Neo-nazi Oktoberfest bombing not a ‘lone wolf’ crime

This is a 4 February 2015 German NDR TV video about new developments in investigating the 1980 Oktoberfest massacre in Munich.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Oktoberfest bomb inquiry: Severed hand may prove 1980 attack was carried out by neo-Nazis and not a lone wolf

New evidence leads to claims of political cover-up during original investigation into Germany’s deadliest post-war terrorist incident

Tony Paterson

Berlin, Wednesday 04 February 2015

New evidence surrounding a mystery “severed hand” found at the site of Munich’s infamous far-right bomb attack at the Oktoberfest in 1980 has raised suspicions that a political cover-up stifled the investigation into Germany’s deadliest post-war terrorist incident.

The annual Munich beer festival rates as Germany’s most popular tourist attraction, attracting six million visitors each autumn. But shortly after 10pm on 26 September 1980, a massive nail bomb ripped through the crowd pouring out of an exit gate, killing 13 people instantly and badly injuring more than 200 others.

Police called off a hunt for other perpetrators after concluding that the bomb was planted by Gundolf Köhler – a 21-year-old geology student and right-wing extremist who was himself killed in the explosion – acted alone.

Until late last year, Germany’s federal prosecutors had stuck rigidly to the outcome of that investigation. But growing concern about a potential cover-up prompted federal prosecutors to reopen the case in late 2014.

Now, fresh evidence has emerged which strongly suggests that Köhler did not act alone, but was instead part of an organised gang of right-wing extremists whose other members subsequently escaped police detection and fled Germany. The new evidence centres on a severed and badly mutilated hand, which a policeman found lying in the mud near the scene on the night of the bombing. At the time, investigators quickly concluded that the hand could only have belonged to Köhler – although none of its fingerprints were found in the car used by the student to travel to the beer festival. The only such fingerprints were found in Köhler’s flat.

But Germany’s ARD television channel broadcast testimony from a new and hitherto unheard witness which suggested that the hand may not have belonged to Köhler at all but rather to a possible second bomber. An unnamed nurse told ARD that shortly after the Munich bombing she recalled treating a young man whose lower arm was missing.

“The arm had been injured by an explosion and had to be amputated,” the nurse told ARD. “But he wouldn’t say how he got hurt – he was proud of it. I went into his room and he was smiling all over.

She said he was never visited by his parents but only by “groups of men”, and added: “He disappeared after a week without even having his stitches removed.”

Ulrich Chaussy, the journalist behind the ARD documentary, has suspected irregularities in the Oktoberfest attack investigation for decades. He has long-believed that the severed hand, which was destroyed by federal prosecutors in 1987, did not belong to Köhler.

Mr Chaussy points out that the bombing occurred only weeks before Germany’s October 1980 general election when the then right-wing conservative Bavarian Prime Minister, Franz Josef Strauss, was trying to fulfil his life’s ambition and replace the Social Democrat, Helmut Schmidt, as German Chancellor.

He claims to have evidence that during the crucial pre-election phase, Strauss deeply feared the likelihood of embarrassing charges that he had failed to clamp down on the activities of a major right-wing extremist group, and preferred to pin the attack on a lone and potentially deeply misguided geology student.

Mr Chaussy maintains that Strauss – who died in 1988 – initially instructed investigators to cover up the fact that the bombing was linked to a militant neo-Nazi organisations called Defence Sports Group Hoffmann, six of whose members were briefly detained after the attack but never charged.

The formal investigation into the bomb attack was stopped in 1982. Mr Chaussy’s investigations prompted the case to be reopened in December last year.

“As the evidence mounts, the lone attacker theory is crumbling,” he told Bild newspaper.

On February 4, the German ARD television channel broadcast the documentary “Assassins—A Single Perpetrator? Latest revelations about the Oktoberfest bombing,” by Daniel Harrich. It uncovers how government authorities stymied investigations into the worst terrorist act in postwar German history and suggests intelligence agents could have been involved in the attack: here.

School for Nazis: Parents’ horror as children in German school begin greeting one another with ‘Heil Hitler’ and using Nazi slogans: here.

Octoberfest bombing: German government blocks information on intelligence agency involvement: here.

Nazi looted art discovery in Germany

This video from Germany says about itself:

Nazi Munich Art Discovery, Muenchen Gurlitt Sammlung Raubkunst

6 Nov 2013

Some of the circulated pictures of Nazi Munich art discovery.

By Verena Nees in Germany:

Nazi looted art works discovered in Munich

13 November 2013

Two weeks ago, the German FOCUS magazine revealed that, while conducting the authorised search of a flat in Munich-Schwabing on February 28, 2012, police found and seized about 1,400 paintings and prints, most of which probably consisted of Nazi-looted property that was considered lost.

Among the works are paintings by Picasso, Chagall, Matisse, Nolde, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Liebermann, Beckmann, Otto Dix, as well as artists of the Dada, Expressionism, Surrealism and Cubism movements, outlawed by the Nazis as “degenerate art”. There are also works by artists from earlier centuries, such as Dürer and Spitzweg.

