New German database to help track neo-Nazis, other extremists

Story highlights

  • German regional, state and federal authorities are boosting cooperation to fight neo-Nazis
  • They hope to prevent future terrorist attacks by right-wing groups
  • An expert on right-wing extremism says more needs to be done
Regional police, state and federal authorities in Germany will work more closely together to prevent future neo-Nazi terrorist acts, the interior minister announced Friday after a meeting with the justice minister.
The meeting followed the arrest last week of two suspects believed to be members of a neo-Nazi terror cell involved in killing at least 10 people, mostly of Turkish and Greek origin. The attacks, which occurred all over Germany, became known as the "Doener murder series." Until the arrests, police had not thought they were committed by the same people.
Regional authorities and state and federal wings of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution will boost cooperation to track neo-Nazi groups and other extremists, German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said in a news conference.
"We have agreed to establish a new database which includes all the information collected by the police and the intelligence service," he said.
"We want to take this data storage a step further by not only collecting information on terrorist structures, but also on extremist structures," he said. According to Friedrich, the data storage might be set up within a few weeks.
Right-wing extremism expert Hajo Funke was critical of the action, however.
"This is not satisfying news," he told CNN Friday. "What needs to be done is a complete change of Germany's security structure. Local police and state officials need to take a closer look at the thousands of dangerous neo-Nazis, especially in the east of Germany."
Friedrich also announced that a newly formed working group will examine a possible ban of the right-wing party NPD.
An attempt to ban the NPD failed in 2003. Too many state informants had infiltrated the neo-Nazi structures, with some of them even working as the party's leading figures.
Thomas Oppermann, the head of the German parliament's secret service committee, posted a statement on his website Wednesday saying: "I demand a timetable for the removal of the remaining informants inside the neo-Nazi structures. With their wage paid by the state, the informants finance extreme right-wing activities."
The recent arrests came after two of the alleged terrorists, identified by authorities as Uwe B. and Uwe M., were found dead in a burning motor home on November 4.
Later, their flatmate, Beate Z., set off a bomb in the eastern German town of Zwickau and then fled. Four days later she turned herself in to local police, they said. On Sunday another man, Holger G., was arrested near Hannover on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activities.
On Wednesday it became known that several politicians may have been in danger of being attacked by the terrorists.
"I was informed by the German police agency Bundeskriminalamt that a list which included information on me and other politicians was found in the remains of the exploded terrorist's flat in Zwickau," Jerzy Montag, a member of the German parliament for the green party, told CNN.
"It is frightening to know that I could have become a target of right wing terrorists," he said.
German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said Monday that it appears "we are facing a new form of right-wing extremist terrorism."
The news sparked outrage among Germans.
Funke said it should have been possible to uncover the group's activities much earlier, since the three main suspects were first arrested more than a decade ago.
Beate Z., Uwe M. and Uwe B. were arrested in 1998 after preparing a bomb attack, but neither the German police nor the country's equivalent of the FBI kept them under surveillance afterward.
Montag said he is not convinced he is safe after last week's arrests. "The danger remains because I do not think that the two arrested terrorists are the only right-wing extremists in Germany," he said.