ISSN 2330-717X

Germany’s Neo-Nazi Death Squad – OpEd

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By Thomas Klikauer and Meg Young*

en years ago, one of Germany’s most violent post-war Neo-Nazi killing squad, the so-called National-Socialist Underground or NSU-network came to light when their caravan exploded and their Neo-Nazi hideout was set on fire to eliminate all evidence. This occurred in the former East-German city of Zwickau. Recently, a secret government file on the NSU was leaked.

The 150 page report talks about Neo-Nazis engaging in military-style war games. These self-appointed killer squads are furnished with weapons, explosives, armory, etc. One reported list includes secret locations for shooting and killing practices in the state of Hessen, where Neo-Nazis like to use remote forests. Yet, German Neo-Nazis also conducted such killing practices with their associates in Switzerland and the Czech Republic. Years ago, some of these Neo-Nazi gatherings laid the foundation for what was going to come: the NSU-network, that killed ten people: nine migrants and one policewoman.

Today, we know—and come to know that despite what the government and much of Germany’s media have told us—that the NSU was not only three people. The NSU-network was never just Uwe Mundlos, Uwe Böhnhardt and Beate Zschäpe, as German officials have liked to pretend for years. Instead, the NSU has always been a network of enablers, supporters, weapon suppliers, drivers, employers, financiers, hideout providers, ideology purveyors, etc. The NSU’s killings were made possible by a substantial network of Neo-Nazis. Some people estimated the immediate NSU-network to consist of is up to 130 hard-core Neo-Nazis.

By the time the NSU’s killing spree began, the NSU-network had constructed a substantial underground organization equipped with explosives depots, secret apartments, and a weapons’ workshop that enabled the NSU’s three prime killers to murder people over a ten-year period. All was to be kept away from the public until the year 2134—the year until which the report was to be kept secret. Yet, by October 2021, the secret government report “Geheime Verschlusssache” was leaked to the press.

Originally, the government’s secret report was part of an internal report of Hessen’s secret police, the so-called Office for the Protection of the Constitution. It is also known as Landesbehörde für Verfassungsschutz or LfV, in short. The LfV’s secret report was compiled long after the NSU terror was eventually discovered on November 4, 2011. The report is the outcome of a government investigation to find out whether Hessen’s LfV office—deliberately or otherwise—“overlooked” evidence during the many years of Neo-Nazi terror committed by the National Socialist Underground.

In Germany’s post-war history, these Neo-Nazi crimes remain highly significant. It includes ten murders of nine migrant tradesmen and a policewoman. There were also three explosive attacks, and no less than fifteen robberies. Yet, despite all this and a substantial public interest, the LfV’s report was classified as “secret”—not to be released for the next 120 years! Despite this, it was leaked to the media.

Unsurprisingly, reporting on the NSU has long been a political issue particularly when it comes to the role of the state. The secret existence of the report is yet another sign of the secretive and murky world of Germany’s Neo-Nazis and the government’s secret police. This is even more so when it comes to the investigation of the NSU-network’s terror, and the LfV’s very own involvement into Neo-Nazism and right-wing terror. Key to all this is a handful of the LfV’s secret agents. And here foremost, Andreas Temme. LfV undercover agent Temme is the proud owner of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Temme was also known as Klein Adolf—little Hitler.

Yet, the LfV-Nazi link not only concerns undercover agents. For example, immediately after the NSU blew up their caravan in Eisenach (former East-Germany), an LfV employee in Hessen started to shred NSU files – a successful operation. Much later, an investigative committee simply complained about “undelivered files”. However, most recently, another “outrage” was caused by the blocking of NSU files in the state of Hessen, when LfV files were not handed over. In other words, right-wing LfV agents working in cahoots with a Neo-Nazi death squad eliminated evidence of their links to Neo-Nazi crimes. Later, some committees somewhere complained about it and that was pretty much the end of it – case closed!

Unfortunately for the LfV, the secret report about all this became available – albeit with some redactions. Despite eliminating some parts of the report, its central theme, however, became openly apparent. Here is what the government’s secret report illuminates about the NSU-network and think between Neo-Nazis and Germany’s secret police.

