• Germany's news in English

'Were security officials, politicians and society blind in the right eye?'

The Local · 14 Nov 2011, 11:26

Published: 14 Nov 2011 11:26 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

While detectives are scrambling to uncover helpers of the self-styled National Socialist Underground (NSU), it is becoming increasing clear that the group belied the stereotype of the stupid, thuggish neo-Nazi – they managed to stay hidden while hoarding weapons and conducting a slow-motion killing spree across Germany.

Those investigating the murders of nine Turkish and Greek people in small shops across Germany failed to take the possibility of a racist motive seriously, focusing instead on possible debt problems or crime connections of the dead men.

Now the question is being posed of how the authorities failed to link the murders – as well as whether the focus on Islamist terrorism since 2001 led intelligence services to take their eye off the ball regarding the potential for far-right violence.

The right-wing daily Die Welt expressed astonishment that a neo-Nazi terror cell could operate in Germany unhindered for years.

“Just imagine: A leftist or Islamist cell is noticed by the authorities while planning terror attacks. After an early raid by the police turns up a pipe bomb, the entire cell manages to go underground. The police, politicians and the public would be extremely alarmed after two or three murders.

“There would be a high-profile investigation by a special task force. And now this! An apparently right-wing extremist terror cell operated for 10 years nationwide. They executed nine people in cold blood for just one reason: They weren’t born German.”

Writing that Germany’s image was at stake, the paper demanded an investigation into any possible failings of the authorities.

“Tireless and total scrutiny is now necessary. Most crucially, the question has to be answered what role the intelligence agencies played, especially due to the fact that their past efforts to infiltrate the radical right-wing scene have frequently sparked dubious results.

“There also needs to be a probe into whether this was an east German phenomenon – and whether there was any institutional weakness regarding the right-wing radical scene. The image of our reunified country, its institutions, and its population are at stake.”

The left-wing Tageszeitung said the discovery of the neo-Nazi terrorist group marked a caesura for the country, which should force a new examination of the dangers posed by the radical right.

Although there have always been fascist-motivated attacks and murders in Germany, the paper suggested the fact that this time the 'brown' terrorists were able to operate for more than a decade required new thinking.

“Police and intelligence services have systematically underestimated the criminal potential of violent neo-Nazi criminals,” it said.

Those investigating the nine murders could not to be expected to make a connection to the three neo-Nazis, but they could have admitted at least the possibility of a racist motive.

“If one tries to imagine the worldview of the investigating officials, one finds entrenched stereotypes. The arch-enemy is militant Islamism, but the new left-wing terrorism has to be kept in view. Interior Minister Friedrich spoke of the necessity of a resolute fight. An opportunistic change of colours, or insight into the depth of the caesura that the Nazi murders signal?”

The paper even used a phrase from the far-right terrorist propaganda, finishing its piece with, “Not words, actions will decide.”

Berlin’s centrist daily Der Tagesspiegel wrote that extreme-right violence had been consistently underestimated in Germany.

“Were security officials, politicians and society blind in the right eye? Germany is experiencing a similar shock to Norway last summer, when the right-wing extremist Anders Breivik caused an unimaginable orgy of violence. Both countries must now consider the unthinkable when scrutinizing seemingly limited right-wing extremists. Neo-Nazis can turn into professionally operating terrorists. No-one would dispute the same of leftist extremists.”

But the daily suggested that it might be premature to talk of banning the neo-Nazi NPD party just yet.

Story continues below…

“It has to be clear what mistakes have been made by security officials. Only then would it be appropriate to start thinking about a second attempt to ban the NPD. That’s being demanded now, even though success is uncertain and it remains to be seen if the NPD had ties to the (terror cell) trio. And a ban, so much is certain, would hardly end ‘brown’ violence.”

The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung asked, “Was it a fatal mistake to treat the signs of far-right terrorism in Germany as provincial idiocy in comparison to overarching Islamist terrorism?”

The most important question of the day regards the work of the authorities, and whether they were sharing information about the killings across the country – and if it was an error to not take the fascists seriously in comparison to Islamist terrorism.

“Not only politicians tend to have answers before the questions have even been properly framed in such cases. This is why the old hackneyed ideas are surfacing again, which always come up in Germany when the state protection authorities are suspected of playing down right-wing extremism.