The flat is owned by the almost 80-year-old Cornelius Gurlitt, son of Nazi art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt, who apparently harboured this huge collection of paintings until his death in 1956.

His son Cornelius, who is not an art dealer, ostensibly lived from the proceeds of the sale of some of these works on the art market. On September 22, 2010, customs officers had searched him on a train from Zurich to Munich, found €9,000 in cash in his bag and began investigatons against him on suspicion of tax evasion.

In December 2011, Gurlitt was nevertheless easily able to auction off a gouache painting until then considered lost—The Lion Tamer, by expressionist painter Max Beckmann—at the Lempertz auction house in Cologne. A search warrant issued a few months later led to the confiscation of 121 framed and 1,285 unframed works of art from his flat.

A fierce debate about the Nazi art theft has been triggered by this large-scale recovery of valuable art works in the middle of Munich almost 70 years after the war and nearly 80 years after the Nazis’ “degenerate art” propaganda offensive. More remarkable still is the fact that the public prosecutor had been secretly in possession of the confiscated pictures since February 2012 and is even now unwilling to publish a complete list of the works found.

The federal government was informed of the matter several months ago, according to spokesman Steffen Seibert. But the general public, relatives of the former Jewish owners and public museums throughout Europe, from which the Nazis seized works of art, were—and continue to be—denied the right to inspect the collection.

At a press conference on November 4, Augsburg senior prosecutor Reinhard Nemetz justified this by claiming that proceedings against Cornelius Gurlitt for tax evasion and embezzlement had not yet been completed. “Priority is given to the investigations. I can’t speculate about who may be the owners of any of these objects”, he said, adding that people believing they are entitled to any of the works are welcome to register their claim.

No indication was given regarding Cornelius Gurlitt’s whereabouts. “I don’t know where he is, because that’s not a matter we’re dealing with”, Nemetz said. No investigations have been carried out by the judicial authority either in Salzburg, where Gurlitt owns a house and—according to press reports—also rents a flat, nor in the home of his sister.

Nemetz’s assertion that informing the public about the trove would threaten the preservation of the art works was criticised by Berlin art expert and lawyer Peter Raue as “verging on insolence”. A list of images published on the Internet would enable museums and relatives of former Jewish owners to help resolve questions of ownership.

The Israeli Haaretz newspaper wrote that the works found in Munich were “only the tip of the iceberg”. According to the Culture and Media Advisor to the German government, there were about 80 German art dealers who had acted like Hildebrand Gurlitt.

Alfred Weidinger, vice director of the Vienna Belvedere Palace Museum, told the Austrian APA news agency: “It was no secret that this collection existed. Basically, every important art dealer in southern Germany knew it existed—and knew how much of it there was, too”.

Weidinger claimed the collection would have been found much earlier, if the relevant German authorities had carried out their investigations more carefully. “If they didn’t know until 2013 that there was a Gurlitt collection in Munich, they weren’t doing their job properly”, he said.

In a FOCUS Online video interview, Lempertz auction house legal adviser Karl-Sax Feddersen defended the auction of the Beckmann painting from Gurlitt’s collection as “a normal affair”. He admitted that Gurlitt was known to the house: “The name Gurlitt—Gurlitt was a colourful character who did business even in those crazy times (sic). If you are familiar with the background, you will of course understand that there can be problems in this respect”. But the auction house reconciled itself to the inheritance of the Beckmann picture.

Degenerate Art

In 1937 the Nazis launched their “Degenerate Art” campaign with a touring exhibition in Munich and later in other major cities in Germany and Austria. In preparing for the exhibition more than 21,000 works of modern art were confiscated from German museums. After the war began, another 600,000 works of art were stolen in the occupied countries of Europe.

The propaganda exhibition, “Degenerate Art”, displayed to the public for the last time many modern masterpieces that had been confiscated from museums. It attracted a record number of over 2 million visitors. The confiscated works were then stored in depots in Berlin—for example, in the Victoria warehouse in Kreuzberg, in the Schönhausen Palace in Berlin-Niederschönhausen and also in the basement of the wartime propaganda ministry, where a number of leading Nazis like Hermann Göring stored valuable appropriated works they later privately sold.

In May 1938, the confiscation of the art works was legitimised by the “Law on Sequestration of Products of Degenerate Art”.

A total of 1,004 paintings and 3,825 graphics, officially declared to be unusable eminent pictures, were burned in the courtyard of Berlin’s main fire station on March 20, 1939. Some 125 works, chosen by a “Commission for the Liquidation of Products of Degenerate Art” under the direction of Hermann Göring, were scheduled for an auction in Switzerland, which was to be transacted by the Theodor Fischer auction house in Lucerne.

Joseph Goebbels’s propaganda ministry then commissioned qualified art experts to sell other works of art in order to obtain foreign currency for the imperial treasury and the war. Among these art sellers were Ferdinand Möller, Karl Buchholz, Bernhard A. Böhmer and the Dresden art historian, Hildebrand Gurlitt.

