German police officers were in the Ku Klux Klan | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 04.08.2012
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German police officers were in the Ku Klux Klan

Evidence published by the parliamentary commission for the investigation of neo-Nazi crimes has revealed that two German police officers were formerly members of the racist Ku Klux Klan.

The new clansman couldn't see a thing. His escorts had blindfolded him. He was led into a closed room, and was only then allowed to remove the blindfold. The room was filled with candles, with a wooden cross in the center. The newcomer was given a razor blade with which he had to cut his finger and make a mark with his blood on a written copy of the Ku-Klux-Clan vow. He sank to his knees, and a blunt sword tapped him on his shoulders - the "knighting ceremony" that formed the culmination of this bizarre initiation rite.

This is the scene described in internal documents of the domestic intelligence agency of the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg. What is especially shocking is that the man describing his initiation rite as one of the "European White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan" is a serving German police officer.

Mantle of silence

A member of the Ku Klux Klan salutes during American Nazi Party

Ku Klux Klan: violent and racist, attacking minorities, with links to the neo-Nazi scene

The case involving two policemen, now 32 and 42 years old, was already under investigation by the agency in 2004. However, it has taken eight years for any mention of it to be made public. Back then, the two police officers admitted to having been members of the Ku Klux Klan group calling itself the "European White Knights" for a few months between 2001 and 2002. According to their own accounts, they voluntarily left the group after witnessing xenophobia and racism.

This is the reason why the only disciplinary action taken against them was an official reprimand - and why they have been able to remain in their jobs until today. This has come as a surprise to many people - among them the Federation of State Employees of German Criminologists (BDK). The BDK had called for the two policemen to be fired. "They didn't know that the Ku Klux Klan was a racist organization? I wonder how much stupidity a police officer can exhibit, how far removed from real life he has to be, before he's removed from service," said BDK president Andre Braun.

Connection surfaced during recent investigations

The two policemen provided many details about their connection with the German section of the Ku Klux Klan in the course of a recent investigation into a series of murders. They include the fact that one of the men had been "knighted" within the walls of a ruined castle near the small Württemberg town of Schwäbisch Hall.

A picture of the murdered police officer Michele Kiesewetter

Both men were colleagues of murdered police officer Michèle Kiesewetter

This, and a number of other peculiar details, emerged from the files that have been reviewed by the current parliamentary commission looking into the racially-motivated neo-Nazi crimes. These files also hold information on the murder in Heilbronn of the police officer Michèle Kiesewetter.

During the review of the files, it became apparent that both of the men in question were Kiesewetter's colleagues - one of them her group leader. The state interior ministry in Baden-Wuerttemberg is now running background checks on around a hundred police officers who worked in the same field. Investigators are also looking into why the two police officers in question were not suspended from work in 2004.

Case files mysteriously missing

The acting head of the state office of criminal investigations in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Martin Schatz, said that disciplinary action was carried out in accordance with the rules, but that some questions still remained open. These, he said, were being thoroughly investigated, and could even lead to the sacking of individual members of staff.

One of the questions that remains concerns the role of the former state Interior Minister, Heribert Reich, of the conservative Christian Democrat Party (CDU). The cases should have been made public during his time in office. Even more seriously, the incident wasn't even mentioned in the annual report by the intelligence service.

Former Baden-Wuerttemberg minister of the interior Heribert Rech

During Heribert Rech's time the case was kept under the blanket.

At the interior ministry in Stuttgart, now governed by the Social Democratic Party, it has been announced that the case will be reinvestigated within the next two weeks. And on a national level, the parliamentary commission looking into the neo-Nazi murders plans to add the Ku Klux Klan case to its agenda when it resumes work after the summer break.

No links to right-wing terrorists

Hartfried Wolf, a member of the commission and chairman of the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), said that as yet the commission saw no evidence of a specific link between the two policemen and the Zwickau-based neo-Nazi terrorist group calling itself the "National-Socialist Underground" (NSU), but that this was something they would be looking into. The federal prosecutor's office, however, has denied any such connection. It believes that the Zwickau neo-Nazi group´was responsible for the murders.

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