Germany refocuses on neo-Nazi threat

Until the discovery last year that a string of unsolved killings had been perpetrated by neo-Nazis, few in Germany considered far-right extremism a major threat.

After the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, security agencies around the world poured energy into fighting Islamist terrorism, and Germany did so with special urgency because several of the hijackers had lived in Hamburg. But the shift led to the neglect of other types of homegrown violence in this nation of 82 million people, critics now say, allowing a neo-Nazi movement to flourish.

Although security services were keeping an eye on neo-Nazi groups, official assessments declared that the threat of right-wing terrorism was insignificant. But while resources were being concentrated on Islamist extremism, a small cell of neo-Nazis went undetected while it killed 10 people, nine of them with immigrant backgrounds, over seven years.

Police never suspected a right-wing connection – they found it only after the neo-Nazis virtually dropped into their laps after a bungled bank robbery. Last week, Germany installed a new head of its equivalent to the FBI. He has sworn to overhaul the country’s intelligence services.

Washington Post, 12 August 2012