arrested after DNA found on the victim’s clothes was matched to him in a criminal database, the authorities said.

                            “We are working on the assumption that the crime has a right-wing extremist background,” said Markus Schmitt, the spokesman for the federal agency. Speaking at a news conference on Monday afternoon, Mr. Schmitt said that the agency’s assessment was based on the suspect’s known opinions and record and that prosecutors did not have evidence of a wider conspiracy but were still investigating.

                            Mr. Lübcke, 65, served as a member of the center-right Christian Democrats on a regional council in Hesse, a state in Central Germany. The prosecutors’ announcement was made just two days after his funeral in Kassel, and after two weeks of speculation about why a popular, if unobtrusive, local functionary could have been killed at his home on a Saturday night with a shot to his head, apparently at close range.

                            Germany has strict gun laws, and while nonregistered guns do exist, gun murders remain rare, especially in small and midsize cities.

                            The federal authorities identified the suspect as Stephan E., in keeping with German privacy laws. They said that among the evidence found in his apartment, there were digital storage devices that still needed to be fully analyzed.

                            According to German news reports, the suspect had a history of involvement in right-wing violence, including an attack on a refugee camp in 1993 and on a union gathering a decade ago. He was thought to be active in the local branch of the N.P.D., a neo-Nazi party, according to the news outlets. Besides those, the man seems to have had a history of violence and was known to the police, according the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a major newspaper, and other outlets.

                            Mr. Lübcke, 65, was found shot in the head on his terrace on June 2. After failing to find a trace of the weapon, investigators quickly ruled out a suicide and had instead focused on finding a personal motive for the killing. The police briefly arrested someone with personal ties to Mr. Lübcke last week but released the person after questioning.

                            The police also considered a political motive. In 2015, Mr. Lübcke was known to have provoked the ire of the far right when a video of him giving a speech to a local audience showed him suggesting that anyone who did not support taking in refugees could leave Germany themselves.

                            “Both the murder as well as the mockery after Mr. Lübcke’s death shows that the hate is not just against ethnic minorities, but their supporters as well,” said Hajo Funke, a professor at the Freie Universität Berlin who studies right-wing extremism. Mr. Funke called the killing “ice-cold murder.”

                            The 2015 video of Mr. Lübcke supporting refugees went viral in right-wing circles. One blog post on a far-right news site went so far as to list Mr. Lübcke’s work address and telephone numbers.

                            Indeed, the death of Mr. Lübcke set off a chorus of jubilation among some members of the far right on social media, a response that President Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany condemned as “cynical, tasteless, despicable and in every way disgusting.”

                            Kassel, the midsize western city where the killing occurred, was the site of another gun attack carried out by far-right terrorists in 2006, when Halit Yozgat was shot twice in the head, the ninth victim of a terrorist group that called itself the Nationalist Socialist Underground.

                            The authorities’ reaction to the N.S.U. killing spree was widely criticized, first for their slow pace in realizing that it was right-wing terrorism and then for their struggle to put an end to it.

                            “It’s not the N.S.U., but it’s similar in both ideology and execution,” Mr. Funke said.


                            • Developments in Lübcke case:
                              • suspect has admitted to the murder, but claims to have committed the act alone and without help from others
                              • suspect admitted to owning more weapons than just the murder weapon (a .22LR pistol) - including a pump-action shotgun and a Uzi.
                              • police has uncovered some of these weapons in a buried cache at his employer
                              • the person who sold the murder weapon to him as well as the nenonazi buddy of the suspect who organized the trade have been arrested.


                                Germany Has a Neo-Nazi Terrorism Epidemic
                                How many political murders do far-right extremists have to commit before the German government does something about it?
                                By Peter Kuras | July 2, 2019, 5:32 PM

                                Police escort Stephan Ernst, suspected of killing Walter Lübcke, the administrative chief of the western city of Kassel, back to a helicopter after a hearing in Karlsruhe, southern Germany, on July 2.
                                Police escort Stephan Ernst, suspected of killing Walter Lübcke, the administrative chief of the western city of Kassel, back to a helicopter after a hearing in Karlsruhe, southern Germany, on July 2. ULI DECK/AFP/Getty Images

                                When the German politician Walter Lübcke was found shot in the head outside of his home near Kassel on June 2, commentators were quick to assert that a right-wing extremist was the most likely culprit. Even the police seemed half-hearted in their calls for restraint in judging the motive of the crime, and the brief suspicion that the culprit had been someone close to the victim was quickly laid to rest. The unanimity of the official response, in one sense, was admirably forthright. But it was also its own national admission of negligence.

                                Lübcke, a member of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, served as Kassel district president from 2009 until his death and had long been a figure of regional importance. Tributes from local papers emphasize that he was widely liked and had good relationships with his constituents. In 2015, however, he became a favorite target of right-wingers throughout Germany when, in the midst of the refugee crisis, he told an assembly gathered in the West German city of Lohfelden about the planned construction of a refugee camp, and he brushed away dissent by saying that Germany is a country based on Christian values, including charity, and “anyone who doesn’t share these values, anyone who doesn’t agree, is welcome to leave the country at any time. Every German has that freedom.”

