To Stop Far Right Extremism, Germany Must First Come Clean
by Tina Lee
From the NSU to Neukölln to Hanau, a pattern of incompetence and cover-ups when it comes to Germany’s neo-nazi scene must be thoroughly investigated and explained
It has become a familiar and deeply disturbing pattern in recent years in Germany: a far-right inspired attack happens and the perpetrator is later revealed to be known to authorities who, for some reason, failed to act.
Initially, it was easy to believe security agencies when they said they had no prior knowledge of the attacker who went on a rampage in Hanau. The man identified as Tobias R. apparently acted alone when he brutally attacked two shisha bars, killing nine people before returning home to kill his mother and himself. He had posted a manifesto online, filled with racist and genocidal rants, and initial reports described him as an incel-style loner copying other “self-radicalized” terrorists of his ilk, such as Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik.
However, we now know that the security agencies failed to be upfront about their contact with the killer. According to reporting by t-online, he had sent a letter as far back as November to the state attorney’s office, describing his extremist beliefs and encouraging them to reach out to him. It has now been confirmedby Attorney General Peter Frank that the letter was received, but authorities neither opened an investigation into Tobias R. nor took the opportunity to check his weapons licenses. If they had taken either of these legally available avenues, the victims might still be alive.
This oversight can certainly be blamed on negligence by the authorities, but after a long string of similar incidences of failure to appreciate or react to the threat from the far- right, there is reason for the public to have serious concerns.
The incompetent and racist mishandling of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) case by authorities is well documented, but instead of making changes, the German government continues to obfuscate and cover up the facts. The case, in which a neo-nazi terror cell murdered people of color for years while authorities looked the other way despite heavily monitoring all the actors involved, has still not been fully explained.
Just this year, the strange case of Andreas Temme, a former intelligence official from Hesse monitoring neo-nazis during the period in which the NSU was active, has drawn new attention as evidence mounts that his presence at the scene of one of the NSU murders is inexplicable if he wasn’t somehow involved. When the interior minister of Hesse ordered a secret internal review into the matter, courts sealed the resulting report for an incredible 120 years. Temme, meanwhile, remains on state payroll.
Last year, authorities discovered a plot by former and current far-right German army officials to stockpile weapons for a mass assault on leftist or immigrant-friendly politicians throughout the country to spark a government overthrow. Who did they put in charge of the initial investigation into the conspiracy? According to reporting by TAZ, none other than the ringleader of the plotters himself, a military officer named Andre S., code name “Hannibal.” When politician Walter Lübcke, who had stood up for refugees in the state of Hesse, was murdered by a neo-nazi last year, the similarities to the planned assassination plot couldn’t be unseen.
In Hesse, a police officer who is accused of leaking sensitive information to neo-nazis is transferred,instead of fired. Threatening letters sent out and signed “NSU 2.0” were traced back to police station computers.
And just a month ago, police arrested 12 people in connection with a terrifying plot to attack multiple mosques around Germany in a larger scale Christchurch-style attack. Among the people arrested in the rapidly-formed extremist group was a police officer, who apparently did not hide his neo-nazi leanings among his colleagues and was formerly in charge of weapons license processes.
The examples are numerous and extremely worrying. But the concern is about more than just a major lack of the transparency that one expects from a democratic government. Taken together, these incidents look like the government is being actively infiltrated by members of the far-right, and is often more interested in protecting itself from scrutiny over its failure to root these people out than it is about saving the lives of religious and ethnic minorities in this country.
With the latest incident of not telling the truth about what was known about a far-right perpetrator, its déjà vu all over again. To stop the cycle and regain public trust, the government must fully explain this string of failures and cover ups, no matter how poorly it reflects on their past behavior. At this point, the revelation that institutional racism has blinded authorities to the threat of far right extremism would be a less sinister explanation than an increasingly viable alternative.