On April 6, 2006, the NSU-network’s right-wing terrorists shot 21-year-old Halit Yozgat in his Internet café in the city of Kassel. This NSU Neo-Nazi crime still remains mysterious even until today. Yet, we know that the aforementioned LfV undercover agent Andreas Temme was on site during the murder. Temme later claimed, he had nothing to do with the murder and didn’t even notice the killing of Halit Yozgat while sitting in the Internet café. Interestingly, before and after the crime, Andreas Temme spoke on the phone with other agents of the LfV and with a Neo Nazi. About what they spoke, Temme and his Neo-Nazi friend do not want to remember. The entire case remains nebulous to this day.

The silence of Andreas Temme, the involvement of unknown other LfV agents, the role of other Neo-Nazis, the secretiveness of the Hessen’s LfV, etc. are the very reason why a petition with 134,000 signatories called for the complete disclosure of Hessen’s secret report on the NSU-network. Victims’ families and the public today still demand a right to get the missing information about the NSU-network. Hessen’s conservative state government (run by Merkel’s CDU) has declined to allow victims’ families to know the truth.

Yet, the conservative government was forced to reduce the period of the release of the report to thirty years. Hessen’s Interior Minister Peter Beuth (CDU) claims that a publication of the report is not possible for “legal reasons”. He also claims, this would endanger the work of the secret services and the security of the informers. After a decade—the NSU-network came to light in 2011—some might wonder if it is at all possible that the government’s ten-year-long secrecy is designed to protect Beuth (CDU), the LfV, Little Hitler (Temme), and the LfV’s involvement, and perhaps even support for killing Neo-Nazis and the NSU-network.

When the NSU-network blew up November 4, 2011, some files—before being destroyed—were frantically searched for clues in Hessen’s state office. The then Interior Minister Boris Rhein (CDU) ordered a systematic review on 18th of June 2012—in a safe distance from November 2011! Giving LfV enough time to alter files and to make some files disappear. Officially, it was announced that all files of the past twenty years should be checked again for NSU references.

It all paid off when 123,500 files had to be examined with more than one million pages. By December 2013—over two years after the NSU-network had ended—the state submitted its first report. The final version came almost a year later—a whopping three years after the NSU-network was finished. Yet, both reports—overseen by a conservative CDU government —remain unknown to the public.

Only after the socialist party, Die Linke, came across these secret reports during the sitting of a parliamentarian NSU Investigative Committee and obtained a “partial” insight, did the existence of these reports became public. Yet even the parliamentarian committee received only parts of the reports. For the public, the full reports are still under lock and key to this day. This system is called democracy.

Until today, the NSU-network is represented as the so-called “NSU Trio”—Uwe Mundlos, Uwe Böhnhardt and Beate Zschäpe. But from the newly leaked report, we know that the three Neo-Nazi killers had numerous so-called “relationships” to Hessen’s NPD and to party officials like Stefan Jagsch. Until today, the NPD is Germany’s most openly Neo-Nazi party. The NSU-NPD relationship also included mutual visits by a local Neo-Nazi, only known as Kevin S. These visits extended to a so-called “Brown House” in—brown being the colour of Germany’s real Nazis—Hitler’s brown shirts, the SA.

Perhaps one of the most important key figures of the NSU-network remains the NSU’s weapons procurer, strategist, and ideological mastermind, super Neo-Nazi Ralf Wohlleben, who walked out of the NSU court case (in 2018), scot-free while smiling. Also, part of the NSU-network is one of the most known German holocaust denier and longstanding Neo-Nazi, Manfred Roeder, who died in 2014. These men and many more were part of the substantial NSU-network that is publicly presented as “Das NSU-Trio”—just involving three people. Focusing on Das Trio allows for a Houdini-like vanishing act of an extensive Neo-Nazi network, while simultaneously eliminating the involvement of the state’s secret service and its dubious so-called undercover agents.

To maintain this façade, even the newly leaked report contains almost nothing on Klein Adolf (Hitler), Andreas Temme. Temme might even be involved in the Neo-Nazi killing of the local state politician Walter Lübcke. Instead of examining the secret service LfV-Nazi link, Germany’s state, its conservative political elite, and the media divert attention by focusing on a handful of Neo Nazis.

