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Armed neo-Nazi scene embraces violence

Ben Knight · 28 Nov 2011, 10:57

Published: 28 Nov 2011 10:57 GMT+01:00

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The worst ever terrorist attack on German soil was carried out by a neo-Nazi at the 1980 Oktoberfest in Munich. That was when 21-year-old Gundolf Köhler detonated a pipe bomb in toilets near the main entrance to Germany’s biggest festival, killing 13 people, including himself, and injuring over 200 others.

In light of this, it seems hard to believe that authorities could have underestimated the threat of far-right terrorism in Germany. But instead of rooting out extremist right-wing networks, intelligence agencies stepped up their efforts against Islamist terrorists over the past decade.

However, for the people whose work brings them close to far-right circles – in many cases helping reformed neo-Nazis to escape the scene, the latest revelations about the terrorist cell known as the National Socialist Underground (NSU) did not come as a shock.

“We weren’t surprised at all,” explained Reinhard Koch, director of ARUG, an initiative based in the western city of Wolfsburg that provides counselling for young people exposed to right-wing extremism. “There have long been signs that at some point such groups would form, and not only for us - it should have been clear to the authorities too.”

On top of that, “It can’t be ruled that there are other such groups,” Koch told The Local. “Weapons caches were constantly being found in this scene or that scene – it happened so often that people stopped even wondering what these weapons were for.”

Training camps

As far as Koch is concerned, the distance between the ‘ordinary’ neo-Nazi scene and the ‘hardcore’ element prepared to commit murder is very small. “You shouldn’t imagine that there are these nationalist gangs like the Kameradschaften, and then there’s a huge gap and then there’s a terrorist scene,” he said. “It all blends seamlessly together.”

Koch’s work with reformed neo-Nazis has taught him that violence permeates all parts of the extremist right-wing scene. This violence does not just take the form of drunken brawling at weekends, but disciplined training with guns administered by ex-servicemen.

“We have people in our programmes who have had weapons training themselves,” said Koch. “They were trained in western Germany, in Lower Saxony, by neo-Nazis who used to be mercenaries, for instance in the former Yugoslavia. Some were part of European training networks and got training in France or Belgium.”

The training takes place in remote country areas, sometimes privately owned, and sometimes rented for the purpose, either in an afternoon or over several days. “They often look for isolated wooded areas,” said Koch.

Not kids playing

Dierk Borstel, researcher into right-wing extremism at the University of Bielefeld, was also unsurprised to read the recent revelations about the NSU. “We’ve known that the option of terrorism, the option of militancy, the option of murder has been discussed in the extremist right-wing scene for some time,” he told The Local.

“A few years ago there was a group based in the Potsdam area that went underground that called itself the ‘National Resistance’ who specialized in blowing up Jewish cemeteries,” he said. “We have constantly had weapons and explosives finds, but they were never taken seriously. It was simply massively underestimated. The police just thought they were little boys playing cowboys and Indians.”

In the past, far-right nationalism has been concentrated in larger, more publicly visible structures with clear hierarchies. According to Koch, these have been put under so much pressure in the past four or five years, both from the police and from left-wing anti-fascist organizations that they have split into smaller underground networks.

These smaller cells are increasingly putting emphasis on direct action rather than political statements. “We know that it’s not about making political statements or having political theories,” said Koch. “What counts is what we call the ‘propaganda of the act.’”

That has inevitably led to a growing readiness for violence. “It’s more like, ‘We see ourselves as fighters. We see ourselves as surrounded by enemies, and we are prepared to target our political opponents.’ And apparently it is more and more about being armed,” said Koch.

East German and unemployed?

Two myths consistently cling to the image of the German neo-Nazi – that he is from the former communist East Germany, and that he is unemployed.

Story continues below…

“That really is nonsense,” said Borstel. “Some westerner just thought to themselves the system that the Stasi (East German secret police) promoted could somehow protect the NSU. I think that’s just stupid and really quite offensive.”

“It is a little different in the east than the west, because of the history,” admitted Borstel. “And also because there is less experience of democracy and immigration, and there have been different economic problems in the east. But I seem to remember that the first right-wing terrorist group began in Munich.”

The same is true of other staple stereotypes.

“Young, male, unemployed - the typical neo-Nazi. That’s one of the myths that we have had to work against for a long time,” said Koch. “Generally we can say that many of them had anxieties about finding their place and securing their livelihoods or their status in a fast-changing, globalizing world.”

It is this very universal fear that, according to Koch, drives many young people to extremism.

“What they want is a place or a group they say they belong to,” said Koch. “Many young people are searching for security and certainty, and the right-wing scene offers them that.”

