Germany: The rising threat of neo-Nazi terrorism
How many more people must die, askedAnnette Ramelsberger in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, “before police, prosecutors, and domestic intelligence understand that the most dangerous enemy is not on the Left but on the Right?” The murder of Walter Lübcke, president of the Kassel regional council in central Germany, should be a wake-up call for the nation. A member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union and an outspoken supporter of her 2015 decision to let 1 million asylum seekers into Germany, the 65-year-old Lübcke was found shot dead at his home in early June. Last week, suspected neo-Nazi Stephan Ernst was arrested for the murder. Lübcke is not the first politician targeted by the far right. Cologne’s mayor was slashed with a knife in 2015 and nearly died; two years later, a small-town mayor was badly wounded in a stabbing. Both were victims of extremists who hated them for welcoming migrants. Yet just as with Lübcke’s murder, police initially sought a nonpolitical motive for those attacks, unwilling to recognize the hand of right-wing terrorists. Our police appear locked in the mindset of the 1970s, when far-left militants like the Red Army Faction were regarded as the greatest threat. Perhaps that’s why neo-Nazis today regard “the police not as opponents, but as possible allies.”
We need to know more about the connections between the far right and law enforcement, said Friederike Haupt in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. From 2000 to 2007, a neo-Nazi gang murdered at least 10 people in Germany—most of them Turkish immigrants—and set off a nail bomb in Cologne that wounded 22 people. Yet for years, authorities insisted that the real perpetrators were Turkish gangsters. An inquiry into how police and domestic intelligence could have bungled the investigations for so long, leaving the killers free to keep killing, found so many errors—including the shredding of evidence—that experts suspected “deliberate sabotage” by state agents. Yet the public can’t see the report on the investigations: It’s been marked to remain “classified for 120 years.” Meanwhile, the neo-Nazi threat keeps growing, said Burkhard Uhlenbroich in Bild am Sonntag. Federal authorities say that Germany is currently home to 24,100 far-right extremists, half of whom are considered “prone to violence.” Two radical subgroups identified as “Reich citizens” and “self-administrators” reject the modern German government as illegitimate; 910 of their members have firearms licenses. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer says “far-right terrorism is now on a par with Islamist terror.”
It’s actually worse, said Matthias Kamann in Die Welt, because this poison is infecting our politics. Members of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, the largest opposition party in the Bundestag, frequently appear to encourage political violence. Lawmaker Marc Jongen has been preaching for an increased “level of anger” in society, while Maximilian Krah, an AfD member of the European Parliament, has said his party is “shooting the way clear” to a new Germany. No one should be surprised when the shooting stops being rhetorical and becomes deadly real.