Although Gurlitt had a Jewish grandmother and was involved in modern art prior to 1933 as director of the Zwickau Museum and head of the Hamburg Art House, he rose to become one of the Nazis’ most successful art dealers after Hitler’s seizure of power.

From 1942, Gurlitt operated in France and the Netherlands on behalf of Hitler’s “Special Mission Linz”, cooperating there with Erhard Göpel and Bruno Lohse. The commission involved the gathering of looted art objects for a monumental “Führer Museum” in Linz.

Bruno Lohse, SS lieutenant colonel and deputy head of a special staff for visual arts at the notorious Task Force of Reich Leader Alfred Rosenberg (ERR) in Paris, organized—among other cultural crimes—the destruction of Alphonse Schloss’s famous Jewish collection in southern France. The collection contained numerous Dutch masterpieces of the 17th century, including some by Rembrandt, Brueghel, Rubens and Frans Hals. Hermann Göring selected hundreds of paintings from those confiscated in the ERR’s Jeu de Paume headquarters for his personal collection. Apparently, Gurlitt also had access to this collection and was in a position to exploit it for himself. Only a few of the works were to resurface after the war.

As is now known, Hildebrandt Gurlitt also participated in an October 1943 visit by Erhard Göpel to expressionist painter Max Beckmann, who was living in exile in Amsterdam. The two art dealers talked Beckmann into selling his pictures. In the postwar period, this was portrayed as an heroic feat on part of Göpel, who allegedly wanted to secure Beckmann’s financial livelihood. Such euphemistic accounts survive even today on Wikipedia.

No legal consequences after 1945

After the war, the raids conducted by the Nazi looters went unpunished. Hildebrand Gurlitt and many others continued to work as art dealers. Gurlitt participated in denazification proceedings that exonerated him, partly because of his Jewish grandmother.

Gurlitt claimed during his interrogation that most of the works in his collection were burned in the bombing of Dresden, shortly before the war ended. In the 1960s, his widow repeated this claim, which the discovery of the Munich trove has now proved to be a lie.

Approximately a hundred works, found and confiscated by the Americans during Gurlitt’s arrest at the von Pölnitz family castle in northern Bavaria, were described by Gurlitt as “a private collection”. His demand for their return proved successful. The Allies also handed collections back to many other Nazi art dealers.

In the postwar period, Hildebrand Gurlitt again dealt in modern art, heading the Düsseldorf Art Association until his death in 1956. He was revered in polite society to such an extent that a street in Düsseldorf was named after him.

Following the war, other Nazi art dealers also managed to pursue their former profession undisturbed or attain honourable positions in the cultural sector, as did Ferdinand Möller and Erhard Göpel. The latter was an editor at the Prestel publishing company from 1948, as well as art critic for the Süddeutsche Zeitung and Die Zeit newspapers. His museum career at the Bavarian State Picture Collection failed only because his advocates had themselves been connected with “Special Mission Linz”—as was attested by the director general of the collection, Ernst Buchner, formerly one of Hitler’s most important art advisers.

Hermann Voss, head of “Special Mission Linz”, was appointed director of the Dresden State Art Collections by Goebbels in 1943 and remained at this post after 1945, curtesy of the Soviet occupiers. Only when he fled to the West was he arrested and interrogated by the American occupation authorities. However, he was able to evade conviction and eventually even managed to rise to the position of Bavarian state government adviser on the sale of works of art.

In the latest issue of Die Zeit, US historian and expert on Nazi looted art Jonathan Petropoulos declared that trading in stolen art is once again flourishing, particularly in Munich, where a network of former Nazis is active. He pointed out that those involved included Bruno Lohse, Andreas Hofer, Karl Haberstock and Hildebrand Gurlitt.

When former SS officer Bruno Lohse died at the age of 95 in 2007, stolen paintings by Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir and Camille Pissarro were discovered in his Zurich safe, which was managed under the code name of a certain “Schönart” company based in Liechtenstein.

The German judiciary, itself riddled with former Nazi attorneys, showed no interest in pursuing the art dealers and museum directors who were involved in Nazi art theft. “The parties concerned were able to continue their lives unmolested and became a normal part of the West German art scene”, says Petropoulos.

When two members of the Task Force of Reich Leader Alfred Rosenberg, Robert Scholz and Walter Andreas Hofer, were sentenced to ten years’ incarceration in Paris in 1950, the Federal Republic refused to extradite them.

To this day, works that the Nazis seized from public museums and passed on to their licensed art dealers—including Gurlitt—in order to be resold are regarded as property lawfully acquired through purchase. The transactions made at the time under conditions of force were never declared annulled. The “Law on Sequestration of Products of Degenerate Art” was not revoked after 1945, and art dealers consequently had free rein to trade in the stolen works of art.

The current conduct of the office of the public prosecutor has to be seen in this context. It wants to avoid an open debate about the behaviour of the post-war German judiciary in relation to art theft perpetrated by the Hitler regime. At the same time, it wants to protect stakeholders in the art market, who are still enriching themselves through the sale of art works plundered by the Nazis.

