Feature

Germany: A neo-Nazi terror cell

Police in Germany have just discovered a group of neo-Nazi terrorists—a National Socialist Underground network—that has been commiting crimes for the past 13 years.

This is a total meltdown of homeland security, said Christiane Kohl in the Munich Süddeutsche Zeitung. For the past 13 years, a small group of neo-Nazi terrorists have been “killing foreigners, building bombs, and robbing banks without the police even knowing they existed.” The cell was discovered only after two of the terrorists killed themselves and a third fire-bombed the apartment the three shared in an attempt to destroy evidence. Police investigating the bombed-out apartment in the town of Zwickau found guns used in past killings and a DVD of the trio confessing to the murders of a policewoman and nine immigrants, mostly Turks, over the past decade. In the recording, they claimed to be members of a hitherto unknown group called “National Socialist Underground,” a “network of comrades who act rather than talk.” As Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said, “It looks like we are facing a new form of right-wing extremist terrorism.”

Not exactly, said Jasper von Altenbockum in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Terrorism has two components: the violent acts, and the public pronouncements and political statements that accompany them. This “Zwickau cell,” as it’s being called, never took credit for its murders or sought to strike fear into the hearts of other potential victims. So comparing it to the 1970s leftist terrorist group Red Army Faction, as many newscasters are doing, is elevating these criminals to a status they don’t deserve. Even so, the fact that they operated for so long all over the country without anyone realizing is a scary indictment of our law-enforcement bodies. Three of the four known cell members—the two dead men, as well as a woman and man arrested last week—had been arrested in 1998 for possession of explosives. Yet after they skipped bail, the police didn’t do much to try to locate them beyond putting out an international arrest warrant. Have the police been “so obsessed with Islamist terrorism” that they neglected to follow our “homegrown brand of extremists?”

The extent of extreme-right violence in Germany has been woefully underestimated, said Frank Jansen in the Berlin Der Tagesspiegel. The government claims that neo-Nazis have killed just 48 people since German reunification, in 1991. But this newspaper’s research has turned up at least 138 such murders—nearly three times as many. It’s no wonder that many are now calling for a ban on the far-right National Democratic Party, or NPD. Yet such a ban could backfire, said Stefan Kuzmany in Der Spiegel. Certainly no party is more repugnant. Its members shout, “Foreigners go home,” and even put fake “return plane tickets” in immigrants’ mailboxes. Yet it’s also its own worst enemy. The few members that actually make it to elected office have quickly demonstrated their intellectual incompetence and made themselves look utterly “ridiculous.” Banning the party wouldn’t turn a single neo-Nazi into a social democrat. What it might do, though, is “send even more of them underground.” How many more terror cells might spring up?

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