Neo-Nazi Scene in Germany Extremist Violence the Norm in Parts of the Country

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Part 2: Brass Knuckles and Ski Masks


The strategy of intimidation is working. In cities like Weimar, people like activist Uwe Adler are still able to find supporters for their citizens' alliance, "although the numbers have declined." In April, the group managed to block a neo-Nazi march in Weimar, the city of German poets Goethe and Schiller. But, says Adler, when he recently visited the nearby town of Apolda, "the fear was almost palpable." Skinheads who knew him by name stood in front of the assembly hall where Adler had gone to launch a citizens' alliance, and they filmed people as they entered the building.

The

Neo-Nazis have long been a problem in Germany. But there are now signs that the especially violent among them are becoming better organized.
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Neo-Nazis have long been a problem in Germany. But there are now signs that the especially violent among them are becoming better organized.

outcome of the meeting was sobering. According to Adler, it is difficult to find "any ordinary citizens who are willing to occasionally man an information booth on right-wing extremism in the downtown area." Some, he says, "are afraid, while others are either indifferent or secretly sympathize with the neo-Nazis." His parents became concerned when right-wing extremist Web sites began featuring his photo, along with his name and address, as if he were a wanted criminal.

The testimony in a trial currently underway in the eastern city of Dresden has shed light on some of the neo-Nazis' intimidation tactics. The defendants are members of "Sturm 34," a gang that has since been banned. Peter E., 24, a former "driver" with the group, provided horrifying insights into the thugs' modus operandi. According to his testimony, roughly 50 youths gathered under an old German imperial war flag, a symbol for neo-Nazis, in the town of Mittweida in 2006 to mark the founding of the group. Then one of the defendants, Alexander G., nicknamed "Stormer," climbed onto a table and loudly proclaimed the establishment of Sturm 34. The gang's gear included gloves filled with sand to increase the impact of blows and, according to Peter E., brass knuckles and ski masks.

Hunt Down Its Victims

Sturm 34 soon put its preparations into practice. In one instance, the gang attacked a camping site in Mittweida, and in another they targeted a pavilion where a local festival was underway. According to investigators, up to 30 members would arrive in cars, arrange themselves in a military formation and attack. The group would also systematically hunt down its victims in car chases.

Although Sturm 34 is now officially disbanded, far-right violence is alive and kicking in the region. Early this year, skinheads in four cars attacked five young men from a town called Geringswalde as they were driving home. When they were forced to stop their car, several masked men jumped out of the cars and attacked them with baseball bats and clubs.

The right-wing extremists have been especially effective at spreading fear among Turks, says Kenan Kolat of the Turkish Community in Germany, a group which campaigns for immigrant rights, doner kebab stands are seen as an especially easy target. This, in turn, has created a market niche in the insurance business. Because German insurance companies are refusing to provide fire insurance for people like Haci D., small, specialized providers have contacted the Turkish community association to offer fire protection and alarm systems. The representatives sell their services to local Turkish businesses by maintaining that an alarm system will ensure that "the same thing doesn't happen to you."

On a visit to the western city of Solingen last week to commemorate the 15th anniversary of a deadly arson attack on a Turkish family, Kolat was able to get a firsthand look at what life can be like for Turkish immigrants threatened by right-wing extremist violence. On May 29, 1993, four men from the local skinhead community set a fire in the entrance of a house owned by the Turkish Genç family. Two women and three girls died in the incident.

The survivors remained in Solingen, where they built a new house -- surrounded by a fence and protected by 24-hour video surveillance.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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