Art Dealer to the Führer: Hildebrand Gurlitt’s Deep Nazi Ties: here.

Maria Altmann was in her 80s when she entered into a legal battle with the Austrian government in order to reclaim Gustav Klimt’s ‘Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I’ and other Nazi-plundered Klimt paintings. The artwork had been stolen from her family’s home after she escaped from Austria as a Jewish refugee of the Holocaust during World War II. Never certain she would even live to see a verdict, Altmann’s fight wasn’t about money or revenge. According to her, she simply wanted to preserve the truth of what had happened to her family.” (Read more here)

Cancellation of exhibition about Jewish art collector in Germany raises issue of Nazi-confiscated art: here.

Rightist German Oktoberfest terrorist no lone wolf

Extreme right Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik is depicted in right-wing media as “mentally ill” which he is not.

They also say Breivik is supposedly an isolated individual, which he is not. He had contacts with dubious chemical stuff dealers in Poland, British nazis, etc. He used to be an official in the biggest far right party in Norway. He got his ideas on why Norwegian social democrat youngsters should supposedly be massacred from nearly mainstream rightist politicians and pundits’ propaganda on “evil Muslims” and “cultural Marxists”, from Dutch Islamophobe Geert Wilders to United States xenophobes.

Will we have to wait 31 years before people who today claim Breivik is a “lone wolf” will admit that they were wrong in 2011? That the “apolitical” terrorist really was political?

It looks like it, from an article today about terrorism in Germany 31 years ago.

This German video is called Oktoberfestattentat Bombenanschlag 26.09.1980 Teil 1 v 5.

From German weekly Der Spiegel:


Oktoberfest Bombing Under Review

Officials Ignored Right-Wing Extremist Links

By Tobias von Heymann and Peter Wensierski

Thirty-one years after the 1980 Oktoberfest bomb attack, officials have reopened the case. Previously unknown documents reviewed by SPIEGEL show that the perpetrator, allegedly a lone wolf, was involved with the neo-Nazi scene and Bavarian conservatives. But the unwelcome clues were likely ignored.

The first booths were already open and a brass band was playing when a group of serious-looking people gathered at Munich’s Oktoberfest in late September.

Tears were flowing, and some quietly placed red flowers at the entrance to the Theresienwiese, the site of the annual beer festival. They had come to commemorate their loved ones, their parents, siblings and spouses, who were murdered at this spot exactly 31 years ago, in the worst terrorist attack in postwar German history. Thirteen died and more than 200 people were injured.

Robert Platzer, one of the survivors, was 12 at the time. “I saw a young man bending over a waste basket at the entrance,” he recalls. “It was as if he were trying to lift something heavy with both hands.” At that moment, a bomb exploded in the young man’s hands. Platzer witnessed the deaths of two of his siblings, whose bodies were ripped apart and hurled through the air.

At the commemoration ceremony politicians from all major parties vowed to reopen the case. Before that, the Bavarian state parliament had already adopted a nonpartisan resolution to resume the investigation.

Too many questions are still unanswered. Who was Gundolf Köhler, the man who had tried to plant the bomb and died in the process? Who or what made him a killer? And what were the political motivations for his crime? Was the attack part of a long series of right-wing extremist acts of violence that shook Western Europe at the time?

Early in the case, there had been speculation about Köhler’s right-wing extremist background. And last year serious doubts emerged as to whether the 21-year-old was truly alone at the scene of the crime on Sept. 26, 1980. But the question of why the authorities never completely solved the case remains unanswered to this day. Could it have been that the party in power in Bavaria at the time, the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), had no interest in seeing the case solved?

Looming Election

It was less than two weeks before the Oct. 5, 1980 German parliamentary election, and the CSU and its then Bavarian state governor and chancellor candidate, Franz Josef Strauss, were not interested in right-wing extremist terrorism. In their worldview, the threat always came from the left. The social climate was toxic, and the Strauss camp, and others, treated left-wing extremist terror group the Red Army Faction (RAF) and its sympathizers as Germany’s public enemy number one.

What did not fit into this worldview was the idea that right-wing extremist groups were at the same time developing their own, loosely defined terrorist network, with cells in Hamburg, Nuremberg, Esslingen near Stuttgart, as well as in Antwerp and Bologna. Not surprisingly, efforts to investigate the threat from the far right were half-hearted at best.

For three decades, the official explanation for the Oktoberfest attack involved the theory of a confused “sole perpetrator.” In May 1981, after just eight months of investigation, the Bavarian State Office of Criminal Investigation (LKA) postulated this theory in its “final comment” on the case. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office also noted that there was “no evidence whatsoever” that “third parties” could have influenced Köhler. Case closed — or so it seemed.

Until now, this final comment was the only document relating to the case that had been made available to the public, while the investigation files on which it had been based remained unknown. Now SPIEGEL has evaluated these files for the first time, in addition to dossiers from the former East German secret police, the Stasi, and other records, some of which were formerly classified — a total of 46,000 pages.