What we know now—even better—is the fact that there are plenty of weapons and explosives in the possession of German Neo-Nazis. We also know that Germany’s substantial Neo-Nazis constantly exchanged messages talking about forming killer cells and the building of more underground organizations. Yet, there are also personal details of Neo-Nazis. For example, the Neo-Nazi killer Stephan Ernst makes an early appearance. Neo-Nazi Ernst is linked to the NSU-network. Ernst later became the murderer of the regional politician Walter Lübcke.

Yet, there is also Benjamin Gärtner who is also from the city of Kassel (the place of Lübcke’s office). Gärtner not only likes to drink rather heavily but, he also likes to attend venues where Neo-Nazi rock bands play. Interestingly, the drinking Neo-Nazi Gärtner is employed by the LfV as an undercover agent. He is also the man with whom Andreas Temme (little Adolf) spoke on the phone from the Internet Café at the time of Halit Yozgat’s murder, while not realizing that a man was shot in the very café he was sitting in.

In October 2001, part-time Neo-Nazi and full-time undercover agent Gärtner attended a rally of the Neo-Nazi Thuringian Heimatschutz, in the former East-Germany city of Eisenach. The rally also included the NSU killers Mundlos, Böhnhardt and Zschäpe. Gärtner admitted that he also had contacts to Thuringia’s brutal Neo-Nazi organization Blood & Honor. To this day, it remains unclear whether this has been investigated. What we know is that despite – or perhaps because of – part-time Neo-Nazis like Temme and Gärtner, the NSU-network carried on killing for ten years—undetected.

Today, we also know that there were very serious shortcomings in the work done by Germany’s secret police, the LfV, to say the least. These problems had started well before its so-called “NSU investigation”. For example, in an LfV department called “procurement”, which oversees undercover agents and runs observations, chaos reigned with regard to record keeping. Up to fifteen different file numbers were sometimes given to the same person. This added to the confusion. In addition, there was a large amount of unregistered materials which could not be assigned to a specific case. Ultimately, the whereabouts of a whopping 541 NSU files could not be clarified.

Finally, nobody knows whether or not there were more references to the NSU linking the NSU to other Neo-Nazis. The LfV simply stated, files could not be retrieved. If someone ever wants to find out, one would have to sift through a huge volume of so-called “unspecified files” that might or might not be linked to the NSU-network. It is quite possible that many activities and contacts of the NSU terrorists were simply never discovered. The LfV also admitted that no attempts were made to verify facts through other information from other state authorities. In short, the LfV avoided putting facts in an overall context.

Yet, even in reports on the NSU-network, many evaluations and assessments were never documented. In other incidences, such evaluations simply never took place. Numerous references to gun ownership by right-wing and Neo-Nazi extremists were “usually” (!) not processed. Meanwhile, serious leads were not always followed up – a mind-numbing revelation.

Expectedly, Hessen’s parliamentary “NSU Committee” reached a damning verdict in July 2018. It stated, it should be noted that the state had evidence that indicated several connections of NSU trio to a larger Neo-Nazi network. But these links were never dealt with properly. It appears almost as if the state had either no interest in uncovering the extent of the NSU-network or—perhaps—sought to protect its very own part-time Neo-Nazis. A rather evil thought!

In any case, the state made sure that the links between Neo-Nazi and the NSU (Böhnhardt, Mundlos and Zschäpe) never came to light. The so-called “missing files” are silent on this. For many, all of this made one thing clear above all else, there was a very large number of very serious and potentially lethal mistakes made by the LfV. After all, the NSU-network killed ten people over a period of ten years—undetected.

As a consequence, the so-called fight against right-wing terrorism was a botched fight or no fight at all, State institutions—state police, LfVs in those states where the NSU did its killings, Germany’s federal police, its federal secret police agency, the BfV, etc. remained incapable or unwilling —or both: incapable and unwilling—to investigate the NSU-network allowing it to kill for ten years. Worse, during the decade-long robbing, bombing, and killing spree, and even after the NSU came to light—the NSU-network wasn’t uncovered by the police or the many so-called undercover agents—the myth of the NSU trio remains.

