Germany promises intensive probe into series of murders by neo-Nazi group

Germany promises intensive probe into series of murders by neo-Nazi group


The German government has promised a full investigation into how a group of neo-Nazis managed to operate under the radar of authorities for years, killing ten people and robbing a string of banks. The case came to light earlier this month when two founding members of a neo-Nazi terror cell apparently committed suicide after police closed in on them following a bank robbery. „We are all asking how it could be that the security authorities allowed it to be possible for a known group of neo-Nazis to go underground at the end of the 1990s and apparently over 13 years murder people in various German cities, carry out bombing attacks, and lethally attack police officers,” Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said.

Federal prosecutors have taken over the investigation of the neo-Nazi case under German anti-terrorism laws, looking at the group as a domestic terrorist organization. Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said they would now conduct a „competent, goal-oriented and effective” investigation. „We all have a responsibility to ensure that extreme-right, nationalistic and anti-Semitic groups and networks are not able to again come together,” she added. The group called itself the National Socialist Underground (NSU) in reference to the name of Hitler’s National Socialist Party (NSDAP). NSU members are suspected of murdering at least ten people, including eight of Turkish origin, one with Greek roots, and a policewoman.

The investigation into the group’s activities has spiralled into a nationwide search of previously unsolved crimes, including attacks in Cologne and Düsseldorf from 2000 to 2004 that are now linked to them. Those attacks injured more than 30 people, mostly of foreign origin. Two NSU leaders have been arrested, including the suspected co-founder of the group, and two others died in an apparent suicide, but authorities believe the group might have relied on a larger network of helpers across the nation.

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency is tasked with tracking extremists, but each state has its own branch and its own police forces, which critics say resulted in a lack of coordination that helped the neo-Nazis remain undetected since 1998. Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said it now had to be determined whether this was simply „a small defined group of people or a widely linked network, whether there were clandestine sympathizers in Germany or elsewhere.” The crimes have caused an outcry across the country, including among the Jewish community and among immigrant groups, who maintain that authorities were too quick to dismiss the murders as regular street crime rather than extremism.

Earlier this week, Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said that the neo-Nazi „flagship” had to be „sunk, politically and legally.” His predecessor Charlotte Knobloch, who serves as a vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, said in an interview that many German politicians had not done enough in the fight against the extreme right. “We have been warning for years and asked for more sincerity and effort. Our concerns were not taken seriously.” She also reiterated a call to have the NPD party and other neo-Nazis groups banned by the courts.