By Sal Ahmed
BERLIN (AA) - Germany’s domestic intelligence agency obstructed probes into killings by far-right German neo-Nazi terrorist group the National Socialist Underground (NSU), and many questions remain to be answered, prominent right-wing extremism expert Hajo Funke told Anadolu Agency.
“The murders aren't solved. Quite the contrary. They were not thoroughly investigated, so we still have a lot of uncertainties,” Funke said, criticizing the German secret service BfV for shredding sensitive files and not allowing officers and informants to testify in courts and parliamentary committees.
The NSU killed eight Turkish immigrants, a Greek citizen, and a German policewoman in 2000-2007, but the murders have long remained unresolved.
The German public first learned of the NSU’s existence and its role in the murders on Nov. 4, 2011, when two members of the group committed suicide after an unsuccessful bank robbery. The police found evidence in their apartment showing they were behind the murders.
Germany's then-Chancellor Angela Merkel promised to the families of the victims to do everything to resolve the murders and shed light on the neo-Nazi group.
“Angela Merkel said it full-heartedly that all things have to be developed and come to court. But it didn’t happen,” Funke said, accusing powerful groups within the secret service of blocking investigations into the murders.
“They were eager to hide things, to hide persons, to hide informants to come to the fore,” he said.
“They were successful not to bring them or let them go to Munich and to the institutions of the parliaments in various states. It was unbelievable. It was a scandal,” he said.
- 'NSU supported by network of neo-Nazis'
Until 2011, Germany's police and intelligence services dismissed any racial motive for the murders and instead treated immigrant families as suspects with alleged connections to mafia groups and drug traffickers.
The three NSU members involved in the killings lived clandestine lives for nearly 13 years, apparently without arousing the suspicions of the German police or intelligence services.
The group’s only surviving member, Beate Zschape, was sentenced to life in prison by Munich’s Higher Regional Court in 2018 after a five-year-long trial.
According to Funke, the NSU was not an “isolated cell” as claimed by the authorities but was supported by a larger network of neo-Nazis in the country.
However, those supporters were not brought to justice or even interrogated, as the secret service hindered deeper investigations.
“My guess is that there are a lot (of others) who did with them these deeds against the nine migrants and a German policewoman,“ Funke said.
“There was a lot of networking around these groups. It's very clear about it, especially in the towns of Chemnitz and in the town of Zwickau,” he said.
Funke said Germany’s domestic intelligence agency probably knew more about the NSU suspects and the larger network of neo-Nazis who supported them, but intelligence on these suspects was not shared by the court or investigation committees.
“And there were also members of the secret service, at least who worked for the secret service, who were very near to them, who had contact with them. So I think, parts of the secret service did know, and do know,” he said.
Recent revelations in the media have shown that the BfV and its local branches had dozens of informants who had contacts with the NSU suspects in the past.
But officials insisted that they had no prior information about the existence of the NSU terror cell and its role behind the killings.
According to Funke, the NSU scandal has demonstrated the existence of “structural racism” within German security organizations and the need for reform in these organizations.
“There have been lessons of the NSU failure, but the failure was total,” he said, adding that for years, the families of the victims were treated as suspects only because they were immigrants.
“The failure was through the whole institutions of society, the media, and also the security institutions of the state,” he said.
Funke said that following the NSU scandal, the German public and state institutions have become more aware of the racism problem and the need to take concrete measures.
“Now there’s a lot of debate. But it should be more,” he said, noting that the media and politicians bear a special responsibility to address the racism problem in Germany.