At no time, was any state agency really interested in uncovering the full extent of the NSU-Neo-Nazi links. The NSU-network was never seen as a network of up to 130 Neo-Nazis. This failure and deliberate avoidance of the truth about the NSU-network, quickly returned with a vengeance in the form of the “NSU 2.0”

The NSU 2.0

The NSU 2.0 continued some of the work of the NSU-network. It did so only a few years after the demise of the NSU-network. The NSU 2.0 started with letters. Between August 2018 and March 2020, politicians and other public figures received threatening letters signed with NSU 2.0. Eventually, Germany’s public prosecutor’s office has brought charges against the alleged perpetrator.

In three years since August 2018, NSU 2.0 had sent 115 threatening letters. Its signature NSU 2.0 is a reminder of the Neo-Nazi terrorist group, the NSU-network. The letters of the NSU 2.0 not only contained foul language and death threats, but also information that was not publicly available, such as private residential addresses of its victims.

Initially, an early investigation led to the ranks of the police themselves. The suspicion was that sensitive data was retrieved from police computers. Set against this assumption, by October 2021, Frankfurt’s public prosecutor was bringing charges against a man who is not a police officer and has never been a police officer.

NSU 2.0 started when the Frankfurt lawyer Seda Basay-Yildiz received a letter by fax. In it, she was subjected to extremely vulgar racist abuse and death threats. The author’s death threats were directed not only against her, but also against her daughter. The fax is signed with NSU 2.0. The home address of Seda Basay-Yildiz is correctly named even though her address was deleted from the public phone book since years. Seda Basay–Yildiz filed a complaint with the local police. In the infamous NSU trial, Seda Basay–Yildiz defended the family of the NSU’s first murder victim – a florist who was shot dead at his flower stand in Nuremberg on September 9th 2000.

During the initial NSU 2.0 investigation, the trial of the police leads into their own ranks. For the first time it is reported that the police register’s entries of Seda Basay–Yildiz was called up in the 1st precinct of the Frankfurt Police—without any apparent investigative police reason. What followed were house searches of the police officers who had access to the computer at the time in question. As a result, the state security comes across a secretive WhatsApp group in which extreme right-wing ideologies were exchanged over several weeks. The public prosecutor’s office started investigating four Frankfurt police officers and a policewoman.

Shortly thereafter, Seda Basay–Yildiz receives a second letter. At that time, a policeman from the Frankfurt Squad was already suspended from duty. The letter again relies on internal data from the police’s computer with references to the suspended Frankfurt police officers. The author is threatening Seda Basay–Yildiz again. At the end of the letter, it says, NSU 2.0. Meanwhile, the suspicion of a right-wing extremist network among the police is confirmed.

In early 2019, Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier meets with police officers during a visit to Frankfurt. He urges to clarify the alleged cases of right-wing extremism in the state’s police. The author of the threatening NSU 2.0 letters has still not been found. Seda Basay–Yildiz meets Steinmeier in Frankfurt.

A cabaret singer also receives right-wing extremist letters. Personal data of the artist came from a police computer located in Berlin and the city of Wiesbaden. After that, parliamentarian—Janine Wissler—receives two threatening emails signed NSU 2.0. They contained insults and the threat that your “day X” will come soon. It also said, “the police will not protect you”. Again, information about the politician was not publicly available but appears in the NSU 2.0 letter. Wissler, a member of parliament, has been campaigning against right-wing extremism, Neo-Nazism, and racism for a long time.

Meanwhile, the NSU 2.0 scandal is spreading. Hessen’s Interior Minister Peter Beuth (CDU) no longer rules out that there could be a right-wing network inside Hessen’s police force. He accuses the secret police (LfV) of serious mistakes in connection with the threatening emails to Wissler. As a consequence, Beuth appointed a special investigator to take over the investigation of the threatening emails reporting directly to the state’s police chief.

By September 2020, more threatening emails to women and the media appeared. The author wishes the women to be dead. Among them are left-wing politicians Martina Renner and Anne Helm – both members of the socialist “Die Linke”. The emails are signed with NSU 2.0.

In January 2021, someone calls the CDU politician Michael von Rüden twice. Rügen has a silent phone number. The calls says, male dog, it’s your turn next. The caller hangs up. On 29th January, an e-mail arrives at a school named after the murdered CDU politician Walter Lübcke. It was sent from an e-mail account called NSU 2.0. Police says that the emails were written in an ideological style and that an ideological motivation was clearly recognizable.

