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News Post: Is Germany Determined to Combat a Growing Neo-Nazism Problem?

National Socialist Underground (Getty)

On January 20, 2012, the German President Christian Wulff remembered the 70th anniversary of the “Wannsee Conference,” in which historians believe Nazi leaders coordinated plans to exterminate European Jews and thus established the official German policy of genocide.

The President reminded the German people not to forget the “unbelievable and unimaginable” history that Germany could not afford to repeat.  He vowed to fight the terror and racial hatred caused by violence perpetrated by far-right neo-Nazi groups. While the President’s promise is commendable, Germany needs to match their words with proactive changes when it comes to tackling the right-wing extremist groups that have been growing in Germany.

Germany’s right-wing extremist movement is founded on the concepts of nationalism and racism. Since the end of the Second World War, Germany has continually tried to become a multinational country, welcoming immigrants from around the world to live peacefully in a new democratic Germany. However, many decades later, the reality depicts a different picture.

The number of politically and racially motivated crimes committed by followers of the right-wing movement in Germany reached the all-time high of 20,000 in 2008. While the number of these crimes has been declining since 2008, 3,044 violent politically motivated crimes were recorded in 2009 and 2,636 such crimes took place in 2010. The German authorities count “hate crimes” as a subcategory of politically motivated offenses, thus the actual number of the hate crimes is likely much higher.

Some experts on the subject think that the German authorities have been trivializing the extent of the right-wing violence in the country. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the German domestic intelligence service, estimates that there are 25,000 far-right group members, 9,500 of which are prone to violence. These experts believe that the right-wing groups have committed more than 100 murders in Germany since 1990. Despite the persistent trend in the growth of the hate crimes, police have not stepped up efforts to track and investigate these extremist groups. Police and governmental authorities are more concerned with surveillance of Islamist terrorists present in the country, but the overall damage caused by Islamist terror groups is significantly less that that caused by domestic neo-Nazis.

While German authorities have improved their response to hate violence in recent years, many such crimes are not investigated adequately or are prosecuted wrongly as ordinary crimes.  Another problem is that police themselves discourage victims of hate crimes from filing complaints and often scrutinize the victims rather than gather evidence and pursue the perpetrators. In addition, minorities and immigrants are normally reluctant to complain to German police about the hate crimes.

Germany’s inadequate methods of combating the hate crimes have been under close scrutiny following the recent revelations about the German police failures to adequately investigate a dangerous neo-Nazi group called the “National Socialist Underground.” The small Neo-Nazi group brutally killed nine people, eight of whom were Turkish immigrants or of Turkish decent, and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007. The group also bombed an immigrant neighborhood in Cologne in 2004, injuring 22 people, mostly Turkish immigrants.  The information about the existence of the neo-Nazi gang came to light after two of its members were found dead having committed suicide to avoid prosecution while an additional member surrendered to police.

Some German politicians rightfully expressed disappointment in the law enforcement, blaming the authorities for not taking the hate crimes committed by the right-wing extremists seriously.

The criticism of German authorities increased after it became known that German intelligence agencies had information about “National Socialist Underground,” but did not act to stop them. Most troubling is the fact that an employee of a German intelligence agency, who was known for openly expressing his right-wing views, is suspected in being present during the three of the murders committed by “National Socialist Underground.” His precise involvement in the murders is under current investigation.

President Wulff said the recent killing spree was “something that authorities didn’t believe to have been possible in this day and age.” Yet, these racially motivated murders provide ample evidence to the contrary.


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University of Denver Sturm College of Law

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