Minister: neo-Nazi violence up in 2012

The number of far-right violent attacks rose again last year, it emerged on Sunday. German ministers warned against downplaying the threat from neo-Nazis, yet would not support a ban on the far-right NPD party.

Minister: neo-Nazi violence up in 2012
Photo: DPA

“There’s a potential for violence among neo-Nazis which we cannot underestimate,” German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich told Der Tagesspiegel newspaper on Sunday.

“Our preliminary results [for 2012] show a rise of around four percent in politically motivated far-right crimes, up to around 17,600,” said Friedrich. Of those, the number of far-right violent crimes was up two percent on the previous year, he added.

“There’s a slight upward trend with politically motivated far-right crimes and violent acts,” he said.

The German government has in the past been accused of downplaying far-right violence. Official police statistics record 63 murders by far-right extremists since 1990, but research published last week by Der Tagesspiegel and Die Zeit newspapers suggests the number could be over double that, at 152.

The papers said far-right motivated violent crimes were often not recorded as such by courts and police. Friedrich said on Sunday he would re-address the issue of classifying what constituted far-right violence when he next met with the interior ministers of the German states.

However, despite the growing threat of far-right violence, the interior minister repeated his opposition to banning the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD).

Friedrich, along with the rest of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet, agreed this week that the ruling coalition would not support the latest motion to ban the far-right NPD, led by the German states in the Bundesrat upper house of parliament.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble also voiced opposition to a NPD ban on Sunday, and said the move would have the opposite from the desired effect.

“We run the risk of creating a problem which at the moment solves itself [without intervention],” Schäuble told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper. In normal times in Germany, he said, right-wing extremists usually shot themselves in the foot.

Schäuble said he doubted whether a party in general could be classified as unconstitutional – the legal basis of the move to ban the NPD – and whether a ban could be successfully enforced.

DAPD/The Local/jlb

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101-year-old former Nazi guard pleads innocent in German trial

A 101-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard on Monday once again denied being complicit in war crimes during the Holocaust as his trial drew to a close in Germany.

101-year-old former Nazi guard pleads innocent in German trial

Josef Schütz, the oldest person so far to face trial over Nazi crimes during World War II, is accused of involvement in the murders of 3,518 prisoners at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, between 1942 and 1945.

The pensioner, who now lives in Brandenburg state, has pleaded innocent throughout the trial, saying he did “absolutely nothing” and was not aware of the gruesome crimes being carried out at the camp.

“I don’t know why I am here,” he said again at the close of the proceedings, his voice wavering.

Dressed in a grey shirt and pyjama bottoms and sitting in a wheelchair, Schütz insisted he had had nothing to do with the atrocities and was “telling the truth”.

READ ALSO: Ex-Nazi death camp secretary who fled trial to face court in Germany

Prosecutors say he “knowingly and willingly” participated in the crimes as a guard at the camp and are seeking to punish him with five years behind bars.

But Schütz’s lawyer, Stefan Waterkamp, said that since there were no photographs of him wearing an SS uniform, the case was based on “hints” of his possible involvement.

“As early as 1973, investigators had information about him but did not pursue him. At the time, witnesses could have been heard but now they are all dead or no longer able to speak,” Waterkamp said.

Former Nazi guard

The 101-year-old former Nazi guard covers his face at the Neuruppin courthouse. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

It would be a mistake for the court to try to “make up for the mistakes of a previous generation of judges”, the lawyer said.

Antoine Grumbach, 80, whose father died in Sachsenhausen, told AFP Schuetz “does not want to remember”, calling it “a form of defence”.

The trial was not just about “putting a centenarian in prison”, he said. It had also produced evidence that Sachsenhausen was an “experimental extermination camp”.

“All the cruellest methods were invented there and then exported,” Grumbach said.

READ ALSO: Trials of aging Nazis a ‘reminder for the present’, says German prosecutor