Neo-Nazi cell shines light on far-right extremism in Germany
Neo-Nazi bank robbers found dead last week are suspected in Germany's worst case of racially motivated killings. Their confessional tape reveals a current of right-wing extremism that politicians have long denied.
Ten days ago, police in the town of Eisenach in southeast Germany found the scarred bodies of two men with gunshot wounds to the head in a burned-out recreational vehicle. At the time, it looked like a double suicide of two bank robbers who had just stolen 10,000 euros at gunpoint from a local bank and then been cornered by officers.Skip to next paragraph
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But new information, trickling out on an almost-daily basis, has since revealed to a baffled public that these men were likely Germany’s most wanted serial killers, responsible for a string of racially motivated murders, and also members of a far-right terrorist network.Until very recently, many German politicians denied the network existed.
After the Berlin Wall came down, there was a surge of right-wing activity, particularly in eastern Germany. Far-right parties tapped into people's worries and insecurities, resulting in a number of violent attacks on ethnic minorities and political opponents. But increasing prosperity diminished the ideological basis for the far right – weakening the resonance of such rallying cries as "German jobs for German workers." The far right still features in regional parliaments, but does not play as significant a role as it did 20 years ago.
“It seems that we are dealing with a new form of right-wing extremist terrorism,” Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said yesterday. Chancellor Angela Merkel called it a “national shame” and said the events revealed the existence of extremist structures “we had not imagined” when speaking with reporters yesterday. Germany’s minister of justice, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, asked authorities “to investigate with all means possible the dimensions far-right networks in the country have reached."
The number of neo-Nazis in Germany has fluctuated between 2,000 and 5,000 in the past 20 years, while the support for far-right organizations in the population has decreased, according to a report by the federal police. The same report mentions a marked increase in the number of politically motivated felonies carried out by offenders with a far-right background.
Police find several weapons on robbers
Police say they found a number of weapons on the dead men and in their house in the southern town of Zwickau. Two were the service weapons of police officers who were shot in the head in a park in the city of Heilbronn in 2007. A 22-year-old policewoman died and her partner was seriously wounded.
Equally shocking was the discovery of a pistol which police say has been used in the so-called “kebab murders,” a series of at least nine killings between 2000 and 2006 in various German cities targeting immigrants, mostly Turkish owners of small kebab shops. The victims were killed in broad daylight, execution-style, with shots to the head.