Important Clues Ignored

The documents show that a number of Bavarian and federal government agencies were already aware of Köhler’s right-wing extremist connections before the attack, but did not seriously follow up on important clues. Evidence, including what was left of the bomb, was removed on the night of the attack, witnesses were not adequately questioned and important leads were not pursued.

More thorough investigations would likely have uncovered the right-wing extremist network behind Köhler. But this would have highlighted connections Strauss and other CSU politicians had to the far-right. Politicians and investigators threw away an important opportunity, and terrorism coming from the right, unlike leftist terrorism, was long downplayed and characterized as an aberration by “sole perpetrators.”

This was precisely what happened in the Köhler case. The “final comment” in the investigation report by the Bavarian LKA makes no mention whatsoever of direct right-wing connections or possible accomplices.

The investigators described Köhler as the unremarkable son of middle-class parents in Donaueschingen, a town in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg. He was a geology student who became interested in chemistry and fossils as a teenager. The investigation report concluded that his motives were unknown, with the authors merely noting that the fact that Köhler had failed an important intermediate examination could have provided “the final impetus” to commit the crime.

But as the newly released documents show, the authorities knew more about the case than the report suggested. Köhler’s first interactions with the far-right NPD party began when he was 14. He attended the party’s state convention and campaign events. In Donaueschingen, he was in close contact with a former Nazi who served as a father figure and strongly influenced his worldview. For years, Köhler kept a portrait of Hitler above his bed, and he also collected badges, books and pictures from the Nazi era. For one of his birthdays, he treated himself to a steel helmet and military boots, and he joined a shooting club to practice using a weapon.

“He supported the extermination of Jews and communists in the Third Reich,” one of Köhler’s friends told police after the bombing. The friend also said that Köhler had raved about being part of an SS or Reichswehr military organization in Germany, “to be able to take action against communists.” Köhler once traveled to the eastern French city of Strasbourg to visit a brothel. Friends who had accompanied him later said that when he saw a group of orthodox Jews there, he said that “Adolf had forgotten to gas them, and now we had to pay for the pensions of these old men.” One of Köhler’s brothers later told the police: “This radical right-wing sensibility stabilized over the years.”

CSU Downplayed Neo-Nazi Activity

Still, in their final comments the Federal Prosecutor’s Office and the Bavarian LKA downplayed Köhler’s worldview and his strong connection to right-wing extremist organizations.

Köhler was a member of the Viking Youth, which, modeled after the Hitler Youth, was the most important German neo-Nazi youth organization at the time. The group’s several hundred uniformed members were led by a Gauführer, a term meant to invoke the Nazi officials known as Gauleiter. They learned how to shoot, committed pipe-bomb attacks and, calling themselves “youth loyal to the German Reich,” were determined to combat the left. In 1978, “Viking disciples” attacked four NATO soldiers at a military training area in the northern state of Lower Saxony and stole several submachine guns and magazines.

But the Munich police still did not feel that the neo-Nazi connection was was worth pursuing. During a search of Köhler’s room, they even failed to recognize his Viking Youth membership card. “Because I was unfamiliar with this organization (Viking Youth), I paid no attention to this membership card. I considered such cards to be part of Gundolf Köhler’s collection, a hobby,” the operations manager of the “Theresienwiese Special Commission” wrote in a report.

The officers did take the membership card with them when Köhler’s room was searched again two weeks later. But this piece of incriminating evidence was not mentioned in the final comment, and there was no further investigation of the organization.

The authorities also showed little interest in Köhler’s involvement in the Wehrsportgruppe (Military Sports Group, WSG) paramilitary organization run by the neo-Nazi Karl-Heinz Hoffmann, or that he had attended one of their meetings “sometime in the past.” At the time, right-wing extremist activities were being downplayed by those at the very top of the political ladder in Bavaria. Speaking in the state parliament in March 1979, Strauss said: “Don’t make fools of yourselves by attributing significance to certain groups — you mentioned Hoffmann’s Wehrsportgruppe Hoffmann today — that they have never had, do not have and will never acquire in Bavaria.”

The CSU chairman also had nothing but derision for the ban of Hoffmann’s WSG by the coalition government of the center-left Social Democratic Party and the business-friendly Free Democratic Party in Bonn in January 1980. Hoffmann, he said, ought to be “left alone” if he “happens to enjoy going for a walk in the country on a Sunday with a backpack and ‘battledress’ held up with a waist belt.”

Part 2: Already Known By Police

The extensive investigation files now indicate that the authorities knew about Köhler’s contacts with Hoffmann before the attack. The German military counterintelligence service had intercepted letters between Hoffmann and Köhler that remain classified today. The Baden-Württemberg state intelligence service also had Köhler under observation, because his name had appeared on two WSG membership lists in 1977 and 1979. The police also knew about Köhler’s ties to the Viking Youth and Hoffmann’s WSG long before the Oktoberfest bombing. They too had found his name on membership lists they had seized from right-wing extremist groups.

