German neo-Nazi cell may be linked to rabbi’s murder


BERLIN (JTA) — Police in Germany and Switzerland are investigating possible links between the 2001 murder of a rabbi in Zurich and a killing spree by a  terrorist neo-Nazi cell.

The Israeli-born rabbi, Abraham Grunbaum, 70, was killed instantly after being shot at point-blank range on June 7, 2001 in the Agudas Achim synagogue, according to the Swiss paper Tagesanzeiger. The crime was recorded on a security camera, but the image quality was low, the report said. Police found two bullet casings and cigarette butts at the site. The rabbi was not robbed, thus the motive was considered likely to be hate.

A rash of murders that followed shortly after the Orthodox rabbi’s killing now have been attributed to a German neo-Nazi gang, the National Socialist Underground. In all, the gang is suspected of involvement in at least 10 killings over a decade, and police are now investigating whether the gang was involved in Grunbaum’s death. 

The main weapon, which has been found, was registered in Switzerland and reportedly also was used at Swiss shooting ranges.

The National Socialist Underground, based in Zwickau, is suspected to have had connections with Swiss right-wing extremists. German security forces had tapped phone conversations between the two countries, and witnesses in Germany have said the group used a vehicle with Swiss plates, according to the Swiss daily newspaper the Basler Zeitung.

Recent revelations about the National Socialist Underground have spurred calls for banning Germany’s largest right-wing extremist party, the National Democratic
Party of Germany, which has some 7,000 members.

"But banning a party is not enough to rid our society of such groups," said Burkhard Jungkamp, head of Brandenburg’s Ministry for Education, Youth and Sport at an update Tuesday on pro-democracy educational programs co-sponsored by the American Jewish Committee in Berlin.

"Schools must be places where democracy is lived and learned," he said, in order to uproot the seeds of hate.

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