Armed neo-Nazi scene embraces violence
As far as Koch is concerned, the distance between the ‘ordinary’ neo-Nazi scene and the ‘hardcore’ element prepared to commit murder is very small. “You shouldn’t imagine that there are these nationalist gangs like the Kameradschaften, and then there’s a huge gap and then there’s a terrorist scene,” he said. “It all blends seamlessly together.”
Koch’s work with reformed neo-Nazis has taught him that violence permeates all parts of the extremist right-wing scene. This violence does not just take the form of drunken brawling at weekends, but disciplined training with guns administered by ex-servicemen.
“We have people in our programmes who have had weapons training themselves,” said Koch. “They were trained in western Germany, in Lower Saxony, by neo-Nazis who used to be mercenaries, for instance in the former Yugoslavia. Some were part of European training networks and got training in France or Belgium.”
The training takes place in remote country areas, sometimes privately owned, and sometimes rented for the purpose, either in an afternoon or over several days. “They often look for isolated wooded areas,” said Koch.
Not kids playing
Dierk Borstel, researcher into right-wing extremism at the University of Bielefeld, was also unsurprised to read the recent revelations about the NSU. “We’ve known that the option of terrorism, the option of militancy, the option of murder has been discussed in the extremist right-wing scene for some time,” he told The Local.
“A few years ago there was a group based in the Potsdam area that went underground that called itself the ‘National Resistance’ who specialized in blowing up Jewish cemeteries,” he said. “We have constantly had weapons and explosives finds, but they were never taken seriously. It was simply massively underestimated. The police just thought they were little boys playing cowboys and Indians.”