On September 9, German authorities arrested Martin Wiese, the leader of the Bavarian neo-Nazi group Kameradschaft Sued, and nine accomplices for plotting to bomb the cornerstone-laying ceremony at the construction site of Munich’s new Jewish Community and Cultural Center. The ceremony is to take place November 9, the sixty-fifth anniversary of Kristallnacht, and the participants will include many Jewish community officials, as well as Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber and German State President Johannes Rau. Wiese was caught with thirty pounds of bomb-making material including a significant amount of high explosives.
Further police investigation revealed lists prepared by Wiese and others of additional targets for bombing. These included cultural and business centers in Munich frequented by Italians, Spaniards, Turks and Greeks. There were even plans to bomb a large Greek school on Munich’s west side.
Early the following Sunday morning, a man variously identified as Robert K. or Gerry B., described as a ’48-year-old American citizen of color who has lived in Germany for the past 22 years,’ was attacked by a group of twelve neo-Nazis near the Munich Freedom subway station while returning home from a night at a local disco. Before the attack the neo-Nazis taunted him with racial epithets. He fought off the neo-Nazis with a street sign until police arrived; fortunately, he emerged from his ordeal uninjured.
(Ironically, the Munich Freedom station is named in honor of a Germany Army battalion in Munich that revolted against the Nazis on April 29, 1945, the day before Munich was liberated by the Americans.)
On October 1, German police announced the arrest of a 17-year-old female trainee at Munich’s Post Bank and spy for the Kameradschaft Sued neo-Nazis. She was using her position at the Post Bank to gather information on the bank accounts of various rival political organizations.
There have been other recent violent or potentially violent incidents for which neo-Nazis may be responsible, including the still unsolved assassination of Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh and the multiple bomb threats that caused a seven-hour evacuation at the Dusseldorf Airport (Germany’s third busiest). And in a bizarre incident several days ago, a 70-meter swastika was trampled into a cornfield on the outskirts of Berlin.
Extremists Go Mainstream
While incidents of anti-Semitic violence have been steadily increasing in Germany since unification (last year there were 10,000 reported incidents of neo-Nazi activity in Germany), German officials have generally downplayed their significance, claiming that the neo-Nazis are mostly disaffected and unemployed youths from the former East Germany. To some extent this was true in the early- and mid-1990’s. What makes the attempted bombing in Munich so significant is precisely that it was to have taken place in Bavaria, Germany’s wealthiest and most politically stable region.
To the credit of the German authorities, the bombing plot appears to have been broken up by good old-fashioned police work (a member of a neo-Nazi group who’d been apprehended earlier divulged the information leading to the arrest of Wiese and his co-conspirators).
And Bavarian political authorities such as Premier Stoiber and Interior Minister Guenther Beckstein were immediately forthcoming about the seriousness of the situation. Beckstein even coined a phrase when he said that the move to openly terrorist tactics means that at least some of the neo-Nazi groups have coalesced into a ‘Brown Army Faction,’ a reference to the ‘Red Army Faction’ of the 1970’s that was better known as the Baader-Meinhof Group.
While Bavarian authorities are treating the escalation in neo-Nazi activity as evidence of concerted and coordinated activity, Federal German officials, while not downplaying the significance of the Munich bomb plot, are discounting the idea that the neo-Nazi groups may be emulating the terrorist logistics of the IRA or al Qaeda. Federal Interior Minister Otto Schily several days ago dismissed any parallel between the Red Army Faction and the current actions of the neo-Nazis. Curiously enough, in the 1970’s Schily was the chief defense lawyer for Red Army Faction leaders Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof.