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Banned Association: Nationwide crackdown on neo-Nazis

Status: 04/06/2022 08:39 a.m

The federal prosecutor’s office has been taking action against several right-wing extremist groups since the morning hours. 61 objects are searched in eleven federal states. The focus is on “Combat 18” and “Knockout 51”.

By Michael Götschenberg and Holger Schmidt, ARD terrorism experts, and Frank Brautigam, ARD legal expert

According to the investigators, the group “Atomic Weapons Division Germany” is a terrorist organization. She is openly racist, anti-Semitic, glorifies violence and advocates igniting a gun war. The group first surfaced online in 2018. For a long time it was unclear how seriously it should be taken. Now the Federal Public Prosecutor has made a decision and is investigating ten suspects.

Michael Goetschenberg
ARD Capital Studio

“Combat18” banned

In addition, at least 20 people belonging to the banned group “Combat 18” were searched.

Numbers have a cult meaning for neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists. “88” stands for the salute “Heil Hitler!” – because H is the eighth letter of the alphabet. So anyone who calls themselves “Combat 18” wants to be the “Adolf Hitler Combat Unit”. “C18” has been banned in Germany for more than a year because of its right-wing extremist, neo-Nazi and xenophobic attitude. The Federal Ministry of the Interior was responsible for the ban on associations. Now it’s about criminal charges. The Attorney General accuses the accused of continuing to operate the C18 group in Germany.

leading members of the scene

Today the Federal Public Prosecutor carried out a large-scale raid against the people who are said to have continued to operate C18 in Germany. Among them are leading members of the German neo-Nazi scene. The specific allegation ties in with the club ban of 2020. Because according to the penal code (§ 85) it is forbidden to maintain a forbidden association. The Federal Public Prosecutor can investigate such a case because of “special importance”.

Beginnings in Great Britain

The group came into being in the early 1990s in Great Britain as a security force for the far-right British National Party (BNP). International branches soon formed, also in Germany. Since the late 1990s, German authorities for the protection of the Constitution have registered activities by local C18 groups associated with right-wing rock and neo-Nazi events. C18 tried to establish itself as the “armed arm” of the neo-Nazi movement “Blood & Honour” (blood and honor) – an association of right-wing extremist music groups whose slogans and symbols were openly based on groups of the “3rd Reich”, such as the ” Hitler Youth” or “SS” and “SA”.

Contact to Beate Zschäpe

In 2007, a C18 member shot and seriously injured a man from Tunisia in a supermarket in Dortmund. At the latest, this act of violence showed the investigating authorities the potential danger of the group – also because a firearm was involved. The perpetrator from back then is called Robin S. and, according to information from SWR and ARD-Capital Studio today to the accused of the preliminary investigation.

For the robbery in Dortmund, he received an eight-year prison sentence for severe extortion. In prison he began to write very personal letters to the NSU terrorist Beate Zschäpe. Zschäpe answered – for pages and very familiar. The Office for the Protection of the Constitution in North Rhine-Westphalia noticed the letters and informed the Federal Prosecutor’s Office at the time.

Further contacts to the NSU

The correspondence between Zschäpe and Robin S. is not C18’s only connection to the right-wing terrorists of the “National Socialist Underground” (NSU). Terrorists’ helpers, such as neo-Nazi Andre Eminger, who was convicted in the NSU trial, were involved in the “Blood & Honor” movement in the 2000s, to which C18 belongs. In the trial before the Munich Higher Regional Court, the victims’ lawyers repeatedly tried to prove that the three main perpetrators had direct connections to people from the C18 environment. People who are now among the accused in the current proceedings.

Late ban of “Combat 18”

“Combat 18 Germany” was officially banned by the Federal Ministry of the Interior in January 2020. However, this prohibition procedure and its implementation were already controversial at the time. It comes far too late and is virtually ineffective, critics said. Because the then Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer (CSU) announced the ban in public and saw Combat 18 as an “inhuman attitude with right-wing extremist and anti-Semitic agitation”. On the other hand, through clumsy actions and public announcements, Seehofer was accused even within the security authorities of having warned C18 of the ban through thoughtless statements of his own.

What is certain is that after the ban, the security authorities initially found hardly any reliable material on the alleged members. But apparently the members continued, they are said to have met and made plans under the pretext of birthday parties, among other things.

Also “Knockout 51” in sight

Investigators are targeting another association in Eisenach: “Knockout 51” is said to have tried to establish a “Nazi Kiez” in the city with illegal patrols in Eisenach and to initiate militant corona protests. The Attorney General considers the group to be a criminal organization of particular importance and has issued arrest warrants for its alleged members Leon R., Max A., Eric K. and Bastian A. Special forces are currently searching several apartments in Eisenach. The federal prosecutor’s office does not believe in a recently self-proclaimed dissolution of “Knockout 51”.

How it goes on

The people arrested in the case of the alleged criminal organization “Knockout 51” are now being brought to Karlsruhe, where they will be brought before an investigating judge at the Federal Court of Justice. He decides whether the accused will be remanded in custody. In the case of “Combat 18” there have been no arrests so far. An important point for the further course of the investigation will be what evidence is found in the numerous searches throughout Germany.

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