In February 2021, NSU 2.0 sends two bomb threats. One goes to a court where an old former concentration camp guard is charged. The second threat goes to the Itzehoe court where a former secretary of a concentration camp has been charged. A day later, an antisemitic email appears in the inbox of the Jewish weekly newspaper Jüdische Allgemeine.

Meanwhile, Frankfurt lawyer Seda Basay–Yildiz continued to be in the sights of NSU 2.0. The NSU 2.0’s text to Seda Basay–Yildiz ends with a Hitler salute and a drawing of an SS Obersturmbannführer. In the meantime, the investigation into NSU 2.0 continues without success.

By March, Peter Beuth reports a total of 133 threatening letters with 115 attributed to NSU 2.0. Free riders accounted for just 18 letters. The recipients of the NSU 2.0 letters and emails are public figures, especially from politics and the media. Most were sent by e-mail, but also by fax, by SMS, and other Internet links.

Finally, on the May 3, 2021, a 53-year-old man—only known as Alexander Horst M.—is arrested in a Berlin apartment. The unemployed German man had already been convicted several times, including for right-wing extremist hate crimes. Now Alexander Horst M. is suspected of having sent a series of threatening letters under the pseudonym NSU 2.0.

A joint investigation of Hessen’s police and the Frankfurt public prosecutor’s office ultimately led to the identification of the accused. The man was never a policeman. Police arrested the suspect during a search of his apartment. Police officers also secured a firearm and several data carriers.

By October 2021, Frankfurt’s public prosecutor had brought charges against the 53-year-old Alexander Horst M. The list of accusations includes insults, threat and incitement to hatred, as well as a whole series of other offences. In total, he is said to have written 116 threatening letters in the period between August 2018 and March 2020.

The man from Berlin is said to be behind the more than 100 death threats that were marked with NSU 2.0. To many, this shows that the digital world isn’t a lawless place. Public prosecutors had become aware of the NSU 2.0 man during a search on the Darknet. The public prosecutor’s Central Office for Combating Cybercrime was heavily involved.

Yet, Hessen’s special investigators took a very long time to crack the encryption of the suspicious Darknet communication. The prosecutor’s office is sure that the arrested person is the author of the 115 threatening letters which investigators attribute to NSU 2.0. During house searches, clear evidence of this was uncovered.

Yet, the parliamentarian opposition in Hessen’s state parliament do not yet consider the police to be completely off the hook. Simultaneously, Frankfurt prosecutor’s office also stressed that the investigation was by no means closed. It is still unclear whether the suspect has siphoned off information from police computers, or from other official digital sources.

In the end, and apart from the NSU 2.0 letters, there are still several networks of very militant, well- armed, and internationally networked Neo-Nazis in Germany. The talk of the so-called lone wolves, the single offender, the isolated NSU trio, etc. remains part of the problem. Despite a sheer endless list (1950s to today) of so-called Einzeltäter (individual culprits), the fairy tale of the individual Neo-Nazi as a lone wolf continues to be perpetrated.

The ideology of the lone wolf camouflages the network character of German Neo-Nazism. The myth of the lone Neo-Nazi takes out national and even international Neo-Nazi networks and support structures of Neo-Nazis. The hallucination of the single Neo-Nazi criminal focuses people’s attentions away from the murky world of Germany’s Neo-Nazis. Worse, the myth also takes out the role of Germany’s secret police with its so-called undercover agents often featuring as part-time Neo-Nazis. It eliminates the secret police’s multiple links to Neo-Nazi killing squads like the NSU. While too many hang on to the nonsense of the individual Neo-Nazi killer, Germany’s Neo-Nazi networks will continue to exist and they will continue to kill.

*Thomas Klikauer (MAs, Boston and Bremen University and PhD Warwick University, UK) teaches MBAs and supervises PhDs at the Sydney Graduate School of Management, Western Sydney University, Australia. He has over 700 publications and writes regularly for BraveNewEurope (Western Europe), the Barricades (Eastern Europe), Buzzflash (USA), Counterpunch (USA), Countercurrents (India), Tikkun (USA), and ZNet (USA). His next book is on Media Capitalism (Palgrave).

Meg Young (GCA and GCPA, University of New England at Armidale) is a Sydney Financial Accountant & HR Manager who likes good literature and proof reading.

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