Germans set up Nazi database

Germans set up Nazi database

Germans set up Nazi database

German Bundestag commemorate the victims of the neo-Nazi murder series. Chancellor Angela Merkel also apologized to the families of 10 people, mostly Turks, slain by a neo-Nazi terrorist cell, NSU. EPA photo

Germany launched a national register of neo-Nazis on Sept. 19 in a move to tackle failings that allowed known extremists to wage a seven-year racist killing spree.

Authorities hope the new register will ensure intelligence on far-right extremists is properly shared between the police forces and domestic intelligence services across German states. The register is modeled on a database of radical Islamists that has been in operation for several years. “The aim of this is to develop an effective fight against far-right extremism ... and in this way to ensure that what has happened can never happen again,” Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said at the launch of the register in eastern Berlin. The discovery of a small neo-Nazi cell in the former East German town of Zwickau last year and evidence linking it to the killings caused profound shame in Germany and highlighted its shortcomings in fighting right-wing extremism.

The existence of the cell, calling itself the Nationalist Socialist Underground (NSU), only came to light by chance after two members committed suicide following a botched bank robbery, and a female accomplice torched an apartment used by the gang. The group engaged in a killing spree from 2000-2007, murdering eight Turks, a Greek and a German policewoman.

‘Far right not on radar’

Germany plans an overhaul of its intelligence services in the wake of the NSU murders, but some experts say what is needed most is a fundamental change in approach in a country whose Nazi past makes right-wing militancy a sensitive subject.

“The new database will be of use, but it doesn’t help with the fundamental problem, which is that this data must be properly scrutinized, and immediately investigated. The fact this didn’t happen is what led to the catastrophic failures,” said Hajo Funke, an expert on Germany’s far-right.

“For too long intelligence agencies saw the enemy elsewhere. The far right simply wasn’t on their radar,” Reuters quoted Funke as saying.

The President of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s internal security agency, Hans-Georg Maassen, described the new database as “absolutely necessary” to ensure a “comprehensive exchange of information” between the 36 participating agencies, according to Deutsche Welle. The internal security agencies and criminal police of Germany’s 16 states will also have access to the database, which is maintained by the Federal Criminal Police Agency. In July the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence service resigned after admitting that an official within his agency had shredded files on the NSU. Berlin’s Interior Senator recently expressed regret for not sharing with the inquiry that an informant of the Berlin Office of Criminal Investigation had warned years earlier that he had information about the NSU.

The Police Union (GdP) regards the database as insufficient. GdP chairman Bernhard Witthaut said he would have preferred the database had a structure like that used at the Joint Counterterrorism
Center. “There, all the authorities sat at a common table and could quickly detect interrelationships. On the whole, I would doubt that they will help us,” he said.