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March 19, 2020 3:04 pm
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In Raids Across Germany, Police Target Far-Right Groups, Seizing Weapons, Drugs and Propaganda

avatar by Ben Cohen

Demonstrators take part in a far-right rally in Dresden, Germany. Photo: Reuters / Matthias Rietsche.

With a declaration that the fight against antisemitism and racism would not be derailed by the coronavirus crisis, Germany’s Interior Ministry announced on Thursday that early-morning police raids had been carried out against far-right groups in 10 of the country’s federal states, with officers seizing firearms, computers, illegal narcotics and propaganda materials.

The raids on private homes and office buildings followed Interior Minister Horst Seehoffer’s decision to ban an extremist group called “United German Peoples and Tribes,” along with a subsidiary organization known as the “Osnabrücker Landmark.”

The groups “clearly express their intolerance towards democracy through racism, antisemitism and historical revisionism,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Interior Ministry spokesman Steve Alter confirmed the police operation on Twitter, adding that “right-wing extremism, racism and antisemitism are being fought relentlessly even in times of crisis.”

The groups and individuals targeted on Thursday form part of a looser association of far-right organizations known collectively as the “Reichsbürger” (“Reich Citizens”).

According to the Interior Ministry, about 19,000 Germans identify with the association, whose ideology is described as a “mixture of esotericism, racism and an enthusiasm for the ‘Germanic.'”

The association asserts that the Federal Republic of Germany is an illegal construct and encourages its supporters to identify with the World War II-era German Reich.

Speaking to journalists about one set of raids in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia — where the major city of Cologne is located — local Interior Minister Herbert Reul warned neo-Nazis and other extremists that the coronavirus crisis should not “lull them into a false sense of security.”

Thursday’s actions were a continuation of the clampdown on the far right initiated at the beginning of the year by the Interior Ministry, when it banned Combat 18, a notoriously violent neo-Nazi group whose name is taken from Adolf Hitler’s initials.

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