German Raid Cracks Down on Neo-Nazis

The New York Times/August 23, 2012

Berlin - The authorities in Germany banned three known neo-Nazi groups and raided dozens of members' homes and meeting places in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia on Thursday, in an effort to break up an aggressive network of far-right extremists.

About 900 officers carried out the raids across the state, confiscating weapons, computers and other materials, including posters from the far-right National Democratic Party, officials said. No arrests were made, but the authorities said they could follow once the materials are examined. The authorities say the extremists spread anti-Semitic, fascist and racist propaganda.

"These groups are dangerous," Burkhard Freier, who leads the state's domestic intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, said at a news conference in Düsseldorf. "We have noticed they are attracting ever more young people to their ideals." The decision to ban the groups comes against the backdrop of an investigation by a parliamentary committee into a far-right underground cell that had evaded the authorities for years, killing at least 10 people, most of them immigrant businessmen. The move prohibits the neo-Nazis from gathering and gives the authorities a legal basis to arrest and press charges against them.

The authorities arrested some of the members in November after an apartment where some suspects lived exploded and burned in eastern Germany. The revelation of the killings cost the head of the domestic intelligence agency his job last month.

Ralf Jäger, the leading security official in North Rhine-Westphalia, said the raid was part of efforts to increase pressure on the far right but could be used to try to ban the National Democratic Party, which is legally recognized and has representatives in two regional legislatures, but has so far been able to skirt attempts to link it to more violent extremists.

"We will continue to crack down on these enemies of the state and on their black leather boots," Mr. Jäger said, referring to footwear associated with skinheads with far-right sympathies.

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