BONN (Sep. 30)
The Jewish community and other victims of Nazism are deeply disturbed by the apparent apathy of the authorities in face of increasingly violent activities by neo-Nazi para-military groups in West Germany. A case in point is the outlawed “Wehrsportsgruppe Hoffmann” which the Prosecutor General originally held responsible for the Oktoberfest bombing in Munich last Friday that killed 12 people and injured 213 according to the latest count.
The group’s self-styled “fuehrer,” Karl-Heinz Hoffmann, 42, was arrested along with five of his associates. All were released yesterday for lock of evidence linking them to the outrage. According to the Prosecutor’s office, there was no “urgent suspicion” of their involvement. Instead, police believe the bombing was the work of one man, 21-year-old Gundolf Kholer, a student who belonged to the Hoffmann group. He died in the blast.
NEO-NAZI DANGER UNDERESTIMATED
The history of “Wehrsportsgruppe Hoffmann” which masqueraded as a sports club, seems to bear out charges that the West German authorities and political leaders have underestimated the neo-Nazi danger. As early as 1974 the group’s activities were widely reported in the German news media. Police in Nuremberg where the organization was based said that Hoffmann and his group were well known, and on several occasions members were arrested, though promptly released.
Interior Minister Hans-Dietrich. Genscher said more recently that Hoffmann’s activities were very suspicious. But the state government in Bavaria which studied the charges, concluded that no unconstitutional aims could be attributed to his organization.
Hoffmann and his supporters engaged in military training in an old castle near Nuremberg. Hoffmann was brought to trial for illegal wearing of uniforms. But the prosecution was unsuccessful. At a second trial he was found guilty and fined 8000 Marks. The sum was easily raised by the right-wing National Zeitung, the most widely circulated neo-Nazi publication in West Germany, Eventually, Hoffmann was fried for violating the law against possession and use of firearms and was found guilty.
In 1978, the then Bavarian Interior Minister Alfred Seiol, said in reply to a question in the Bavarian Parliament that his ministry did not consider Wehnportsgruppe Hoffmann to be a danger to constitutional order and to the state. Hoffmann and his group continued their military exercises openly and began publication of a periodical, Kommando. The Bavarian police dismissed their action as a “Punch and Judy show.” The Social Democratic opposition in Bavaria criticized the government’s failure to take action.
Last January, Federal Interior Minister Ger-hard Baum banned the organization. A police raid on its headquarters yielded a quantity of military materiel including an old tank. But the group’s activities continued. A police raid last Saturday, in the wake of the Munich bombing; turned up more military equipment and explosives in members’ homes. But, according to the Prosecutor’s office, they were not related to the explosion in Munich.
LARGEST ORGANIZATION IN GERMANY
The Wehnportsgruppe Hoffmann has a member-ship of about 400, making it the largest neo-Nazi para-military organization in the country. During the past few months, its gangs frequently clashed with police while trying to disrupt demonstration and meetings of left-wing organizations.
Hoffmann has been accused of seeking to destroy the democratic system by violence. He has summer up his ideology as follows: “We do not want the power in the state but a powerful state …. A democracy is impotent. Only a dictatorship led by the right man can do anything for the people.”