In Mecklenburg Vorpommern, the German state on the Baltic sea that Angela Merkel calls home, a far-right terror plot and a spectacular tale of extremist infiltration of the police force has raised questions about both how widespread neo-fascist terror cells are in Germany—and how seriously the government is taking the problem.
Last week it was revealed that “Nordkreuz,” an underground right wing terror group, had sought to obtain hundreds of body bags and quicklime for kidnappings, killings and assassinations as part of a planned uprising.
It was also recently revealed by the regional German newspaper network Redaktions-Netzwerk Deutschland that the group had drawn up political death lists using the police database accessed by some of its members, retrieving 25,000 names.
The group apparently drew its membership from amongst serving police officers, military reservists, and in one case the regional Spezialeinsatzkommando, a highly trained elite police unit deployed in anti-terrorist activity.
Prosecution of members of the network have been ongoing since 2017, but only now is the extent of the organisation and the scale of their plans coming to light.
Nordkreuz were not just a neo-Nazi terror group. Central to their ideology was the prepper mindset more associated with religious extremists or doomsday cults. Members of the group were said to be preparing not just for violence against their political enemies but for a so-called “Day X.”
One member had reportedly obtained 10,000 bullets from police stores for the anticipated uprising. He was also found hoarding vacuum-packed cigarettes and alcohol to barter with in the event of economic collapse.
Not aloneThe Nordkreuz revelations have shocked people due to the apparent ease with which members could take advantage of their police connections to obtain materials and information, but also for the group’s cult-like belief in a coming uprising against Islam and the liberal political system.
The revenge killings envisioned by Nordkreuz are more than the fantasy of internet chat rooms. Last month Walter Lübcke, a veteran CDU politician and Mayor with an explicitly pro-immigration stance, was assassinated in his own home by the far-right activist Stephan Ernst.
Similarly, Heinz Meyer, the leader of the anti-Islamic group Pegida in Munich, stands accused of forming a cell to carry out political assassinations and trying to acquire firearms through his hunting club.
In a case closely mirroring the police infiltration achieved by Nordkreuz, in 2017 German military intelligence moved against members of a group calling itself “Hannibal’s Shadow Army.” A fascist network operating within the German armed forces, it had access to weapons and the same vision of a coming ‘Day-X’ and a nationalist military coup.
In 2018 a group styling itself “Revolution Chemnitz” attacked people with non-white backgrounds in the former East German city, a right-wing stronghold where members of anti-Islamic group Pegida had marched side by side with politicians from the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party, which has made huge inroads in the region.
The Chemnitz group were planning armed attacks on what they called “the media dictatorship and their slaves” according to interviews obtained by the Munich-based Sueddeutsche Zeitung. Like Nordkreuz, they saw themselves as lighting the touch paper on a nationalist uprising in which the police and patriotic citizens would flock to their side in an escalating culture war.
A war for Germany’s futureThis idea of a war to protect Europe is a staple trope of the new German right. Pegida, which has spawned imitators in the UK, Sweden and elsewhere, stands for Patriotic Europeans against the Islamification of the Ossident—a common synonym for the West in German.
Andreas Kalbitz, a senior AfD politician in Brandenburg with a past in neo-Nazi groups, told fellow party members in February “we didn’t beat the Turks in Vienna just to hand them Berlin,” a reference to the siege of Vienna and the eventual victory of the Holy Roman empire over the Islamic Ottomans in the 17th century. It is a powerful and simple story which, like the AfD, is also conveniently free of the baggage of Nazism.
Germany now has to deal with the fact right wing extremism is morphing into something more powerful than the old fringe neo-Nazi and skinhead movement. Feeding off the broader populist discourse in Europe, the ease with which groups like Nordkreuz could recruit from and use the resources of the police—and whether they were given passive help in doing so—also poses tough questions about Germany’s ability to fight domestic extremism when its own security services are compromised.
The assassination of Walter Lübcke and the kill lists drawn up by Nordkreuz are a sobering reminder that extremism is not an inconvenient hangover of Germany’s past, but a present and future political reality it must face up to.