Ben Knight (ben.knight@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

02:31 November 29, 2011 by bernie1927
These losers are obviously the scum of the earth and they have absolutely nothing to do with Nazis. Just put them in jail and throw the key away and don't take them seriously because that's all they want. Since they are most likely unemployed and have too much time on their hands, make sure you give them something to do in jail, such as breaking up rocks or cleaning up the environment. How does this moron ever expect to get a decent job with his "skinhead" tattoo on his skull?
16:33 November 29, 2011 by Dom Tower
I'm schocked you mention so roughly this terrible Oktoberfest affair. Just keep in mind that this cruel incident is highly suspected - like the Bologna Railway Station bombing - to be a manipulation of Nato secret services (cf. "Gladio affair"). Don't miss the target ! The Skinhaeads are dangerous mad people, but more dangerous are manipulators in cold blood. Here, in France, everybody knows that the real authors of the Saint-Michel Subway bomb strike were islamic terrorists, but Algeria's ministry of Interior who wanted to force France to help them against GIA terrorists. Let us citizen have more control on secret services ! And open our mind before talking of the comfortable explanation of the everlasting "plot theory".
01:16 November 30, 2011 by Jimbob_77
Neo-Nazi will come alive again.....The Catholic Church will be aligned with "the Beast" as the Bible states. The king of the south, Iran with push the king of the North (Holy Roman Empire) and the king of the north will destroy the king of the south....(.Daniel) from the Bible.............It's coming swiftley, be prepared... After the USA falls it will come quickly. The Neo- Nazis are still here and only getting stronger until time is ready for them.....
20:23 November 30, 2011 by brnskin2010
@JimBob_77...OH FOOL AND SLOW OF HEART...not to believe all of the prophets....the neo-nazi's won't control S&^%....that dispensation has passed.....the catholic church is the whore that sits on many waters..(waters is mankind).....You know NOTHING about YAHWEH as he really is and actually exist...therefore you know nothing about HIS DIVINE PATTERN PURPOSE AND PLAN....he is King of Kings...King of the north, south, east n west....HE IS THE ULTIMATE SOURCE, SUBSTANCE, LIMITS N BOUNDS OF EVERYTHING....HE IS intelligence, wisdom, knowledge, love , beauty , justice, foundation, power and strength...HE DOES NOT possess this attributes such as mankind....HE IS those attributes......neo nazi's and those that think they need to purify their race is a manifestation of that angelic being that was cast out of heaven into the earth and is eternally damned......no redemption, he is a reprobate he was created that way for the purpose of being wrong to be right and right to be wrong.....can u see with an eye of understanding and not with a carnal mind.....
23:06 November 30, 2011 by MaKo
Now those are some crazy comments, even by Local standards.
17:22 December 2, 2011 by tonybot
we have these losers in amerika too
16:11 December 3, 2011 by Bruno53
They are scaring away tourists. Even I have doubts of visiting Germany if I had the chance. I'll feel safer in Japan, I think.
19:51 December 3, 2011 by DrWPierceTV4
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
04:38 December 5, 2011 by Jimbob_77
I would suggest, if you are a prophecy sceptic then type in "The Trumpet". Read it and weep ....Germany ( ancient Assyria ) has always been used by God to punish Isreal and other nations for not obeying Him. The crown of Judah was given over to the royal family of England thru blood lineage of King David and the Birthright was given to the USA. The most prosperous nation on earth.... there will never be Nation greater. The fourth reich is approaching thru a very smart, cunning indiviual. The credit crisis is going to be used as the way in....watch and be amazed....
17:42 December 5, 2011 by Maschinenbau
@Bruno53 how do you imagine the situation in germany? do you really think there is a danger for normal people or even tourist?
17:02 December 6, 2011 by Jimbob_77
No, not yet but someday soon. As you notice that more neo-nazi issues come forth it will come closer to the time when all must take cover. "The Trumpet" magazine on line will answer all your questions from the Bible. Iran will side up with the Muslim Brotherhood which will include Eygpt, Libya and Ethipia. The new holy roman empire will be asked by Israel for help after the USA goes broke and then with Germany at the head of the roman empire will destroy the Iranian threat.... Read "The Trumpet" and you will be amazed....
21:43 December 11, 2011 by david53
ALL EXTREME GROUPS ARE BAD,We must talk about our differences, but also we must defend ourselves when attacked, good will triumph over evil.
14:50 December 12, 2011 by TheCountess
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
17:58 December 30, 2011 by yuri_nahl
Biggest terrorist attack in 1980....then 10 murders in 10 years? Pretty lousy terrorists. Then , that guy has , "Skinhead" tattooed on his head!! Hey, that's stealthy!
06:37 January 3, 2012 by lewis69
This guy was obviously a nut case like that Brevic guy in Norway crazy people go on killing sprees all the time for various reasons there crazy.

If he loved white people so much why did he kill so many at that october fest because he was a lone wolf nut case like the guy in Belgium.

The nazies are not a big threat to the public unless your a forigner the real threat is islamic crazies look at the number of attacks by them in the last 25 years there is no comparison.
14:02 January 3, 2012 by henry1544
Ok, nazis are bad. Everybody agrees. But how about the muslims? How many people do they kill in Germany every year? How many do they rape? How many do they rob? How many do they attack?

I know that they highly outnumber the neo-nazis. Now, when are we going to talk about that?
07:00 January 5, 2012 by lewis69
@ henry1544 thats what Im saying here its not worth the cheap labour the risk to our people is too great one of the 9/11 attackers spent alot of time in Germany you know their ploting somthing big in Europe just you watch.
17:22 January 9, 2012 by Jimbob_77
According to prophecy in Daniel 11, the EC lead by Germany will attack Iran, Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia in a whirlwind and destroy them....:)
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