09.04.2020, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf: Herbert Reul (CDU), Innenminister von Nordrhein-Westfalen, beantwortet die Fragen von Journalisten. Nordrhein-Westfalen stoppt wegen Betrugsverdachts vorübergehend die Soforthilfe-Auszahlungen für Selbstständige und Unternehmen in der Corona-Krise. Dabei sollen über gefälschte Websites Daten für betrügerische Anträge abgegriffen worden sein. Foto: Federico Gambarini/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

The ex-mercenary wears SS runes on his shirt collar and acts ice cold. On October 7, 2003, Thomas Adolf broke into the law firm of Hartmut Nickel in Overath (near Cologne) with a pump gun, insulted the man and fired. Nickel, his wife Mechthild Bucksteeg and their daughter Alja Nickel died instantly. The neo-Nazi hated the lawyer. Nickel had contributed to Adolf having to give up a farmstead where he had held meetings with “comrades” because of debts. Adolf and his girlfriend take a purse with small change with them, then they leave the scene of the crime. Shortly after the triple murder, Adolf writes an “Announcement to the German People” in the name of an “SS-Division Götterdämmerung” and describes the act in Overath as the “liberation of this part of the Reich”.

A patently right-wing extremist homicide. For years, however, the Ministry of the Interior and the State Criminal Police Office of North Rhine-Westphalia saw things differently, although the Cologne Regional Court in its 2004 judgment also confirmed that Thomas Adolf had National Socialist fantasies. The judges sentenced the neo-Nazi to life imprisonment, proclaimed a particular degree of guilt and imposed preventive detention for the period after imprisonment. Now the assessment is also changing at the Ministry and the police. As part of a larger testing campaign.

At the beginning of June, Interior Minister Herbert Reul (CDU) instructed the LKA by decree to have the Cologne police headquarters report “the entire crime” in Overath as a right-wing homicide. This will accomplish what the then LKA boss Frank Hoever announced in December 2019 at the request of the Tagesspiegel. The crime was “predominantly right-wing motivated,” Hoever said. In its long-term research into the deaths of right-wing violence since reunification, the Tagesspiegel had repeatedly mentioned the Overath case and questioned the ministry. The case was also discussed in the Düsseldorf state parliament. Now, almost 19 years after the fact, the correction is finally being made. According to the official reading, 113 people have died nationwide in right-wing extremist attacks since reunification. The Tagesspiegel and the portal Zeit Online, which researches with it, come to more than 190 deaths. Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) also considers a number of around 200 victims to be realistic.

The NRW Ministry of the Interior explains the about-face in the Overath case as follows: “In the course of the strategic reorientation of the LKA NRW in recent years, the fight against right-wing extremism in particular has been intensified”. In addition to a “significant strengthening of human and material resources, this was also accompanied by a generational change and the opening up to perspectives that were not exclusively police,” says the ministry. This is given by employees from science – political scientists, psychologists and communication and media scientists. “This newly gained diversity and the new structures have made it possible to take an unbiased view of the crime from today’s perspective,” it says.

But Reul doesn’t leave it at that. He has launched a comprehensive review of 25 other “borderline cases” with 30 fatalities for a possible right-wing background. The number of cases could also increase, says a spokesman for the ministry. Reul explains the reasons for the work-up by a team of specialists, which should take nine months, as follows: “Right-wing extremism is still one of the greatest dangers to our democracy. That’s why it’s good and important that we look at and reassess borderline cases from the past.” Police work has evolved over the years, and this also applies to the evaluation and analysis of right-wing homicides. The minister emphasizes that “right-wing extremism is one of the most perfidious motives for crimes, and it is our duty to fight it. That’s why we correct the statistics where necessary and continue to raise awareness in society. “We owe that to the victims and the bereaved.” The project entitled “ToreG NRW” (death victims of right-wing violence in North Rhine-Westphalia) is managed by a political scientist in the LKA.

In its long-term research, the Tagesspiegel has already mentioned several killings that are now being scrutinized, including the Michael Berger case. The neo-Nazi had also committed a triple murder.

On June 14, 2000, Berger shot policeman Thomas Goretzky from his car in Dortmund. He had noticed that Berger hadn’t buckled his seat belt. The neo-Nazi escapes and drives to the small town of Waltrop. There he fired at two officers in a patrol car at an intersection. The policeman Matthias Larisch and his colleague Ivonne Hachtkemper are shot in the head. Berger continues to flee and then shoots himself in the car. A sticker on the car reads, “Kill them all…. God will make his choice.” During a search of Berger’s apartment, the police found more weapons and membership cards for the right-wing extremist parties DVU and “Republican”. But NRW has not yet classified the case as a right-wing homicide.

The “borderline cases” that the LKA is working on also include the fire in a multi-family house in Duisburg inhabited by Turks in August 1984 with seven dead and the fire in an asylum accommodation in Hörstel in 1992, in which one person died. Also in 1992, a 92-year-old Jewish Holocaust survivor in Wülfrath suffered a heart attack after a massive argument with an old Nazi and did not survive it. Another homicide with an alleged right-wing background has been discussed for years, especially by the left-wing scene. In March 2005, a right-wing extremist skinhead stabbed the punk Thomas Schulz, nicknamed Schmuddel, in Dortmund. Shortly thereafter, neo-Nazis put up small posters in Dortmund with the slogan, “Anyone who stands in the way of the movement must live with the consequences”. The district court in Dortmund sentenced the perpetrator to seven years in prison for manslaughter. Although the skinhead is known for his hatred of leftists and punks, the judges do not see the criminal code’s “base motive” element of murder.

It has already been shown in three countries that the examination of old cases for a right-wing motive reveals considerable gaps in the police statistics. In 2012, Saxony-Anhalt subsequently reported three homicides from the Tagesspiegel list as right-wing motivated. In 2015, Brandenburg subsequently classified nine offenses as right-wing murders. In 2018, Berlin reported six old cases with seven deaths as right-wing motivated. In Brandenburg and Berlin, scientists had been instrumental in examining numerous cases and correcting the police’s narrow criteria for a right-wing background.