Germany unites in grief

Germany unites in grief

Germany unites in grief

Bowing their heads down, Merkel (first row R) and other MPs mourn slain migrants. REUTERS photo

The German parliament, in a rare sign of cross-party unity, condemned yesterday the wave of neo-Nazi killings and police agencies’ failure to stop a murder spree in which nine immigrant shopkeepers were shot dead at close range.

All members of parliament from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right coalition to the opposition Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Left party rose in unison to voice contrition for Germany’s failure to protect the immigrants from right-wing extremists.

“We’re ashamed the federal and state security agencies were not able to either stop or detect the crimes planned and carried out over a period of several years,” said Norbert Lammert, president of the parliament, as the more than 600 deputies bowed their heads.

Germans, long burdened by their Nazi past, have been shocked by news that three neo-Nazis had killed immigrant shopkeepers with impunity as police failed to connect the murders to the right-wing extremists. Two of the neo-Nazis committed suicide after a botched bank robbery two weeks ago.

Lammert, a leader in Merkel’s conservative party, asked for forgiveness from the victims’ families for “suspicions” that had been leveled in the past at the victims, alleging involvement in illegal activities.

“We’re all aware of our responsibilities and we’re determined to resolve this,” he added, before deputies unanimously adopted a resolution from all six parties expressing commiseration and demanding structural changes at agencies.

“We’ve got to make sure everyone who lives here in Germany, regardless of their origins, religious beliefs or orientation, can have the same constitutionally guaranteed protections,” Lammert said.

Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said banning the far-right party NPD should be considered seriously. “We have to oppose all the movements that contradict with our basic values,” she said, adding that German security forces were not “blind” in their procedures, Doğan news agency reported.

Merkel has already called the existence of the National Socialist Underground cell a disgrace. Its members are suspected of killing nine immigrants, eight Turks and one Greek and also a police woman, between 2000 and 2007.

Police are reopening all unsolved cases with a possible racist motive since 1998. Authorities had gathered enough evidence to believe the far right group had a personal connection to the policewoman, Michele Kiesewetter, killed in 2007, said Joerg Ziercke, federal police president.

Among the clues was information that Kiesewetter’s family had at one point tried to rent a pub in a small eastern German town. The lease went instead to a man connected to the neo-Nazi group.

* Compiled from AP and Reuters by the Daily News staff