Four Ku Klux Klan underground cells currently active in Germany – report

Members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) © Rainier Ehrhardt
The KKK has four clandestine cells currently active in Germany, according to local media, citing a parliamentary inquiry. Despite being “marginal,” the white supremacist group’s influence on German far-right groups is not to be downplayed, an MP warned. 

Klan members burn crosses, display swastika flags and sing “anti-constitutional songs,” according to the government response to the Left Party’s parliamentary inquiry seen by Sueddeutsche Zeitung

The four secretive cells have “a very small number of members” and remain marginal within Germany’s right-wing extremist scene, the government said in its response. Martina Renner, a Left Party MP, however, told the newspaper that the KKK’s influence on the German far-right should not be underestimated.

“A small number of members cannot downplay the threat that emanates from such organizations,” she said.

The Ku Klux Klan has been active in Germany since early 1920s, and the Klan’s leadership has in the past visited the country on several occasions to take part in acts of cross-burning staged in rural areas.

At least two German police officers were previously reported to have participated in the one of the group’s cells, the ‘European White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan,’ according to Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

The officers’ membership in the Klan’s cell surfaced in mid-2000s, when a possible link was discovered between them and the so-called National Socialist Underground (NSU), a separate neo-Nazi terrorist group responsible for the murder of a female police officer and the killings of several German businessmen of Turkish descent.

Even Beate Zschaepe, the main defendant in the pending NSU murder trial, has reportedly participated in at least two Klan events, the newspaper noted. Since 2001, there have been 68 crimes in Germany alleged to have links to the KKK, according to investigators.

The news comes amid a dramatic rise in far-right violence across the country, which took in over one million refugees in 2015. According to a June report prepared by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency BfV, the number of anti-immigrant attacks orchestrated by the far-right jumped to 1,408 in 2015, up from 990 in 2014.

It also recorded 75 arson attacks on refugee centers in 2015, up from just five a year earlier. The spike in hate crimes is coupled with law enforcement agencies’ reluctance to deal with them, the latest report by Amnesty International said, warning of growing “institutional racism.” 

Amnesty’s paper stresses that the number of hate crimes in Germany is on the rise, as police fail to, or are unwilling to, respond to them accordingly and on time.

Commenting on the paper’s findings, German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said that his agency would take it very seriously.

“One thing is clear – a state under the rule of law can never accept racist violence. We need to do everything we can to quickly catch the perpetrators and rigorously punish them,” he said in an emailed statement quoted by Reuters