But according to the investigation files, Köhler was only in contact with the WSG until 1976. The investigators did not find it sufficiently interesting that he had completed a type of guerilla training in Hoffmann’s group and had even discussed “the possibility of a civil war in Germany” with other members.

The Viking Youth and the WSG were not the only stations in Köhler’s extremist career. As a student in the southwestern city of Tübingen, he also gravitated toward the center of the far-right scene there. On Hoffmann’s advice, he contacted the right-wing extremist group Hochschulring Tübinger Studenten, or “University Ring of Tübingen students.” Its leader was Axel Heinzmann, an NPD member today and, at the time, a young politician for the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), the national sister party to Bavaria’s CSU. He was also known at the university by his — and Hitler’s — initials, “A.H.”

In a letter to his young protégé, Hoffmann had advised him to seek Heinzmann’s help in developing a local Wehrsportgruppe. This placed Köhler at the interface between right-wing extremism and the nationalist conservative establishment. Heinzmann cleverly addressed two milieus, the neo-Nazis and the CSU. He was a driving force behind the Aktionsgemeinschaft Vierte Partei (Fourth Party Action Group), which had ties to the CSU and aimed to expand the party’s reach nationwide. Heinzmann and his neo-Nazi friends also attended joint conferences between NPD officials and CSU members of the Bundestag, including the party’s foreign-policy spokesman at the time, Hans Graf Huyn.

Fighting communism was the subject of these meetings, known as Africa Seminars. In perfect harmony, neo-Nazis and Strauss supporters, including a number of CSU Bundestag members, discussed how best to vanquish the red threat. “Our freedom is being defended on the Cape,” one of the meeting slogans read. To demonstrate their solidarity, CSU and NPD politicians traveled to southern Africa in the late 1970s. In 1981 Edmund Stoiber, the general secretary of his party at the time, campaigned for the CSU trips “with a number of interesting interlocutors.” On another occasion his boss, Bavarian state governor Strauss, said: “One mustn’t be too squeamish with auxiliary troops,” no matter how reactionary they might be.

Damning Witness Testimony

Heinzmann’s militant leanings had been public knowledge in Tübingen for some time, a circumstance that led to a bloody brawl in December 1976, when about 200 anti-fascists tried to prevent a neo-Nazi meeting from taking place. Hoffmann, Heinzmann and their friends, including Köhler, were in the thick of the brawl. The local press described it as one of the “most brutal altercations in the city since 1945.” In a flyer titled “Is Bloodshed Necessary?” Hoffmann bragged that he and his supporters had beaten seven leftists so bad that they had to be hospitalized, and had also “injured many others.” Köhler also bragged about the beatings. He had “participated in the activities of a radical right-wing group in Tübingen” and had “really cleaned up,” he later told friends in Donaueschingen.

But Köhler’s relationship with Heinzmann, his role in Tübingen right-wing extremist circles and the connections between the CSU and the far right were all clues that investigators did not pursue. The public was also not familiarized with the immediate background of the attack, even though witness testimony in the extensive files clearly indicate that Köhler had more on his mind than his problems at university.

In early August 1980, a few weeks before the attack, the student spoke with close friends about the Bundestag election scheduled for that October. He wanted to vote for Strauss, he said, but added that it was also important for the NPD to receive more votes. In the end, he said, only violence could produce change. It was about time, he said, for someone besides the left to stage an attack, namely the right.

In the conversation, Köhler also said that it might be a good idea to commit a bombing attack in Bonn, Hamburg or Munich. The attack, he added, “could be blamed on the left, and then Strauss will be elected.”

Neo-fascists in Italy had already done something similar. Only eight weeks earlier, a bomb attack had devastated the train station in Bologna, killing 85 and injuring 200. The right-wing extremist attack was initially portrayed as the work of leftist terrorists. The strategy apparently fascinated Köhler and other right-wing radicals in Germany. They envisioned a series of bombings that would spark fear throughout the country, setting the scene for the establishment of a new Nazi dictatorship.

A Meeting in Italy

Another clue also raises questions about the background of the Oktoberfest attack. A few weeks earlier, Köhler’s idol Hoffmann apparently met in Italy with the internationally feared neo-fascist Joachim Fiebelkorn. The neo-Nazi from the town of Eppstein in the Taunus Mountains near Frankfurt was an informant for the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) and a number of intelligence agencies. He also helped Klaus Barbie, the former head of the Gestapo in Lyon, build a paramilitary combat group in Bolivia. According to previously unknown Stasi documents, Fiebelkorn, “at the instruction of Chiaie,” had met with “Karl-Heinz Hoffmann in Rome on July 13, 1980,” as well as with French and Italian right-wing extremists.

