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Germany bans neo-Nazi group amid growing extremism

Germany banned the neo-Nazi group Combat 18 Deutschland in what the country’s top security official said Thursday was a “clear message” against the growing far-right extremism in the country. More than 200 police officers carried out raids in six German states early Thursday, seizing cellphones, computers, unspecified weaponry, Nazi memorabilia and propaganda material, the Interior Ministry said. The group had spread “far-right extremism and anti-Semitic hatred” in German society by producing neo-Nazi music and staging concerts for extremist bands, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said.

The group Combat 18 was founded in Britain in the early 1990s as a militant wing of the British National Party. It has since spawned chapters in several European countries. The number 18 stands for the first and eighth letters of the alphabet, or A.H., the initials of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

Germany sees regular protests by neo-Nazi groups, but the country has strict laws governing the glorification of the country’s Nazi past. Germany’s extremist “Reich Citizen” and “Selbstverwalter” sovereign citizen movements are rapidly growing and their members are prepared to commit “the most serious acts of violence,” according to a report released by the German daily Bild. “Reich Citizens” and “Selbstverwalter” refers to a loose grouping of people in Germany who do not recognize the authority of the current system of government. There is no unified structure and several groups use the names despite very different belief systems.

Germany’s highest court in January 2017 rejected a bid by parliament’s upper house to ban another neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD), ruling that although it held a similar ideology to the Nazis, it was too small to endanger German democracy. The NPD, with some 6,000 members, was founded in 1964 as a successor to the neo-fascist German Reich Party and rails against foreigners and campaigns with the slogan, “Germany for the Germans.”

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