In datacide twelve, we detailed the scandal surrounding the killing spree of the Neo-Nazi terrorist organisation Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund (National Socialist Underground, NSU) and the involvement of the domestic state security agency Verfassungsschutz (VS). This was followed by an update in datacide thirteen. In the meantime, the court case against Beate Zschäpe (the surviving member of the NSU ‘terror trio’) et. al. has continued. Simultaneously, the various parliamentary fact-finding commissions have been at work supposedly to shed light on the backgrounds of the crimes as well as the role the security services may have played in them.
The court case seemingly took a fundamental turn when Zschäpe decided to make a statement after all. Unsurprisingly, her 53-page statement was designed to exculpate herself from the accusations of complicity in the murders and claimed that she hadn’t been a member of the NSU, which conveniently – since they are both dead – only consisted of Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos.
This was after she had already had her conditions of detention softened because the NSU supposedly no longer existed. Even though her claims were widely seen as lies, the possibility of a much larger membership of the terrorist organisation is barely being investigated.
In the meantime, parliamentarians in the fact-finding commissions experienced that state attorneys and police were generally not very forthcoming with information, blocking effective investigations of the connections and overlap of the domestic security services and the Neo-Nazi scene. The state agencies remain very economical with the truth. This situation is not helped by the fact that five witnesses have died under suspicious circumstances, the first in 2009, the fifth as recently as February 2016.
When asked ‘What lessons do you draw from the NSU-affair?’, the president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Hans-Georg Maaßen, answered ‘the lesson from the ten murders of the NSU is that the threads of process (‘Verfahrensfäden’) have to be pulled together. With the intelligence services network (‘Verfassungsschutzverbund’), the strengthening of the central office through the reform of the Constitution Protection Act, we have taken care of this. All the information converges with us’. (Ostsee-Zeitung, 13-12-2015). This shows that the office has not a shred of self-criticism – except that it wasn’t centralised enough.
It is also interesting that the word ‘Verfahrensfäden’ doesn’t actually exist in the German language, so the sentence means even less. Former vice president, now state secretary in the Ministry of the Interior, Klaus-Dieter Fritsche, was blunt, defending the stonewalling of state agencies in the face of the inquiries: ‘No secrets must be exposed which could impair the activity of the state … the welfare of the state is more important than parliamentary elucidation’. (Wildcat 95 editorial, also Interview with Stefan Aust/Dirk Laabs, Bayerischer Rundfunk 16-06-2014). In the end the office has emerged strengthened from the scandal, and no provisions whatsoever have been implemented to prevent it from financing far right groups, including violent and terrorist organisations.
Even the latest embarrassment – that Mundlos was employed in the business of an agent of the VS while being underground and after the killing spree had already begun – is unlikely to change that.
So was the NSU the only far right terrorist group? And is right wing terrorism now over? Nothing could be further from the truth. To start with, it’s wrong to claim that the NSU consisted only of the “terror trio”. The concept of “membership” in such a group is somewhat questionable – obviously there are no membership cards or lists. Membership is attributed either by a person admitting to or claiming it, or by the state attorney trying to prove “membership in a terrorist organisation” as a criminal offence. It speaks volumes that no such attempt is being made against the support network that the NSU undisputedly could count on. Perhaps because agents of the VS could be amongst the people who would come under investigation?
With or without the NSU, there is a veritable wave of xenophobic far right terror sweeping the nation. In 2015 there were over 1,000 attacks against refugee homes, many of them arson attacks. More recently there has even been an attack with a hand granade (FAZ, 29-01-2016). It completely misses the point to look for an “organisation” behind these attacks – much of right wing terror is conducted according to the principles of ‘leaderless resistance’, first developed by Ulius Louis Amoss, a former US secret agent, for anti-Communist subversion in the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War in 1953, and popularised in the far right scene by Klu-Klux-Klan member Louis Beam since 1983. The idea is to avoid the traces more structured organisations will leave and avoid the danger that whole networks could be swept up if a single cell or individual is caught. Amoss’ dictum was ‘we do not need “leaders”; we need leading ideas’. This works particularly well for dickhead ideas like violent xenophobia and other simple-minded aims. It also leaves it more or less open to the legal prosecution to construe or deny the existence of a terrorist organisation.
In German practice, this has lead to numerous left wingers being sent to prison for ‘membership in a terrorist organisation’ in the absence of other crimes, while in the case of the NSU the book is being closed before things can be investigated thoroughly. Similarly to David Copeland’s nail bombings in London these are now seen as isolated incidents or “lone wolf” attacks. But Copeland is a perfect example that this assessment is often disingenuous – he had direct connections to the British National Party (see datacide seven, p. 3) which were purposefully brushed under the carpet. One of the NSU crimes, a nailbomb attack in Cologne in June 2004, was a direct copycat attack of the ones perpetrated by Copeland – even down to the size of the nails. Scotland Yard even supplied a 90-page dossier pointing out the similarities, but German law enforcement chose to ignore it (Aust/Laabs interview, see above).
But attacks against foreigners, refugees and asylum seekers are by no means the only violent activity that Neo-Nazis engage in; there have also been attacks against whole streets they consider strongholds of the radical left both in Berlin (Rigaer Strasse, September 2015) and Leipzig (Connewitz, January 2016). The latter has been extremely violent when more than 200 Neo-Nazis went on a rampage with baseball bats, iron bars and axes, smashing windows and physically attacking people.
While recent rallies of the organised hard right, such as the National Democratic Party (NPD), have only attracted very few die-hard activists and have been successfully countered by anti-fascists, the right wing populist mobilisations – such as Pegida – and the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) are attracting many people for their rallies and many votes at local elections. Neo-Nazis are successfully mingling with and influencing the rightward-lurching ‘enraged citizens’.
The state however has shown – with a massive raid against a left wing house project right on Rigaer Strasse only a few days after the events in Leipzig-Connewitz – that it firmly sees its enemies on the left.