But at the march in Cologne, groups of demonstrators intoned well-worn neo-Nazi chants, such as "Germany for the Germans, foreigners out!" and "We are the national resistance!" It was clear that only a small spark was needed to trigger a greater conflagration. According to an internal police report, it came at 3:49 p.m. in the form of several people wearing jerseys of the Istanbul football club Galatasaray and showing the right-wing marchers the middle finger while firing off fireworks. The situation escalated immediately and ultimately the mob began assaulting the police.
Some officers were even forced to draw their weapons when confronted by masked rioters armed with knives. The police report leaves no doubt as to the mob's political views: The participants, it notes, were "predominantly members of the hooligan fan scene as well as members of the right-wing network."
An internal inquiry has now been started in an effort to determine how officials could have been so misguided in their pre-riot assessments. One investigator believes that the Hogesa network was able to develop in a vacuum that existed between two government agencies. The police are responsible for stadium security and for violence-prone fan groups, but are largely uninterested in their political leanings. Domestic intelligence agents, on the other hand, monitor extremist groups, to which hooligans have not traditionally belonged. "They cleverly took advantage of the niche that we made available," the investigator said.
Still, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution -- as Germany's domestic intelligence agency is known -- had had Hogesa on their radar since the beginning of the year and had an inkling that something was afoot. Prior to the Cologne march, federal intelligence officials warned their state counterparts in Düsseldorf that the hooligan scene was able to mobilize large numbers of people. The number of demonstrators, they said, would likely exceed official expectations of 1,500. They also warned of possible violence.
At the event, some 1,300 police officers found themselves badly outnumbered, confronting 4,800 demonstration participants. "The situation was very clearly underestimated," says André Schulz, head of the police association BDK. Ralf Jäger, interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, disagrees, though he does admit that the vast majority of those attending the demonstration were unknown to security officials. A working group in the state criminal office has now been tasked with determining if Cologne saw a "gigantic flash mob," as German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière believes, or if the country is faced with a powerful new right-wing group.
A Low Profile
The search for those behind Hogesa could be a difficult one. The organizers of the Cologne demonstration immediately went underground and have shunned publicity. A YouTube video was released in which a masked speaker advises those looking for additional information to visit the Hogesa website.
The site was registered under a postal address in the town of Hennef, in North Rhine-Westphalia, and a mobile phone number was also provided. The man who answers the phone says he can help contact those who run the Hogesa site, but also says that interviews must be paid for. Demonstrations, he notes, are expensive: The stage in Cologne alone cost 450.
Dominik Roeseler, deputy state leader for the right-wing populist movement Pro-NRW, likewise sought to keep a low profile following the demonstration. He is the one who registered the demonstration before withdrawing from the steering committee under pressure from Pro-NRW leadership.
Andreas K. was the only one of the organizers of the Cologne demonstration who was willing to speak with us. The owner of a tattoo parlor, Andreas K. is known in the scene as "Kalle Grabowski" and played an important leadership role in Hogesa. He is in his late 40s, wears a heavy gold chain and his arms are covered in tattoos. At previous Hogesa demonstrations in Dortmund and Cologne, he was one of the keynote speakers and led participants in chants of "We don't want any Salafist pigs!"
But now he says he intends to turn his back on Hogesa. The network has become too large, he complains, and impossible to lead. "I don't want to be responsible for riots and violence," he says. "You can't change anything with violence." He also claims that he is not a right-wing extremist. "I have never had anything to do with Nazis," he insists.
It is tempting to believe that he isn't alone with his concerns and that some within Hogesa were surprised by their own violence. But investigators are skeptical. One investigator says he can see no reason why the hooligan-neo-Nazi network would want to stand down: "Cologne was a success for them and it will certainly generate greater popularity for them."
The right-wing scene seems to be eagerly anticipating the next opportunity to take on the hated "system" under the cloak of anti-Salafism. The Islamophobic blog "Politically Incorrect," for example, has written enthusiastically about what it is calling "The Miracle of Cologne." One contributor even seemed to veer into homo-eroticism, writing about the "real men" who took part in the march, the "strapping guys who showed their faces for our German fatherland."
Die Rechte, a neo-Nazi splinter group that was also present in Cologne, praised Hogesa, saying the group had "impressively established itself."
The neo-Nazi political party NPD, which suffered painful recent defeats in state elections in Saxony and Thuringia, is now hoping to find new support among hooligans. "The potential is huge," wrote a senior NPD official in a statement. "The movement has the stuff of a real mass movement." Another party official, Ronny Zasowk, says: "Now is the time to take advantage politically."
Conspicuous in their silence, by contrast, has been Hogesa's declared enemy: the Salafists. But what might happen were they to seek out confrontation with the hooligan right-wingers? A discussion held on the Facebook page of an influential Salafist last week provided a hint. Someone posted, in reference to the demonstrators in Cologne: "I would have cut the throats of each and every one of them."
By Maik Baumgärtner, Rafael Buschmann, Jörg Diehl, Hubert Gude, Sven Röbel, Christoph Ruf, Jörg Schindler, Fidelius Schmid, David Walden and Wolf Wiedmann-Schmidt