A neo-Nazi group which taught children as young as six that foreigners and Jews were a threat to the “German nation” has been outlawed, according to the German Interior Ministry.
Germany has outlawed a group it says promoted far-right views
The organization claimed to be promoting environmental and community issues. But in fact, the HDJ -- or Faithful to the Homeland German Youth -- was running special holiday camps for children to teach them racial and neo-Nazi ideology, the ministry said.
Police launch pre-Dawn raids
Early on Tuesday morning police in Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony and Lower Saxony carried out searches of apartments and offices belonging to HDJ leaders. Police said the group's assets and propaganda material were seized in the raids.
The HDJ used summer camps to indoctrinate children
The German Interior Ministry said the ban was imposed on the basis of Article 3 of the German Association Law which prohibits activities aimed against the constitutional order and understanding among the peoples.
"We will do everything in our power to protect our children and youth from these Pied Pipers," German interior minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in a statement released on Tuesday.
Schaeuble also called on German society to remain watchful in view of far-right extremism and added:
"The HDJ has spread its neo-Nazi ideology under the guise of seemingly apolitical activities that are attractive to young people," Schaeuble said.
Boot camp for the master race
Far-right organizations often target youth
One HDJ member, identified as Ulrike T., joined the group through her neo-Nazi parents. She is 18 today and vividly remembers the time when she spent a holiday in one of the groups summer camps at the age of 11.
"We had to get up fairly early," she explains. "Then there was a roll call with trumpets and flags. What was almost a daily routine were military exercises in which you had to attack your alleged enemies also physically."
Sabine S. has left the scene at the age of 16. She recalls the group's indoctrination of the children.
"We had to write tests and pass exams during these camps. We were forced to learn the dates of Nazi leaders including Hitler by heart, and we were told that Nazi Germany didn't start World War Two."
New groups waiting in the wings
The HDJ was founded in 1990 as a splinter group of another neo-Nazi youth organization. It grew quickly after the “Viking Youth” was banned in 1994 and many of their members joined the HDJ.
HDJ leaders have close contacts to the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) and other extremist organizations in Germany, according to German authorities. Anti-Nazi campaigners warn that Germany's far-right scene is increasingly infiltrating local youth organizations such as sports clubs and voluntary fire fighters to spread their hateful ideology.