Last year, a German offshoot of the U.S. neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division announced its existence to the world with a chilling video declaring “National Socialism is alive.” Now, it’s issuing death threats to left-wing German politicians.
Two lawmakers from Germany’s Green Party have revealed they have received death threats from the group, warning that they were the first and second names on the group’s kill list.
“At the moment, we are planning how and when we will execute you. At the next public rally? Or will we get you in front of your home?” read the email to 53-year-old Cem Özdemir, a veteran politician of Turkish descent, who co-chaired the Greens for a decade before stepping aside last year.
Fellow Green MP Claudia Roth received an email the same day — Oct. 27 — warning that she was second on the list.
The messages, which have been passed to police, are just the latest far-right death threats to stir concern in Germany, amid a climate of rising right-wing extremism. Germany’s government condemned the threats Monday, vowing to crack down on the perpetrators.
“The German government clearly condemns any kind of threats or violence against politicians," Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer told reporters.
“We cannot and will not accept these attacks on our free democratic system.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Steve Alter said the domestic intelligence services has been monitoring the group since it released its first propaganda last year.
The threats are believed to have emanated from the German branch of the U.S. neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, whose name means "Nuclear Weapons Division.” The violent and misanthropic group, which emerged from the now defunct neo-Nazi online forum Iron March, is “organized as a series of terror cells that work toward civilizational collapse,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The movement, which communicates in closed online forums, glorifies far-right terrorists like Timothy McVeigh and Anders Breivik, and seeks to appeal to violence-oriented young men with the ultimate goal of carrying out acts of extreme violence and fomenting race war. In the U.S., it’s been linked to five deaths, and has allegedly plotted attacks that targeted nuclear facilities and synagogues.
In June last year, the group’s German offshoot declared its existence by releasing a propaganda video titled: “AWD Germany. The knives are already sharpened!” The video featured a spokesman wearing Atomwaffen’s signature skull mask and offering greetings to American comrades. It also showed a masked member holding an Atomwaffen flag in front of Germany’s Wewelsburg castle, a former Nazi SS base which has become a cult site of worship for neo-Nazis.
Since then, the group has distributed flyers around German university campuses, and in June it posted propaganda to homes in a Turkish area of Cologne that was bombed by a neo-Nazi terror group in 2004, warning of further attacks. Little else is known about the group, and no members have been publicly identified.
German authorities are on high alert to the dangers of right-wing extremism: in June, a pro-migrant mayor was assassinated, and last month, two people were killed in an attempted mass casualty attack on a synagogue. Both attacks were allegedly committed by far-right radicals.
Last week the government announced a raft of proposals to tackle the far-right threat, including tougher checks on weapons sales and a harsher rules for online hate speech, while Dresden, a German city with a reputation as a far-right stronghold, declared a “Nazi emergency” to highlight the issue.
The country has 12,700 violence-oriented right-wing extremists, according to the domestic intelligence service, who have a history of circulating online kill lists targeting their enemies — including left-wing politicians, refugees and migrant advocates, and Jewish groups.
Cover: 18 December 2018, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Stuttgart: Cem 'zdemir (B'ndnis 90/Die Gr'nen) gives a press statement after his visit at the Ottoman trial at the Stuttgart-Stammheim prison. Photo by: Christoph Schmidt/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images