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Germany bans neo-Nazi group for 'indoctrination of children'

September 27, 2023

The German government has banned 'Artgemeinschaft,' a far-right group similar to "white supremacists" in the US. Security authorities say it was pivotal for the entire right-wing extremists, especially for the youth.

Police carrying out raids
Some 26 properties were searched, with dozens of people suspected of criminal involvement with the 'Artgemeinschaft'Image: Justin Brosch/dpa/picture alliance

Germany's Interior Ministry on Wednesday said it had banned the "Artgemeinschaft,",a far-right group known for indoctrinating children.

A statement from the ministry said it banned the Artgemeinschaft group, which it said was an anti-democratic association with around 150 members.

Police raided 26 apartments in 12 of Germany's 16 states to target 39 members of the network.

What we know so far

The ministry outlined the ban against the group and its offshoots, describing it as a "cult-like, deeply racist and antisemitic association" that sought to indoctrinate children with far-right thinking.

Parking lot with police cars and 'welcome' sign for the Hotel Hufhaus/Harzhöhe
Police raided a campsite in Thuringia's Harz region, suspected of having been the site of 'Artgemeinschaft' activitiesImage: Funke Foto Services/IMAGO

"This is a further blow against right-wing extremism and against the intellectual agitators who still spread Nazi ideologies today," Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said.

"This far-right group tried to raise new enemies of the constitution through the disgusting indoctrination of children and youths," Faeser added.

The ministry said the group had "used a pseudo-religious Germanic belief in God to spread their worldview which violates human dignity."

It used Nazi-era literature to convert the young to adopt its race theories, the ministry said and ran an online bookstore that sought to radicalize and attract non-members.

The "Artgemeinschaft" had described itself as the "largest pagan community in Germany". 

Central to the "Artgemeinschaft" was its "Familienwerk," a sub-association working to promote big families and provide indoctrination to their children. 

The Bavarian Office for the Protection of the Constitution wrote in its latest annual report, that the "Artgemeinschaft" believes in the "superiority of a Nordic-Germanic race'", similar to the "white supremacy" ideology in the US. To protect them from mixing with other "species of man," the group imposed rules on its followers similar to the "Aryan" ideas of the National Socialists. It demanded adherence to the "moral law" of the "ancestors," which required a "like-minded choice of spouses" as a "guarantee of like-minded children."

The federal interior ministry now said all the group's sub-organizations targeted at families also fell under the prohibition.

Juergen Rieger speaking at a demonstration organized by the Nazi party NPD in 2003
From 1989 until his death in 2009, Jürgen Rieger led the 'Artgemeinschaft,' refering to it as a 'fight association'Image: Christian Ditsch/IMAGO

Latest in a string of bans

The "Artgemeinschaft" had several militant far-right extremists in its ranks, like Stephan Ernst, the neo-Nazi found guilty of the murder of CDU politician Walter Lübcke near Kassel in the state of Hesse in 2019.

The "Artgemeinschaft" was founded in 1951 by Wilhelm Kusserow, who also founded the "Nordic Religious Community" during the Weimar Republic (1918-1933) which was registered in 1957 as an association headquartered in Berlin. From 1989 until his death in 2009, the notorious Hamburg neo-Nazi Jürgen Rieger led the "Artgemeinschaft," which he described as a "fighting association." Most recently, 43-year-old Sabrina S.* from Bavaria led the association. Chairman of the "Family Work" was the neo-Nazi Jens B.* from Saxony-Anhalt.

Germany has outlawed a number of extremist groups in recent months, including the local chapter of the US-based Hammerskins neo-Nazi group.

The group is known for its white supremacist rock concerts.

A report from Germany's domestic intelligence agency said around 38,800 people belonged to the right-wing extremist spectrum in Germany in 2022.

That figure was up from 33,900 in 2021, and the number of individuals considered to be potentially violent also rose from 13,500 to 14,000.

*Editor's note: DW follows the German press code, which stresses the importance of protecting the privacy of suspected criminals or victims and urges us to refrain from revealing full names in such cases.

Edited by Rina Goldenberg and Farah Bagat

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Richard Connor Reporting on stories from around the world, with a particular focus on Europe — especially Germany.