A foundation has questioned the resolve of German police when it comes to fighting crimes committed by neo-Nazi and other far-right groups. Authorities willingly turn a blind eye to extremist violence, it claims.
German authorities regularly trivialize incidents of far-right violence and play down the danger of right-wing extremism, according to a study published Tuesday (14.08.2012) by the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, a victim protection group. The group went on to say that German security forces "systematically disregard" right-wing violence.
"Victims are left high and dry in a nearly systematic way by public offices," said Marion Kraske, the report's author. She added that far-right violence was sometimes ignored by authorities and at other times not recognized because officials were unaware of the problem it poses.
Kraske cited the case of a Turkish kiosk owner in Mücheln, a town in the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt, as an example of authorities' lack of interest in investigating incidents of right-wing violence. She said four men and two women stormed the kiosk and beat the 25-year-old owner in February, telling him to close his kiosk and kebab shop and leave the city.
When the victim's wife called the police, "The officers' first reaction was to complain about the woman's broken German," Kraske said, adding that when police initially visited the crime scene, the victim was given an alcohol test. The police report later classified the assault as a fight over a smoking ban.
"This case is symptomatic for how public offices deal with right-wing violence," Kraske said, adding that far-right elements of a crime are often played down.
Bad publicity for town and cities
While Germany maintains a record of politically motivated violence, the list fails to document every instance because the political aspects of a crime are not included in initial police reports, according to Kraske.
"Far-right violence is entered into police registers as a run-of-the-mill fight," she added.
Officials in towns and cities across Germany also look the other way when faced with addressing this type of violence because they do not want their local reputation to be smeared as a haven for right-wing extremists, Kraske said.
"The people who denounce right-wing violence are criminalized and criticized for ruining the local area's reputation," she said.
The Amadeu Antonio Foundation's report said a "culture of looking the other way" had established itself when it comes to cases of violence against foreigners, adding that the situation did not change even after the discovery of the neo-Nazi terrorist group, National-Socialist Underground (NSU), in autumn 2011. The group was responsible for the murder of 10 people between 2000 and 2007 and went undiscovered for 13 years.
A series of attacks aimed at foreigners shook Germany around two decades ago when some 400 young people near the northern city of Rostock attacked and set fire to an asylum-seekers' housing complex. And then in November 1992 three Turkish women died in an arson attack after extremists burnt a home in Mölln in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein.
Two decades, no change
Between the attacks in the 90s and the recently discovered NSU terror group, little has changed in the way police handle the day-to-day business of investigating far-right violence, according to Anetta Kahane, who heads the Amadeu Antonio Foundation. Rather than labelling the neo-Nazi murders as the plan of a group of fanatical individuals, politicians and police need to fight day-to-day racism in Germany, she added.
Ulla Jelpke, a domestic policy expert for the Left party, called for the creation of a politically independent documentation center to track right-wing violence.
"German security authorities are obviously not in a position to use everything at their disposal in confronting Nazis," Jelpke said.
The German Interior Ministry said shortcomings in investigating right-wing violence were not widespread.
"Individual lapses by local police departments to not warrant the questioning of the overall carefully adhered to police policy of fighting right-wing politically motivated crimes," the ministry said in a statement.