A trial surrounding the murder of 9 people in a series of attacks and bombings by German Neo-Nazis was used as the basis for a group of tv movies looking at events from the point of view of the victims, the perpetrators and the investigators in each of three long episodes – an interesting experiment in documentary drama. A lot of talk show time was devoted to discussing the questions arising, most notably the lack of competent investigation by the authorities. Everyone accepts their efforts were bungled and inadequate.
In particular, the various neo-Nazi groups appear to have been very heavily infiltrated by informers working for police and security agencies, yet they were still unable to stem a wave of violence, or even to suggest that investigations were following false trails that would lead no-where, such as the misfounded suspicion of links to organised crime in Turkey.
The question hanging over the whole debate, which is never directly addressed, is whether the police and security agencies are culpable and actively support the various groups of violent racists and neo-Nazi’s. In most countries, this might seem an unreasonable exaggerated concern, but Germany is not most countries and nor is the history of its security agencies.
I live in the district of Charlottenburg in Berlin and at the end of our street is a very fine art gallery housing the Bergruen Collection of first class mainly twentieth century modernist masterpieces. The building however has a chequored background. For almost a century it housed the training school for Berlin and Prussian Police Officers and in the 1930′s became an ‘academy’ training high ranking members of the Gestapo. Its alumni included war criminals such a Klaus Barbie, the butcher of Lyons. They studied the practice of repression and the holocaust.
When the BundesNachrichtenDienst (BND), the German Intelligence Service was established in Munich following WW2, its core leadership were known as the Charlottenburgers, for their pedigree as people trained at the Gestapo academy. The intimate link with the Nazi past had not been broken.
As well as the BND at the national level, there are security services in each of the individual German states, such as Thuringen where those on trial for the chain of killings were based. The trial has reveal a long list of inadequacies in the way the informers were used, information collected and kept restricted with ineffective collaborations between the various organisations, state prosecutors and the police. It is difficult to believe that the catalogue of deficiences were merely the result of bungling time-servers and incompetents. The ghost in the debate about the investigations is the possibility that at some level deep inside the system, the police and security services were directly involved in perpetrating and covering up the crimes, a series of murders commited against members of the Turkish community in Germany.
Right now in Berlin a new Headquarters for the BND is being completed. Is a new building really what is required, or should the Germans be dismantling the existing organisations and attempting to creating a new and indisputably clean security service, if such a thing is a credible option?
The resurgence of far right organisations across Europe makes uneasy reading at every level, but even the possibility that the security services are sympathetic and in cahouts with these people opens up a new potential for a return to the worst depths of twentieth century.
Are these the kind of people the British should be expecting their police, security services and GCHQ to be in collaboration with inside an EU superstate? Its just another question that needs to be addressed when people make their decision to vote for Brexit, or to stay inside the EU, in the coming referendum.