The country’s domestic spymaster, Hans Georg Maassen, lost his job after he downplayed recent attacks on minorities by neo-Nazi groups. Some experts argue that Maassen and much of the German intelligence network is under neo-Nazi influence.
Hans Georg Maassen stepped down as the chief of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency on September 18. In what appeared to be a punishment for his apparent refusal to acknowledge the severity of racial assaults against German minorities, Maassen was moved to a less attractive position in the country's Interior Ministry.
Despite circulation of numerous videos showing neo-Nazi groups attacking migrant communities across Germany, Maassen insisted that "there's no reliable information about such hunts taking place.”
The German intelligence community's connections with neo-Nazi groups have surfaced in the recent past. The highly sensitive case of 10 unsolved murders in various states of Germany has left a stain on the credibility of the country's spying network.
Several members of a notorious neo-Nazi group named National Socialist Underground (NSU) have been accused of murdering 10 people from minority communities between 2000 and 2007.
According to court testimonies and other evidence, many spies of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV) or the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, have been in contact with several members of the NSU. The spy agency is accused of having prior knowledge about the 10 murders and yet it decided to not act against the group.
During the NSU trial, the BfV was accused of tampering with evidence that pointed at the perpetrators of the 10 murders. The BfV also either destroyed or classified hundreds of documents related to the string of murders. Several German parliamentary inquiry committees have questioned the BfV's decision to hide the documents from public review.
“Not only have they destroyed the evidence but also they sent degraded files to the parliamentary inquiry commissions,” Kemal Su, a renowned Turkish German lawyer, who followed the murder trials, told TRT World.
“German MPs often complained that they can not read documents because of spoliation of evidence by intelligence services.”
“In Saxony [an eastern state in Germany], the domestic intelligence agency supported and watched over them [the NSU members]. It encouraged and protected them,” said Bulent Guven, a Turkish-German political scientist.
After five years of court hearings, the German court punished just one NSU member Beate Zschape with a life sentence. The three other suspects received mild sentences. Less than two months after the NSU court verdict, anti-migrant protests led by neo-Nazi groups took place in several provinces of eastern Germany. The demonstrations were held because a German with Cuban heritage was allegedly killed by two migrants from Iraq and Syria.
Germany’s intelligence apparatus has its roots in the Gehlen org, which was established by Reinhard Gehlen following World War II. Gehlen, who was Hitler’s spymaster responsible for tackling the Soviet Union during WWII, made a crucial deal with the US, in which he agreed to work for the interests of Washington and work against the impending communist threat.
In return Gehlen established a new intelligence community, recruiting his Nazi friends and former colleagues. He was the first chief of the country’s federal intelligence agency, Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND).
General Gerhard Wessel, who became the second chief of the BND after Gehlen, was also a senior Nazi official who served under Hitler.