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Right-Wing Terrorist Actors, Their Strategies and Modus Operandi in Germany: An Historical Comparison

Extremism
Political Violence
Terrorism
Barbara Manthe
University Bielefeld
Barbara Manthe
University Bielefeld

Abstract

The revelation of the murders, bombings and bank robberies committed by the right-wing terrorist group “Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund” (National Socialist Underground, NSU) in Germany between 1998 and 2011 has taken German society completely by surprise. Media, politicians as well as scholars consider the NSU’s strategy and modus operandi unprecedented; there has been considerable astonishment at the active involvement of a female terrorist. However, it has become obvious as well that the public knowledge about previous right-wing terrorist groups, especially before 1990, is still sparse. This paper provides a comparison of the NSU with three right-wing terrorist groups that operated underground during the 1980s in the Federal Republic of Germany: The Deutsche Aktionsgruppen; the Uhl/Wolfgram Group; the Hepp/Kexel Group. It compares actor structure, supporter networks, and feeder organizations as well as the groups’ strategies and modus operandi such as target choices, attacks, and preparatory crimes. This contribution aims to illuminate similarities as well as differences between the groups listed above by using qualitative historical methods. Who were the perpetrators, and did women take a leading part? What were the root causes for their radicalization and what motivated them to choose the terrorist option? This paper will also highlight specific terrorist targets and their symbolic meanings, as well as preparatory crimes such as bank robberies and the illegal acquisition of weapons. Official documents, domestic intelligence reports and personal testimony of the perpetrators, as well as media coverage provide a basis for the analysis.