                                Lübcke received more than 350 emails immediately following the event, including numerous death threats. He was placed under police protection, but right-wing extremists ensured that outrage about Lübcke’s statement remained fresh. A few days after the event, the German Turkish author Akif Pirincci, speaking at a far-right rally, said that Lübcke had only suggested that ethnic Germans leave the country because the concentration camps had long been closed, implying that Lübcke’s preferred solution would have been the mass execution of his political opponents. Pirincci’s speech ensured Lübcke’s infamy in far-right circles. Erika Steinbach, a politician formerly with the right wing of the CDU, shared the video of Lübcke’s statement at the assembly to her 120,000 followers on social media three times, most recently in February of this year, while right-wing websites such as PI-News ran pieces about Lübcke on a regular basis.

                                So it surprised no one when news broke that Stephan Ernst, the suspect in Lübcke’s murder, had a history of racist violence and ties to far-right groups. The killing has provoked widespread condemnations of the ascendancy of right-wing terrorism in Germany; even traditionally conservative leaders such as Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer are now saying that they need to play catch-up in the fight against the far-right and have promised to devote increased resources to policing right-wing terrorists. But critics say that the German state has a long history of ignoring reactionary terrorism.

                                Tanjev Schultz, a professor of journalism at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz and the author of a prizewinning book about right-wing terrorism in Germany, says that in Germany’s public imagination terrorism tends to be associated with the left. Memories of the Red Army Faction and the series of political assassinations it undertook are still in the foreground of many Germans’ minds. Meanwhile, neofascistic terrorist attacks like the bombing of a Munich beer garden in 1980 have been largely forgotten.

                                This blindness to right-wing terrorism is one of the reasons, Schultz told me, that it took authorities so long to recognize that the 10 murders carried out by the National Socialist Underground (NSU) beginning in 2000 were the work of a terrorist organization. Indeed, as Jacob Kushner has documented in Foreign Policy, authorities largely tried to restrict the investigation into the group’s three core members, Uwe Mundlos, Uwe Böhnhardt, and Beate Zschäpe, despite the fact that there was strong evidence that they had substantial support from other right-wing extremists, as well as some indication that some of that support may have come from within the government.

                                Seehofer’s promise to devote increased resources to combating right-wing terrorism has thus encountered widespread skepticism that the commitment will be upheld. That impression has been reinforced by separate investigations that have recently revealed right-wing networks within German police forces: In December 2018, an investigation into Frankfurt’s police force revealed a group chat that regularly employed Nazi iconography. On June 26, police searched the apartment of a member of the group chat, who has been accused of sending racist faxes to one of the lawyers who represented a victim of the NSU—one of them threatened to butcher the lawyer’s young daughter. They were signed “NSU 2.0.”

                                Then, on June 28, news broke that an organization called Nordkreuz had used police records to compile a “death list” of almost 25,000 liberal and left-leaning politicians—it had also stockpiled weapons, body bags, and quicklime. Hope that federal authorities would intervene where local authorities had failed to act are also dim given that the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany’s answer to the NSA, has often been accused of complicity in right-wing activity. This is seen most drastically, as Kushner documents in his Foreign Policy story, in the office’s failure to make proper use of informants during the investigation in the NSU. More recently, the former head of the organization, Hans-Georg Maaßen, drew criticism for his baseless claims that videos of right-wing violence during an August 2018 riot in Chemnitz were doctored.

                                Though Lübcke’s death is a milestone, similar attacks have proliferated in recent years. In 2015 and 2017, respectively, the mayor of Cologne, Henriette Reker, and Andreas Hollstein, the mayor of the West German town of Altena, suffered politically oriented knife attacks. Reker was severely wounded, as were several of her companions. Hollstein escaped with minor injuries after employees of the Turkish restaurant where he was eating disarmed the perpetrator. Leipzig Mayor Burkhard Jung recently told the DPA press agency that there were about three politically motivated crimes against politicians in Germany on a daily basis, with local politicians being especially vulnerable.

                                It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the German state has long had difficulties preventing right-wing violence and apprehending its perpetrators because there’s substantial sympathy for neofascistic causes within the German government. But the situation is also more complicated—the diffuse structures of right-wing organizations make it legitimately difficult to differentiate between lone wolves and members of criminal conspiracies, and the ubiquity of online expression of rage makes it hard to differentiate serious threats from idle fantasies. Though some activists are calling for a widespread crackdown on all forms of right-wing activity, others fear that broad approaches could serve to further radicalize right-wingers. When we spoke, Schultz, the journalism professor, suggested that a series of reeducation programs might be a positive step but feared that they would end up reaching the wrong people.

                                Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government will have to do something more radical than a simple increase in police resources if it wishes to effectively combat the rise of the far-right—not least because the issue threatens to tear her political party, the CDU, apart. The right wing of the CDU had already been frustrated by its leader’s tolerant stance during the refugee crisis, and now more liberal members of the party are busy accusing their more conservative counterparts of complicity in Lübcke’s death. Germany’s other major centrist party, the Social Democratic Party, has already been decimated by increasing frustration with its willingness to concede to the demands of the CDU within Germany’s governing coalition. If the CDU wishes to escape its fate, it will have to do more than simply root out extremist networks—it will need to find a way of redirecting the forces of right-wing anger.