“This reaches from a ban on the NPD to the creation of a new 'defence centre.' But there is no sensible reason to play down the dangers, nor build them up. Both of these options do not serve the fight against terrorism, rather play into the hands of the deluded.”

The Local/mry/hc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

12:25 November 14, 2011 by nolibs
I'm not sure the word "terror" applies here. Flying airplanes into skyscrapers is terror. Blowing up trains and buses is terror as well. Terrorism is a means to put terror into the hearts of minds of victims. One murder a year (horrendous as it is) doesn't put terror into people.

The murderers of these poor individuals should be brought to justice, but German society should be just as careful about using this as a reason to ban the NPD or other groups that leftist politicians don't agree with.
13:22 November 14, 2011 by ChrisRea
The Neo-nazi cell did not kill only one person, but nine. Why? Because they were not born German. I would say this is a strong enough reason to put terror in the hearts of other non-Germans (especially Turks) living in Germany.

Terrorism is usually defined as "the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims". The victims were not killed for money, passion revenge or anything similar. Their killing was part of a political agenda. So I believe "terrorism" is quite suitable in this case.

NPD should be banned if its goals and means are contrary to the German Constitution.
14:03 November 14, 2011 by tueken
They look like normal Germans on the street, i hope they could spare me before i finish my study.
14:36 November 14, 2011 by freechoice
NPD funding should be withdrawn, if they are broke, maybe they will start to get real jobs and have no time for this stupid nonsense.
14:57 November 14, 2011 by LecteurX
Hey Nolibs, are you gonna post the same rubbish on every thread related to this topic on The Local? The far right murdered 149 people in Germany in the last 20 years, and that was even BEFORE counting those 9 latest victims: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_von_Todesopfern_rechtsextremer_Gewalt_in_Deutschland

So what are you on exactly? Targeting people and murdering them, for whatever reason, IS terrorism. Herr Friedrich, the Interior Minister, is from the CSU, and hardly a "left-wing politician", although he definitely disagrees with the NPD and proposed to look into ways of banning it. It's not only left-wing politicians that disagree with the NPD, you know?

14:59 November 14, 2011 by sebastian2010
can't stand the Neo-nazis. they make us normal Germans look bad. I would like to hunt them down.
16:31 November 14, 2011 by derExDeutsche
Seems to me most of these Neo Nazi types come from the former DDR and Eastern Bloc countries. in Western Germany, there were plenty of people on the 'Right', but this is a different very different animal than what these Neo-Nazi types are.

I recall a summer traveling across former DDR, Poland and the Czech Republic in the 90's and those countries were over run with Neo Nazi types. In fact, I remember them being as being very Nationalistic and Socialistic.
19:06 November 14, 2011 by nolibs
@LecteurX - My rant was more against the loose use of the word terrorist, which seems to more widely used since the USA was attacked by Muslims in 2001. Applying that label is also often used as a means to trample the rights of citizens and to pass laws with little or no discussion. The USA is a good example of that. An this was the only point I was trying to make.

From what I have read, to include your Wikipedia article, the police record lists only 47 deaths linked to right-wing extremism, while a private foundation has an unofficial list of 149.

That being said, one of the best things about Germany is its low crime rate. I am 100% against violence whether it comes from skin heads or Muslim terrorists.
22:32 November 14, 2011 by Navigator_B
Funny how the neo-Nazi trio came from Jena where the most high-profile police raid lately was on the office of an anti-Nazi clergyman Lothar Koenig who also happens to be the father of a local left-wing politician.

The neo-Nazis managed to escape the attention of the police for more than a decade, while Koenig was quickly suspected of causing trouble just because he tried to calm down the crowd at a anti-Nazi demonstration.
11:17 November 15, 2011 by Netzwerk
I think it was no coincidence that the victims of serial murder Bosphorus were restricted to micro entrepreneurs with an immigrant background, the deeds of the whole of Germany and distributed to always use the same weapon was used. So they signaled that they were not about money, the murders were racially motivated, the murders were part of a series and they operate nationwide. For one thing should be a warning to all immigrants and others to a promotion to potential sympathizers. They seemed quite a long time to have been well resourced, perhaps through an inheritance or sponsors still. That at the end of a savings bank does, however, were pointed out to them the last clay was assumed.

But why is the murder of the policewoman and why there were no further attacks after 2007?

