Fighting the Fringes Berlin Sharpens Focus on Right-Wing Extremism

The German government has been under fire ever since a murderous far-right terror cell was uncovered in 2011. Now, Chancellor Merkel's justice minister has proposed the establishment of a commission to coordinate the battle against extremism in the country.

Germany's justice minister wants to better coordinate the fight against the right.

Germany's justice minister wants to better coordinate the fight against the right.

When German Family Minister Kristina Schröder established an initiative in 2010 to combat left-wing extremism in the country, the outcry was immediate. First and foremost, many worried that Chancellor Angela Merkel's government was equating left-wing violence with right-wing violence and losing its focus in the fight against neo-Nazis.

It didn't take long before those concerns became more urgent. In November of 2011, police uncovered the National Socialist Underground (NSU), the neo-Nazi terror cell which murdered 10 people, nine of them with foreign backgrounds, from 2000 to 2007. Now, partially in reaction to the numerous police and official errors made during the investigation of the string of killings, Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger has proposed the establishment of a commissioner to focus exclusively on extremism in Germany.

The commissioner, she told the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, should be situated in the Chancellery and should act as a coordinator for all state-sponsored programs designed to combat extremism. Currently, she noted, "citizens who seek to counter extremist activities on a local level … are frustrated rather than encouraged."

She said that, while there are a number of programs currently in place, the diversity of the initiatives has become so highly complex "that they seem opaque and even inconsistent." She said that a survey among various ministries in Berlin found that nobody has a clear overview of the various programs and projects.

Undefined Criminal Milieu

While Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger was careful to note that the new office would be responsible for programs directed at all types of extremism, she said it would have a "particular focus in the area of right-wing extremism."

The justice minister's proposal comes just days after the trial against Beate Zschäpe, the lone surviving member of the NSU, began earlier this week in Munich. It is one of the largest neo-Nazi trials ever to take place in Germany and has generated headlines abroad as well. Turkey, in particular, has taken an interest in the proceedings; eight of those killed by the NSU were of Turkish origin.

More than anything, though, the NSU case exposed serious shortcomings in both German operations to keep right-wing groups under surveillance and the police investigation into the nine murders. For years, the killings were treated as being the likely product of some undefined criminal milieu within Germany's immigrant population.

Leutheusser-Scharrenberger envisions the new position as being similar to that of the federal integration commissioner, who has had an office at the Chancellery since the position was created in 1978.


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Inglenda2 05/13/2013
1. Left, right or religious, crime remains crime
While it may be understandable, for Germany's justice minister to want better co-ordination of the fight against extremism in the country, this should not be restricted to the right. There are far more left-wing radicals in Germany and their tendency to violence should not be underestimated. It was therefore no mistake when German Family Minister Kristina Schröder established an initiative in 2010 to combat left-wing extremism in the country. The actions of many left wing groups, although partly supported by the trade unions and some naive members of the Evangelical church, can be fully equated with the worst of neo-Nazi violence. The number of policemen/women, who have been injured by “peacemakers & Co.” Since the 1960s, exceeds by far those who have fallen victim to right-wing attacks. It should however not be forgotten Chancellor Angela Merkel is greatly biased, she was, before the GDR and the Bundes Republic were rejoined, herself a loyal citizen of that communist part of the country. It is therefore not surprising when the uncovering of the National Socialist Underground (NSU), which unfortunately was accompanied by numerous police and official errors, during the investigations, has led to a one-sided approach towards extremism in Germany. Nevertheless, Germany is not only endangered by its own fanatics, be they left or right, but also through the import of religious immoderates, who are just as willing to kill or injure in the name of their religion. A commissioner, such as Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger has proposed, may be a little step forwards, but is far from being enough. A co-ordinator for all state-sponsored programs designed to combat extremism is certainly to be welcomed, but nevertheless, citizens who seek to counter extremist activities on a local level will remain frustrated rather than encouraged, as long as politicians provide excuses for the radicalism amongst their own colleagues. A particular focusing towards the area of right-wing extremism, may at the moment appear to be necessary, thanks to the much publicised murders of foreigners by Germans, but is it more important than dealing with the killings by other ethnic groups within this country? Who is responsible each year for the most deaths? As for the headlines in Turkish newspapers, it would be wise to point out, that sensation very often takes the place of facts. Few countries have (apart from Poland), such a hard core of nationalists as the Turkey. The insufficiency, which does occur within the German police and other security services, is not due to the capabilities, or personal attitudes of individuals, but rather to the lack of personnel. The office of federal integration commissioner, at the Chancellery, will remain a complete waste of time and money, if no endeavour is made to make sure that newcomers are willing to accept German society as it is. Every attempt, to force a extraneous form of life onto the German population, which the current policy of the government appears to be, enhances the risk of new criminal organisations with similar ideas to those of the NSU.
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