Al-Qaeda: a model for neo-Nazis?

16th April 2004, Comments 0 comments

The string of terror attacks around the world orchestrated by al-Qaeda has raised fears among German police that the nation's neo-Nazi movement might trying to learn from the tactics used by Osama bin Laden's network of loosely connected cells. Ernest Gill asks: are neo-Nazis adopting a new strategy of violence?

Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden's tactics could be a model of Germany's radical right

"For five years we have been running this snack bar and there's never been any trouble," the 38-year-old Vietnamese immigrant says as she wraps a veal doner kebab in foil and hands it to a customer with what she hopes passes for a smile.

"But I'm terrified now, after what happened to my husband the other evening."

It was right here, at the Euro Imbiss snack bar at the corner of Rudower and Glienicker streets in Berlin, that her 40-year-old husband was attacked by neo-Nazi thugs.

"He was closing up the stand," she recalls tearfully. "And I was closing up the flower stand I run to help make ends meet. And that was when they ..." but she cannot finish the sentence.

Three young men in hobnail boots, jeans and bomber jackets drunkenly approached the stand, demanding he give them beer - free of charge.

*quote1*When the vendor politely refused, the trio hauled him out from behind his stand and cracked his skull with a baseball bat. Twice.

As he lay on the pavement, the three neo-Nazis repeatedly kicked him while his wife wailed and screamed for help.

The Vietnamese snack vendor is in hospital with numerous fractures and a concussion, lucky to be alive.

The story was consigned to Page 19 of one of the local newspapers, sharing space with a colour story about an influx of wild rabbits in the city's Tiergarten park.


German neo-Nazis: impressed by al-Qaeda's success

Not big news in Berlin.

"Neo-Nazi street violence has been on the increase since the start of the year," says Kathrin Kalauch, a social worker in the district. "An Asian schoolboy was stabbed in this neighbourhood just two weeks ago."

And yet the isolated incidents attract little notice because neo-Nazis in Germany appear to be changing their tactics, according to federal investigators.

Aside from the random attacks, generally by inebriated youths, there is a growing awareness in the radical right-wing element that there are lessons to be learned from the radical left - and from Islamic terrorists.

"Instead of a rigid top-down leadership hierarchy, they are increasingly adopting the principal of leaderless resistance," says neo-Nazi expert Thomas Grumke.

It is the sort of "leaderless resistance" that is the hallmark of the al-Qaeda network of loosely connected terrorist cells.

It is a variation of a tactic propagated a decade ago by American neo-Nazi Louis Beam. For German neo-Nazis, with their traditional fixation on a "Fuehrer" who tells his underlings what to do, it marks a radical departure.

*quote2*Utilising the leaderless resistance concept, all individuals and cells operate independently of each other, and never report to a central headquarters or single leader for direction or instruction, as would those who belong to a typical pyramid organisation.

As unlikely as such an organisation might seem, the "success" of al-Qaeda terrorists has prompted German neo-Nazis to review their strategy, says Grumke, who has written books on the neo-Nazi movements in Europe and America and who sees alarming parallels in Germany.

"In a way, German neo-Nazis are rediscovering a concept they discarded years ago as unviable, the Werewolf Concept right after the war," notes Grumke, who has lectured at the Freie University in the Kennedy Institute in Berlin.

"But the difference is that the underground Werewolf Cadres were under orders from a Werewolf Command Staff, the leaderless resistance concept envisions autonomous cadres operating independently."

Federal investigators in Germany are taking this new concept seriously, according to a report in Berliner Zeitung newspaper. It cites BKA Federal Criminal Investigation Office sources as saying it is increasingly difficult to infiltrate neo-Nazi groups.

"Structurally organised terrorism is simply much easier to combat because one is able to infiltrate the upper echelons," a source was quoted as saying.

"But it is almost impossible to go up against the activities of fanatic individuals or autonomous cells which may have a completely clean vest until they launch their big attack."

April 2004


Subject: Life in Germany, neo-Nazis, al-Qaeda

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