The second option could be related to that of the constitutional protection is still active V-men who were at crime scenes after 2007 when the terrorists. But this need not be so. Perhaps some members of the NSU have become apostate, it has fallen out and someone was threatening to go to the police. That this is an attack on the police as an institution was, but I can not imagine.

According to current evidence base, I think that it was not planned that way. There were (unlike the RAF), no concrete demands in public, but I think they were planned. Why else is perpetrated largely symbolic attacks? "As long as no fundamental changes in politics, the press and freedom of expression take place, the activities will be continued." Is certainly nothing concrete on which one can answer.

Now that is discussing a ban on the NPD, in my opinion leads misses the point. The NSU will split the right-wing and moderate deter sympathizers. The joy at the NPD will hold at least currently in borders and I can not imagine that they have something to do with the deeds. They are eager to be acceptable as a political force. Organized terrorism runs counter.
14:25 November 15, 2011 by LecteurX
@ Nolibs - Sorry for my angry reaction yesterday. Here is a definition of terrorism as proposed by the UN Security Council:

"criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons [...], intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act, which constitute offences within the scope of and as defined in the international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism, are under no circumstances justifiable by considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other similar nature"

To define terrorism is no simple business and there are, it seems, hundreds proposed definitions of the term.

When a group set abouts to target "foreigners" in Germany, or people just looking too foreign anyway, to murder them in cold blood, when they purposefully set fire to houses where Turkish families live, it is, according to the definition above, an act of terrorism.

I note with interest that you try to demean the acts of these groups by pointing out that "the police record lists only 47 deaths linked to right-wing extremism". Yes, the police. Is it the same police that had conveniently assumed until last week that these 9 businessmen had been killed because they got themselves in trouble (well, you know, that's what "foreigners" do), rather than tracking down the culprits, allowing them to be at large for so long and kill more people? The same police that acted so dismally when Marwa El-Sherbini was being murdered in the middle of the Dresden Tribunal, allowing them to be knifed to death by her aggressor? Instead of protecting her, they shot and injured her husband who was trying to save her... ("when in doubt, shoot the brown man")

Sure, the police has done a sterling job here, and are by far the more credible source of information on this topic.
18:24 November 15, 2011 by Johnne
Yesterday, I was on an ICE train from Mannheim coming to Munich. I was coming back home from a trip to Brussels & Antwerp and was happy to return to my family, city and to Germany. Between Ulm and Augsburg, I noticed that two police officers in mufty controlling papers and tickets of "foreign looking" commuters. At first I thought it was something more than that e.g. information that they proberbly didn´t have tickets & some D-Bahn officials decided to call the cops. They finished with a Turkish guy, one asian lady, and then me. They showed me their IDs & asked me for my train ticket & passport..I showed them, even though I don´t always carry my passport around EU countries since I have Ausweiss.

I bought my ticket (Europa Spezial) with my 25% Bahn card. So, they checked my passport, ticket & then demanded to see my Bahn card. I didn´t have to present my Bahn card even to the DB officials because I purchased my ticket from the machine. It was obvious that they were searching for a fault after giving them ALL they demanded for. I was shocked & even some commuters on the train were shocked. Why? why do the police turned themselves to DB officials? checking tickets? and to make it worse, only foreign looking persons! And we are complaining about Neo nazis? how won´t there be? I think the problem of racism is endemic in this country. If the POLICE can treat us/me that way, then there´s no need to complain. Today, I am very very disapointed in Germany. The country of my grand mother,wife & kids. The country in which I schooled, worked & paid tax for many years. And later became a small business owner/entrepreneur. The country I have loved with all my herat & supported all my life. The national team football teams, FC Bayern and so much more. Fellow forumites, why are these things happening in this beautiful country with good people? why? why??? it´s a pity.
18:28 November 15, 2011 by nolibs
I would agree, especially now that the media has alerted the general public, that terrorism could be a label used. Still, I personally think that should be reserved for larger acts of violence vs. murders over the course of years for the reasons I stated earlier. Either way, I agree with you that to define terrorism is no simple business, especially these days.

