Over the last couple of weeks, nothing in Germany has caused more of an uproar than a fascist trio of the subversive group called the National Socialist Underground (NSU). Four suspects—two of whom killed themselves a couple weeks ago—are suspected of involvement in a series of murders dubbed the “Kebab Murders." The victims include foreign shopkeepers from 2000 to 2006, and a policewoman in 2007. The two living suspects have been arrested and are currently in police custody. They were all allegedly part of NSU, which was also planning political assassinations. Investigators said they had found a list of 88 potential targets (88 being a popular neo-Nazi code for “Heil Hitler”). The death list included several German politicians and representatives from Turkish and Muslim groups.
With this discovery of right-wing extremism and the obvious absence of qualified investigators (authorities didn’t pick up on that killing spree for like a decade), we wanted to know how present the fear of terror is in the mind of Germans. We went out on the streets to ask if the government has failed us, if the right-wing extremist National Democratic Party should be banned permanently, and, if they were, would it only make their followers more radical? Perhaps the state has focused on the threat of terror attacks from Islamic extremists too much in recent years, and has turned a blind eye on right-wing extremists.
VICE: In your opinion, what poses the biggest threat: the Islamic terror or the terror of the neo-Nazis?
Sophia: I think I’d have to say the neo-Nazis. I don’t think much has happened here in Germany regarding Islamic terror, that’s more of an international affair.
Do you think German society is prepared for the violence of neo-Nazis?
I think the situation is pretty unpredictable, especially considering what just happened in regards to the incidents with the murders. No one could’ve expected that.
Do you think preventative measures were taken, or do you think people were more inclined to look away?
I think people looked away because no one really realized what was happening. It’s nothing new. I mean, it’s been an issue for a long time, but it was never written about enough.
Do you think the NPD should be banned?
You have to consider the fact that there are left extremists. The NPD doesn’t necessarily represent the things that the neo-Nazis represent. In my opinion that’s two separate things. You have to see who represents what. If the left extremists were to do the same, then you’d have to ban that, too.
In your opinion, what does NPD stand for? Where does the hatred come from?
I don’t like to preoccupy myself with that topic, and I don’t know exactly what’s most important for them. I can’t comprehend it. I’m not an advocator of the NPD or the left extremists. To me, they are equally bad. The hate comes from both sides and they live off each other. If one didn’t exist, the other wouldn’t either.
Do you think we can rely on the authorities? Are they even capable of protecting us?
Of course everyone hopes they can, but, to be honest, I don’t trust them. I don’t think they even know themselves how far this will all go. They will surely do something to prevent it, but whether or not it'll help in the end is another issue.
VICE: Which group poses the biggest threat: Islamic extremists or neo-Nazis?
Solange: This debate is getting on my nerves, because it’s more of a religious matter and people should learn that religion can’t do anything to you. The neo-Nazi terror is a way of thinking, with ideas that claim certain people aren’t equal.
Why do you think the neo-Nazis get so aggressive?
I can’t answer that; I’m not in their minds. But maybe it’s something historical, although there are people everywhere who are against those who look different.
Are you frightened by the terror of the new right-wing extremists?
When I was little, I was beaten up for being black. I was still really young and was told straight away that I wasn’t wanted here. Even though I’m only a quarter German, I grew up here and accepted the culture and that’s why I was so shocked when I was told that I wasn’t welcome.
Do you think the violence is underestimated here?
Yes, especially among the youths who express themselves by being violent. The potential is there and if they can’t let their anger out then they focus on a fringe group and let it out on them.
Do you think it would make sense to ban the NPD, or do you reckon that would just cause the ideas to spread underground?
I just had a similar discussion on the train. I think it could be banned, but the negative way of thinking wouldn’t disappear.
Dr. Kampel, 77
VICE: Are you of the opinion that German society is putting too much focus on Islamic terror threats?
Dr. Kampel: Yes.
So the neo-Nazis are underestimated?
From the beginning. Ever since the Federal Republic of Germany was founded.
Do you think the German society has tried to work against it, or did they look away?
They looked away.
So do you think an NPD ban would be appropriate?
That would have been appropriate from the start. Definitely. Why is there an NPD anyway?
What do you think is the trigger for the neo-Nazi's hatred and negative way of thinking?
There is a lengthy history behind it. So much so that it is almost a tradition in Germany. It didn’t happen from one day to the next.
Is it due to a hatred of foreigners? Where does the violence come from?
No, it’s about a lot more. I experienced it all as a child. Also because of the war, I wanted to become a soldier and nothing else. And then, in 1945, a lot of things changed and I did a lot of things differently.
So you shared this negative way of thinking?
Well, one didn’t know different. And the parents held themselves back, because they were always scared that their children would say something. But now I don’t share anything with them, quite the opposite.
VICE: What are your thoughts on the current neo-Nazi terror in Germany?
Olu: Well, I’ve had some bad experiences with Nazis in the past.
Every summer—and I don’t really know why—I happened to be in Gera on exactly the same day that this big event took place, where all the Nazis from Europe met. I was actually just visiting my child there, but last year was the fifth time my visit coincided with their gathering.
Did something happen to you?
I was physically assaulted in July, and I called the police. Sometimes when I come to Gera, I see a helicopter circling over the city and the civilian police often follow me because my child is also black. But I’m always very happy when I leave.
Do you feel protected by the authorities at the moment?
Yeah, sure. But it shouldn’t go as far as that. I’ve been all over the world and I should be able to walk around freely, whenever and wherever I want. I don’t want to have to be protected and receive special treatment. Do you think that Germany is focusing too much on Islamic extremists and not enough on the neo-Nazi terror?
I am of the opinion that the system has… I wouldn’t say supported, but has allowed the crimes of the right-wing extremists from the start.
So you’d say that the system looked away?
Do you think the NPD should be banned?
No. I think the people should be allowed to express themselves. You have to bring this to the public eye in order to deal with it. You have to ask yourself, “Where has this idiot come from?”
VICE: [Yvelle starts talking without a specific question.]
Yvelle: When I was 15 I was beaten up by four neo-Nazis. I was traumatized by it for years. It took me a long time to deal with, and because of that there’s a lot of tension regarding this situation. I have grandparents from Germany and I grew up in Germany. That’s where it starts: my grandfather was with the SS, and now I receive reconciliation for my male ancestral line. I work as an artist in a synagogue in Israel, and I just came from a Jewish graveyard and went to look at synagogues. For me, reconciliation is an extremely important topic.
Can you remember why you were beaten up?
I lived in a fort of the former right-wing extremists in Mannheim Frankenthal. I actually come from a good background, but I was a punk back then. I was just beaten up. It was in the 80s after a Toten-Hosen concert.
Are you scared that something could happen to you again? Something even worse?
Yeah, again and again. Humans won’t change in that respect. For example, in Israel the situation isn’t much better, the people there are leaning towards right extremism. But everyone wants peace and the tension is rising. If you look back in history, there was always a push from the right extremists within the society.
Has Germany maybe focused too much on the threat of Islamic terror instead of the terror within its own country?
Always. But that’s a change in direction. As soon as it gets critical in one’s own country, whether it's Germany, Israel, or the Arabic countries, people always try to immediately divert the inner to the outer area.