The Italian neo-fascist Stefano delle Chiaie was viewed as one of the leading international terrorists of the day, a sort of right-wing counterpart to the left-wing terrorist “Carlos.” Western intelligence agencies held Chiaie and his varying terrorist organizations, like “Ordine Nuovo,” responsible for anti-communist attacks on several continents in the 1970s and 1980s. Bu what did Hoffmann discuss during his meeting in Italy, if it took place as the Stasi had noted? Did the men merely discuss ideological issues? Or the possibility of staging attacks in Germany based on the Italian model?

Hoffmann, who was in prison for several years for other crimes and now raises woolly-coated pigs in Saxony, says today: “I was not in Italy in 1980, I never saw or spoke with Fiebelkorn, and I don’t know anything about him. I was neither the mentor nor the instigator for Gundolf Köhler, who, incidentally, was not a perpetrator but the victim of a staged attack. All investigative proceedings against me in that case were discontinued.”

According to the files on the Oktoberfest attack, Köhler spoke with friends about his mentor Hoffmann three weeks before the attack. “Gundolf quoted Hoffmann, who had said several times that the bigger the target and its values, the more victims there could be,” one witness was quoted saying.

Possible Accomplices Sighted

Then the bomb exploded in Munich, creating a scene of carnage at the exit from the Oktoberfest grounds. Body parts and dying victims were strewn across the path, while scores of people who had been in good spirits only moments earlier were now injured and confused. But what no one has known until now is that there were already signs at the time that Köhler may have had accomplices. Four youths told police that they had seen Köhler with several young men wearing German armed forces parkas shortly before the attack. They drew sketches of Köhler and his possible accomplices that largely coincided with the statements made by another witness. But the investigators also showed little interest in this possible lead.

The SPD/FDP federal government had wanted to send investigators to the crime scene that night, but the Bavarians put them off. Strauss appeared at the Theresienwiese festival grounds late that night. The Bundestag election campaign was in full swing, and the Bavarian candidate for the chancellorship promptly went on the offensive and tried to blame the left for the attack.

A few hours later, Strauss wrote an opinion piece for the weekly newspaper Welt am Sonntag. “For months I have been receiving indications that an attack was to be expected before the elections,” he wrote, noting the question of whether the attack had come from the left or the right was irrelevant. “The terror began on the left. We have been warning against such a development for years.” Strauss later speculated on possible perpetrators, saying that such an attack might be the work of then Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, the Stasi or the KGB.

The Wehrsportgruppe Hoffmann, on the other hand, was exculpated after the attack by the Bavarian interior and close associate of Strauss, Gerold Tandler. “At no point,” Tandler said, did the group constitute “a threat.”

As a result, Köhler’s act of violence was not used as an opportunity to thoroughly investigate the Wehrsportgruppe, the right-wing extremist terrorist network in Germany and the role of the perpetrator. It would have been a chance to shed light on the right-wing clique backing Köhler. Instead, his associates were able to continue what they were doing.

Right-Wing Extremist Violence Continues

Less than three months after the Oktoberfest drama, the Jewish author Shlomo Levin and his girlfriend were murdered in Erlangen, near Stuttgart. Levin had written a critical report about the Wehrsportgruppe and had compared its leader Hoffmann with Hitler. The police suspected that the murder had been committed by Uwe Behrendt, one of Köhler’s acquaintances from Tübingen. But Behrendt fled to East Germany through Hoffmann’s Bavarian residence at Ermreuth Castle. He was found shot to death, under suspicious circumstances, in Lebanon three months later.

A wave of bank robberies designed to raise cash, based on the RAF model, ensued. In one case, a robbery led to a deadly shootout in a Munich street between neo-Nazis and the police. Car bombs wounded US soldiers in the central German city of Giessen, and another friend of Köhler’s, Stefan Wagner, went on a rampage in Frankfurt. Before he turned his gun on himself, Wagner told his hostages that he had been an accomplice in the Oktoberfest bombing.

Despite their extensive findings, the authorities held onto their theory that the Oktoberfest bomber was a “sole perpetrator.” In fact, even Köhler’s brother Hermann had told the police that he didn’t believe that the killer had acted alone. “He wanted change within Germany, and he felt that he was part of a small elite unit that felt the same,” he said when he testified about his brother Gundolf. “In the event of a change in Germany, this group was to be prepared to assume power.” His brother, he added, had advocated a “violent overthrow,” insisting that then “the people would clamor for a Führer.”

Strauss’s assertion that the security services had everything “under control” was therefore a deliberate deception.

Köhler’s friends in the Hochschulring Tübinger Studenten, the Wehrsportgruppe and other right-wing terror cells remained out of control after the Oktoberfest bombing and the failure to fully investigate it — and right-wing extremist violence remained an ongoing problem in Germany.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

New hope in hunt for Nazi war criminals: here.

Austrian extreme right financial scandal

This video, in French, is about Jörg Haider and other extreme Rightists in Austria commemorating the “heroes” of Adolf Hitler’s Waffen SS.

By Markus Salzmann and Peter Schwarz:

Massive bank scandal: Austrian right-winger Jörg Haider’s legacy

22 December 2009

Austrian far-right politician Jörg Haider, at the time governor of the province of Carinthia, died in October 2008 in an automobile crash—while driving twice the speed limit and with a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit.

