German charged over making Nazi memorial in French field

A suspected German neo-Nazi accused of erecting a headstone in a French field to honour a Nazi tank division has been charged with glorifying crimes against humanity, French prosecutors said Thursday.

German charged over making Nazi memorial in French field
Volmunster, a small French village on the German border with slightly over 800 inhabitants. Photo: DPA

The monument to the 17th Panzer Infantry Division, whose members are suspected of massacring 124 people in a village in central France in August 1944, was discovered in January in a field outside the northeastern village of Volmunster, on the border with Germany.

Set on private ground, the headstone was nonetheless visible to passers-by.

It read “In honour of the fallen of the 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division. Approach, Engage and Overrun!”, according to pictures in French media.

Investigators working with the Office for Fighting Crimes against Humanity, Genocide and War Crimes seized the plaque and tracked down the owner of the field, a 34-year-old German living across the border in the Saarland region.

According to the local Republicain Lorrain newspaper, “various objects, as well as computer data”, were seized during a search of his home in April.

German neo-Nazis have regularly congregated across the border in the Lorraine region of France, which together with neighbouring Alsace changed hands four times between France and Germany between 1870 and the end of World War II.

In 2012, authorities in Volmunster opposed renting out a local hall for a gathering of around 1,000 Neo-Nazis, mostly coming from Germany.

The gathering was held instead at a privately-owned hangar in Toul near the city of Nancy.

Several neo-Nazi “hatecore” rock concerts have also been held in the area.

French police say strict German laws banning Nazi symbols, even in private settings, have spurred white supremacists to continue their activities across the border.

In France, the police cannot break up a private party unless there is suspicion of criminal activity or a disturbance of the peace.

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German police arrest ‘NSU 2.0’ suspect over neo-Nazi threats

German police have arrested a man they suspect of sending threatening letters inspired by a shadowy neo-Nazi cell that committed a string of racist murders in the 2000s, prosecutors said Tuesday.

German police arrest 'NSU 2.0' suspect over neo-Nazi threats
At a rally in Wiesbaden in July 2020, a protester holds a sign that says: Solidarity with those affected by NSU 2.0”. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Arne Dedert

The 53-year-old unemployed German national had been convicted in the past of crimes linked to the far right, the prosecutor’s office for the western city of Frankfurt said.

He is “strongly suspected” of having sent, since August 2018, a series “of threatening letters with hateful, insulting and threatening content” under the pseudonym “NSU 2.0”, the prosecutor said.

The name refers to the National Socialist Underground, a neo-Nazi extremist group uncovered in 2011 that murdered 10 people and planted three bombs.

The letters were mainly addressed to public officials, notably members of the federal parliament and that of the Hesse region.

Investigators had initially suspected that the man was linked to the police themselves, as information on the people threatened had been collected from police stations.

But prosecutors said the person detained was not a police officer. The suspect was taken into custody at his Berlin apartment during a search.

READ ALSO: Fears over Germany’s far-right grow after Halle attack

The assassination in June 2019 of pro-migration politician Walter Lübcke shocked the country and highlighted the growing threat of right-wing extremism.

Previously, the NSU was able to carry out the murders of eight Turkish immigrants, a Greek and a German policewoman as investigators focused their probe in error on members of Germany’s immigrant communities.