New generation of German neo-Nazis blend into crowd

Beate Zschaepe. Photo / AP
Beate Zschaepe. Photo / AP

German neo-Nazis once sported shaved heads, jackboots and olive-green bomber jackets, but security agencies warn that a new breed of far-right extremists has become harder to spot as they promote their ideology of racist hate.

The image of beer-swilling skinheads who assaulted foreigners and torched refugee homes in the 1990s has given way to militants in black hooded jumpers who organise flashmobs via text messages and social media.

The German domestic intelligence service has been slow to catch up, as highlighted by the case of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) trio who lived in hiding for years and are accused of murdering 10 people, nine with foreign roots.

The trial of the group's only surviving member was to begin today amid tight security in Munich.

Supporters of the Alliance against Nazi Terror and Racism have vowed to demonstrate outside the courthouse while Beate Zschaepe, 38, appears on charges linked to killings that span a seven-year period.

Zschaepe is charged with complicity in the murders of eight ethnic Turks, a Greek immigrant and a German policewoman. She is also accused of involvement in 15 armed robberies, arson and attempted murder in two bomb attacks.

She faces life in prison if convicted. Four men, alleged accomplices, will also go on trial on lesser charges.

The German security agency, much criticised for failing to stop the NSU murder spree, estimates that there were 22,400 far-right extremists, including 9800 who had voiced or shown a willingness to use violence, in late 2011.

They are organised into over 200 clandestine groups with names such as "National Socialist Hatecore" and the international "Blood & Honour" network, said the latest report by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

Because Nazi symbols are banned, many extremists now wear black hooded sweaters, baseball caps, scarves and sunglasses, making them difficult to distinguish from their traditional arch-enemies, the left-wing anti-fascist activists.

- AFP

- NZ Herald

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