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Right-Wing Extremism

German law against neo-Nazis 'tough enough'

How could three far-right terrorists have remained undiscovered as they murdered ten people? A study concludes it wasn't because the laws weren't tough enough.

Germany has a massive apparatus which is designed to ensure the security of its citizens. There are 36 security services, which send out informers to help them arrest far-right criminals and use a wide range of databanks to coordinate their work in dozens of commissions.

But all that was no use when it came to the three far-right terrorists of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) who killed ten people over a period of thirteen years, from 1998 to 2011.  And that was in spite of the fact that the three were already known to the authorities as bomb-makers and hate preachers. What went wrong?

A committee of the German parliament, the Bundestag, is trying to find out where the failings were in the German intelligence jungle. On Thursday, they invited legal experts to give their view, and there was broad consensus: German law is tough enough to deal with far-right terror.

The problem is in people's heads

the parliamentary commission meeting

The parliamentary commission wants to shed light on the errors

The experts see the problem rather in the heads of officials and politicians. They failed to judge information they had properly, or they failed to forward it to the right people.

"I'm not convinced that all the information about the NSU was actually in the data," says Bielefeld University professor Christoph Gusy. The killing spree was not stopped, because right from the start there were mistakes in gathering and analyzing information.

The errors didn't stop there: the intelligence strategies were already out of date, and, in Thuringia, where the gang came from, neo-Nazis had managed to build their own structure in the state's own intelligence service. Tougher laws wouldn't have helped there at all. The hardware was OK - it was the software, in the heads of the officials - which failed to work.

Perhaps the most important contribution the legal experts made to the discussion lay outside their specialty. They gave the politicians a piece of advice from their position as ordinary citizens: the battle against hate preachers and racists can only be won when the whole of society is aware of the dangers from the far right.

Author: Hans Pfeifer / mll
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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