Neo-Nazi Group `Violent Subculture' Targeted in Early-Morning Police Raids
German police conducted predawn raids against the country’s biggest neo-Nazi group, escalating efforts to stamp out a growing movement of potentially violent anti-immigrant extremists.
Police searched 30 premises across nine states tied to the HNG, a group with about 600 members that focuses on supporting neo-Nazi members during their imprisonment, Interior Ministry spokesman Markus Beyer said in an e-mailed response to questions. The group, founded in 1979, includes neo-Nazis as well as a “violent subculture of rightwing extremists.”
HNG is accused of “networking and strengthening the often fragmented neo-Nazi scene beyond existing ideological battle lines,” Deputy Interior Minister Klaus-Dieter Fritsche said in a statement from Berlin. “Imprisoned comrades are not only kept within the group while in jail, but also encouraged to ‘fight on against the system.’”
Germany has grappled with the proliferation of anti- immigrant and extremist groups, underscored by state election victories of the National Democratic Party of Germany. The number of neo-Nazis, a more virulent political force because of their identification with National Socialism and Adolf Hitler, climbed more than 4 percent to about 5,000 people last year. Germany’s population is about 82 million.
Neo-Nazi organizations are more extreme than the larger number of anti-immigrant groups in Germany because of their implicit support for an authoritarian “Fuehrer state” along the lines of the Third Reich, according to the Interior Ministry’s annual report on extremist groups. Nazi symbols, such as swastikas and the Hitler salute, are banned in Germany.
Raids in states including Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Berlin were still taking place today and the ministry declined to give details about the size of the operation. No arrests or incidents of violence were reported.
In March 2009, the government banned a neo-Nazi organization, Heimattreue Deutsche Jugend, which sought to attract youths to an anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant ideology under the guise of activities such as summer camps and outings. Police had uncovered swastikas, black-clad youngsters and extremist lyrics during a raid on one of the HDJ’s camping sites on the Baltic Sea coast of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state.
While the NPD has won seats in state assemblies such as the eastern state of Saxony, the party has never won a seat in Germany’s lower house of parliament, the Bundestag.