Right-wing violence in lower saxony: counted as victims

The Green Party in Lower Saxony is demanding that victims of right-wing violence be recognized as such. Relatives have been waiting for this for years.

Prone to violence: bald heads or as they like to call themselves skinheads Photo: dpa

Matthias Knabe is one of the names that state parliament member Julia Hamburg (Greens) wants to recall, for whom she wants justice. Fifteen far-right skinheads attacked the 23-year-old punk near Gifhorn on May 8, 1991. "He was driven into the street by them," Hamburg says. "Downright chased." A car hit him. Matthias Knabe died of his severe brain injuries on March 4, 1992. As a victim of right-wing extremist violence, Knabe is still not officially recognized in Lower Saxony. The politician wants to change that.

The Green Party wants to introduce an initiative in the Lower Saxony state parliament for the retrospective recognition of victims of right-wing violence. The Amadeu Antonio Foundation has identified eight victims in Lower Saxony. Only two of them have been recognized. In Knabe’s case, the perpetrator "made no secret, even at the trial, that he was a Nazi and rejected the victim because he was a ‘tick,’" Hamburg says. "Nevertheless, in the statistics, this is not a Nazi murder."

The problem, he said, is that statistics for cases in which a verdict has already been handed down cannot be changed after the fact. "We want Pistorius to lobby the federal government for a change," the MP said. "The criteria for what is considered a politically motivated crime will be determined in the federal government." In addition, she says, it is necessary for police officers in Lower Saxony to be made even more aware of the issue of right-wing violence.

By the time of going to press, it was not possible to find out from the Lower Saxony Ministry of the Interior what Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD)’s position is on retroactive recognition of the victims of right-wing violence.

The Amadeu Antonio Foundation has identified eight deaths as victims of right-wing violence in Lower Saxony since 1990. The number of unreported cases, however, is higher.

Alexander Selchow died on January 1, 1991. 21-year-old Selchow was stabbed to death on New Year’s Eve in Rosdorf by two 18-year-old skinheads who belonged to the right-wing extremist FAP (Freedom German Workers’ Party).

Helmut Leja was stabbed to death by a 17-year-old from the local skinhead scene in a wooded area near Kastorf on June 4, 1991. The 17-year-old called the homeless man "scum."

Matthias Knabe died on June 4. The previous year, fifteen right-wing skinheads had attacked the punk and rushed him onto a federal highway near Gifhorn, where he was hit by a car.

Gustav Schneeclaus was so badly beaten by skinheads in Buxtehude on March 18, 1992, that he died of his injuries. Previously, Schneeclaus had called Hitler a "great criminal."

Hans-Peter Zarse, himself a right-wing skinhead, was stabbed to death by another scene member on March 12, 1993. According to the Regional Court of Luneburg, the perpetrator, who was the leader of a right-wing extremist skinhead group, felt that his desire for dominance and his honor had been "impaired" in a confrontation that included physical violence. The Amadeu Antonio Foundation also sees this killing as a politically motivated crime: "The ideological context of the perpetrator should not be ignored, as it lowers the inhibition threshold for excessive violence against a human being."

Bakary Singateh aka Kolong Jamba was born on 7. December 1993, a German stabbed him to death with a twelve-centimeter knife on the train from Hamburg to Buchholz because he allegedly felt disturbed by the Gambian asylum seeker.

Peter Deutschmann died on August 9, 1999. The 44-year-old homeless man was kicked to death in his council apartment in Eschede by two neo-Nazis wearing Springer boots. He had previously told the two youths to "cut the skinhead crap".

Gerhard Fischhoder was kicked to death by a man in the night of July 10, 2003. Even before that, neo-Nazis had been mobbing in front of the homeless shelter where he lived. The perpetrator is said to have belonged to the group.

The only victims of right-wing violence only Gustav Schneeclaus and Peter Deutschmann were officially recognized as victims of right-wing violence.

However, the CDU faction wants to support the initiative of the Greens. "The recognition of victims of right-wing violence is something that definitely needs to be implemented," says Uwe Schunemann, a member of parliament. "That’s where you have to set an example." The Amadeu Antonio Foundation counts the death toll of right-wing violence across Germany. In total, at least 193 people have been killed by right-wingers, it said. The Federal Ministry of the Interior officially estimates only 83 deaths from right-wing violence since 1990.

For a case to end up in the statistics, the first police officer to handle the case has to put the checkmark in the right place at the police station, says Robert Ludecke of the foundation. In the 1990s in particular, he says, many right-wing skinheads were convicted only as juvenile offenders. "The acts were depoliticized," Ludecke says. Retrospective recognition is also difficult, he says, because the files on the decades-old cases are often thin.

Victims of right-wing violence are entitled to money from state compensation funds. But that’s not what the relatives are concerned about. "They wonder why their son had to die," Ludecke says. Recognition, he says, also means that the state admits "that it was not able to protect its citizens."

Verdict against Beate Zschape

The Green Party has raised the issue of right-wing extremist violence in response to the verdict against Beate Zschape in the NSU trial. The parliamentary group is also calling for a parliamentary reappraisal of the "entanglements of the so-called NSU and the local right-wing scene as well as the security authorities" in Lower Saxony. "We can’t yet say what role the Verfassungsschutz played," Hamburg says. In addition, it is unclear whether files were also shredded in Hanover to cover up connections.

First, she wants to get answers through inquiries. "But we do not rule out the possibility of a parliamentary committee of inquiry. However, the Greens could have had the investigation long ago, since they were still sitting in the state government themselves until last October.

Schunemann considers the NSU involvement in Lower Saxony to have been intensively clarified: "Even in my time, there were immediate investigations," says the ex-interior minister. "That’s when everything was really turned over at the State Security and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution." There had been no further findings at the time.

Minister Pistorius also commented on the role of the security authorities after the verdict against Zschape, who faces life in prison, became known. "Lower Saxony does not seem to be affected by this," Pistorius said. Whether further investigations would be necessary after the trial in Munich would have to be decided by others.

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