Society

Germany: Fear of a “Brown Army Faction”

14 November 2011
Presseurop
Der Spiegel

After the Red Army Faction, leads Der Spiegel, is a “Brown Army Faction” now haunting Germany? Following the explosion in a house in the town of Zwickau last week, the country has learned of the existence of a “National Socialist Underground”, a small neo-Nazi group that may be responsible for the deaths of nine Turkish and Greek immigrants and a German policeman, an attack in Cologne in 2004, and dozens of bank robberies.

Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, who shot themselves after a failed robbery last week, and Beate Z., who handed herself into the police, have apparently been active for 14 years without coming to the attention of the authorities. In a DVD found this weekend they argue that “as long as there are no fundamental changes in politics, the press and freedom of expression, the activities will go on.” Suddenly the German press is seeing “all the pieces of a puzzle fall into place.”

Tageszeitung, the newspaper of the alternative left established in 1979 in response to the wave of assassinations by the RAF, takes the view that lapses at Germany’s internal intelligence permitted the more recent crimes to happen and condemns a “failure of the state”.

It’s something we don’t want to imagine: a Nazi terrorism, permitted by the state, in Germany, six decades after the end of the National Socialist dictatorship.

For its part, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports that the authorities had ruled out racial motivations and terrorism in the crimes committed over the past few years.

For decades, left-wing extremists in Germany were deemed intelligent and dangerous, while right-wing extremists were taken to be stupid and therefore harmless.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wonders if Berlin hasn’t made the mistake of treating right-wing terrorism “as the dim-witted provincial counterpart of predominantly Islamist terrorism,” and questions the importance and the meaning of the existence of this small group.

To compare it with the Red Army Faction is to both minimise and exaggerate its seriousness. Minimise, because the RAF never managed to operate over the years without being recognised. Exaggerate, because no one could perceive this supposed terrorism from the far right as such, as not only the act but also the public claim to have carried it out is part of the terrorism. And that was missing from the ‘Zwickau cell’.