I was not attempting to demean the acts of these, just noting the difference between what is officially stated and what a foundation has stated....right or wrong. That being said, I'm pretty sure they would bash my head in just as quickly as any other, so I am not supporting these attacks in any way.
12:22 November 17, 2011 by HelloOutThere
Hello Johnne, a few years ago - to be more precise in 2005 - we experienced such a situation when we went to Le Mans, France as exchange students. After we had arrived at a train station in Paris (unforunately I can't remember which one of the train stations it was) we wondered that the only people who were actually controlled by the French police were black people with no exception at least as long as we were watching them.

In my opinion racism is not an issue which is "endemic" to a certain country, but an issue with is unfortunately "endemic" to human nature. It is the fear of the unknown and I think the best way to fight racism is getting to know each other so that prejudices can become a matter of the past.
17:30 November 17, 2011 by Kölner
You dig that stuff, no doubt in the whole world. Terrible to murder innocent people

who just try to make a living in a foreign country, very true, and I sympathize with

the victims. But, on the other hand, what is the hysteria about the NPD all about?

There´s not the faintest proof that they even enlisted there. This discussion has been

lingering on for years, and, incredulous as I am by having to point this out: We live

in a democracy here in Germany. We live in a country that pampers child-molesters,

let´s them out of the prisons way to early and let´s them found clubs, for crying out

loud! All in the name of the free-will-convenient. Makes me want to puke!

On the other hand you want to ban whole parties because some criminals act in

ways that "could be inspired by the wide mental frame" the party stands for?

In a country where you´re not supposed to call a murderer a murderer or a "piece-of garbage" a "piece-of-garbage" if it displeases the right/influential people? A word to the wise: The "pirate"-party is a far greater threat to our wealth, security and well-being here. As I see it, they are a gathering

of criminals who´s main purspose ist to legalize criminal acts. It´s not murder yet,

granted, but it´s plenty harmful in it´s way. Also, many Germans are seriously irked by the erection of non-Christian churches here in Germany; what does anybody have to say or even

to do for their peace of mind? That´s one of many reasons that´s at the root of such

atrocities. Those walking down those atrocious paths are desperately longing for their national identity and dignity, thankfully, most don´t turn into murderers. I just hope politicians start to consider the German´s state of mind some day, soon!, before it´s too late and events like this cease to be an exception.
01:48 November 18, 2011 by internationalwatch



03:39 November 19, 2011 by Paf1967
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
13:10 November 19, 2011 by HelloOutThere
Hello thelocal.de, I saw that you deleted the comments by some users. Why don't you delet the comments made by "internationalwatch"?
15:27 November 19, 2011 by Bruno53
Put neonazis and skinheads in concentration camps now!
21:18 November 21, 2011 by chicagolive
I have to say racism is pretty deep within Germany. @ Johanne I know and many of my friends know that train route all to well the POLIZEI are extremely racist and rude beyond all understand. Sometimes the degrading goes worst than those cops in Mississippi & Alabama makes them look good. The problem is Germany is that even though we have a unified Germany the Police are still just Stasi in disguise to say something against them just as the Stasi can end up being a very bad and painful experience that me and friends have experience on both sides of the line. State police is state police
22:05 November 24, 2011 by Adebanjos
The questions suppose to be, Were the Police and Interlligent officials, Politician and the Society are some how unstandingly aiding these Neo-Nazi?

And my answear will be Yes, No!

Yes in some instant or situation and no when eye're on them.
13:10 November 25, 2011 by siba
@ johnne: experiences like these I made in many countries, also in the train in the NL and in Belgium. To specifically check foreigners is a common thing from the police, no matter to which country you will go. Don't know if they look for "illegals"... However it is wrong... but has nothing to do with neo-nazis...

fascist or even right-wing agendas have little space in mainstream society in germany... small groups of neo-nazis usually socilize in the deprived areas of the former communist east of germany. they are left alone in villages where everyone who is better off leaves. so right-wing groups have it easy there to win people by supporting them, by giving them a community...

however, neo-nazi-groups are nothing specific to Germany. they exist in all countries of the world, if in the US, in Russia or even in Israel... or think of the case of Breivik in Norway...

all in all germany is one of the most left-wing countries where right-wing discourses have little space. though - of course at the margins of society - there are extreme groups on the right and on the left... to offer them alternatives to their criminal and violent peer groups, that is the challenge...
Today's headlines
Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Parents who don't get nursery spot for kid entitled to pay
Photo: DPA

The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) ruled on Thursday that parents whose children don't receive placements in nursery care are entitled to compensation.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd