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German authorities have banned a neo-Nazi group that was being investigated for plotting terrorist attacks and had bought land to set up a separatist far-right community.
Interior Ministry spokesman Steve Alter on Tuesday announced the ban on Nordadler, whose name translates as Northern Eagle, shortly after police raided properties associated with the group across four German states. Nazi literature was confiscated in the raids, police said.
The group had bought a rural plot of land in the municipality of Hohenstein in the state of Thuringia, where it intended to build a neo-Nazi community, authorities said.
German officials say the Nordadler members were avowed neo-Nazis, who had spread their message of hate — particularly toward Jews and antifa — on platforms including Telegram and Discord. The group was particularly active on social media, using it to spread its ideology, attract new recruits, and praise extremist attacks such as a deadly live-streamed shooting at a synagogue in the town of Halle last year.
"Right-wing extremism and anti-Semitism have no place on the internet,” said Alter.
The group, which reportedly had more than 30 members, used four different names, all of which included the term Volk, or people, strongly associated with the Nazi era: "Völkische Revolution" (People's Revolution), "Völkische Jugend" (People's Youth), "Völkische Gemeinschaft" (People's Community) and "Völkische Renaissance" (People's Renaissance).
Formed in early 2017 with the alleged goal of reviving national socialism in Germany, the group was already on the authorities’ radar, according to Daniel Koehler, director of the German Institute on Radicalization and De-Radicalization Studies.
He told VICE News that five of the group’s members have been under investigation since 2018 for allegedly plotting terrorist attacks. Germany’s domestic intelligence agency alleges the group had created lists of enemies to target, while federal prosecutors said it had tried to obtain weapons, ammunition, and explosive material.
Koehler said that while banning a group did nothing to change the extremist convictions of its members, it could be a useful tool for the government to weaken the group, disrupt its activities and search their properties for evidence of other crimes.
“No one thinks that this will end the extremist involvement of the individuals who were targeted,” he said. “Many will likely reorganize, create new groups or shift to other forms of activism.”
He said intelligence gleaned from the raids on the group could help authorities better understand the group’s operations and potentially assist the investigation into the plotting of terrorist attacks. “All in all, this tool allows the authorities to stop [the group from growing stronger] and to gain a lot more insight into the networks of the group targeted,” he said.
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who imposed the ban on Nordadler, said last month that the far-right posed the biggest threat in Germany, as he unveiled the country’s annual crime report which found right-wing extremists were responsible for more than half of politically motivated crimes in Germany. Among these were more than 2,000 reports of anti-Semitic crimes, an increase of 13 percent from the previous year.
Last week, the trial began of an alleged neo-Nazi accused of the execution-style killing of a pro-refugee mayor last year, in what was Germany’s first far-right political assassination in the post-war era.
Cover: 23 June 2020: "Welcome to Herzberg am Harz" is written on a wooden sign at the entrance to Herzberg. In the course of the nationwide ban on the right-wing extremist association "Nordadler", there has also been a raid in Herzberg am Harz in southern Lower Saxony. Photo by: Swen Pf'rtner/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images