His legacy, however, is now costing billions, tearing holes in the budgets of Carinthia and Germany’s Bavaria. The crisis surrounding the Hypo Group Alpe Adria (HGAA) bank, in which Haider played a central role, is a prime example of the coming together of high finance and right-wing politics.

A week ago, the Austrian government took control of ailing HGAA to prevent the immediate collapse of the sixth-largest banking house in the Alpine republic. In the settlement, the previous owners—Bayerische Landesbank (BayernLB), the province of Carinthia, and Austrian mutual insurer Grazer Wechselseitige—each received one euro. They had collectively pumped in several hundred million euros to try and secure the survival of the bank.

The state-owned BayernLB, which became the majority owner two and a half years ago, must now deal with losses of nearly €4 billion. These will largely fall on the Bavarian state treasury and will be recouped through cuts in public spending. A year ago, the state of Bavaria pumped in €10 billion to protect Germany’s second-largest Landesbank (owned 94 percent by the Bavarian government) from bankruptcy.

The fate of HGAA is closely linked with the rise of Haider’s ultra-right Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) and its successor, the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ). Haider, who served 12 years as governor of Carinthia, used the bank to finance his political projects, enrich his friends in the party, and buy votes.

Under Haider’s charge, the financial institution, founded in 1896, rose from being a provincial bank into a market leader in the Balkans. The bank funded Haider’s money-losing prestige projects in Carinthia, such as the luxurious Schlosshotel Velden and the floating stage on the Wörthersee in Klagenfurt, as well as financing the province’s growing debts. Carinthia is now considered the “debt emperor” among Austria’s provinces.

In return, the state government guaranteed the bank’s creditworthiness, underwriting guarantees amounting to €19 billion. That is almost 10 times the state’s annual budget of €2 billion. The bankruptcy of HGAA would inevitably have resulted in Carinthia’s insolvency.

In the manner of an emperor in ancient Rome, Haider used the cash flow from HGAA to win the support of the voters. He introduced various forms of family benefits, payments for commuters, heating and diesel fuel subsidies, and an inflation relief payment. Under Haider’s successors, young people who acquired a driver’s license were given €1,000. These monetary gifts did little to lessen social inequality; with 76,000 people at risk for poverty, Carinthia is the second poorest of Austria’s provinces—but it ensured that the BZÖ won substantial majorities.

In the successor states of Yugoslavia, the HGAA financed a semi-criminal and corrupt elite, which resembled the one surrounding Haider. “In Macedonia, Bosnia or Montenegro, banking geniuses were drawn hypnotically into the wake of Jörg Haider, needy entrepreneurs who could make good use of inexpensive bridge financing for their cash flow,” the Frankfurter Allgemeine commented.

Bavarian conservatives lose elections

This is a German video about the recent elections in Bavaria.

By Peter Schwarz in Germany:

Electoral debacle for conservatives in Bavaria

1 October 2008

The ruling Christian Social Union (CSU) had reckoned with severe losses in last weekend’s state election in Bavaria. The result declared on Sunday evening exceeded the party’s worst expectations and those of election pollsters. While in the last state election five years ago the CSU polled 60.7 percent of the vote, this time round it managed to receive only 43.4 percent. Based on the low level of voter participation in the election this means that the party that has ruled Bavaria for the past 46 years was only able to count on the support of a quarter of the electorate.

It is necessary to go far back into German history to find a comparable loss of support in a state election. In 1950 the CSU suffered even worse losses, but only because the conservative Bavaria Party had been able to mop up many of its supporters that year. The sister party of the CSU—the Christian Democratic Union (CDU)—suffered a comparably humiliating defeat in the Berlin state election in 2001, when it lost 17 percent of its vote in the wake of the city’s bank scandal. The most frequent terms used by commentators to describe the latest Bavarian election are “debacle,” “disaster,” “earthquake,” and “heap of rubble.”

A further remarkable result of the election is the inability of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) to profit from the decline of the CSU. The party won just 18.6 percent of the vote—less than its total in 2003, which was the party’s worst ever result. Any hopes that the recent elevation of Frank Walter Steinmeier and Franz Müntefering to the top of the SPD national leadership would help stem the tide for the SPD were dashed in Bavaria.

The winners in the election are the Free Voters, who entered the state parliament for the first time with 10.2 percent of the vote, the free-market Free Democratic Party (FDP), which re-enters the parliament with 8 percent after a 14-year absence, and the Greens, who slightly increased their previous tally and won 9.4 percent. The Left Party, which put up candidates in the state for the first time, obtained 4.3 percent—less than the 5 percent necessary for representation in the state parliament.

The CSU, which had governed the state since 2003 with a two-thirds majority, has now lost its overall majority in the state parliament and is dependent on a coalition partner.

Bavaria’s CSU leader quits after election blow: here.

German Left Party on the Bavarian elections: here.

Austrian elections: rightist forces benefit from decline of social democracy: here.