German media reported Sunday that the main suspect detained last week as part of police raids on alleged far-right extremists had been on authorities’ radar for several months.
Der Spiegel reported that 53-year-old Werner S. from the Augsburg region was classified by the German security services as a potential violent threat.
The man, whose surname wasn’t released for privacy reasons, was among 12 men detained Friday in nationwide raids on suspicion of forming and supporting a “right-wing terrorist organization.”
A federal judge on Saturday ordered the men held in investigative detention.
The Welt am Sonntag weekly reported Sunday that the group referred to itself as “The Hard Core” and had links to a white supremacist group called Soldiers of Odin, founded in Finland in 2015.
German prosecutors alleged the suspects wanted to achieve their goal “with as yet-unspecified attacks against politicians, asylum-seekers and Muslims to provoke a civil war-like situation.”
Authorities in Germany have warned of the growing threat of far-right extremism. Last June, a regional official from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative party was killed by a suspected neo-Nazi.
In October, a gunman with anti-Semitic views attacked a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle on Yom Kippur, killing two passersby.
In response to a spate of high-profile incidents over the past year, Berlin announced in December that it was adding hundreds of new federal police officers and domestic intelligence agents as it steps up its fight against far-right extremism.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said the Federal Criminal Police Office and the BfV intelligence agency would each add 300 positions dedicated to investigating and preventing far-right crimes, without weakening efforts focused on far-left crimes and Islamic extremism.
There are some 12,000 people in Germany with far-right views who are considered to be potentially violent.
According to two polls released last month on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, one in five Germans – and more than half of right-wing populists – think the Holocaust gets too much attention in the country.
Around the same time, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned Sunday that Jews could leave Germany on a “massive” scale if urgent action was not taken to stem rising anti-Semitism.
Maas said anti-Jewish insults and attacks, in real life and online, had become “a daily occurrence” and that almost one in two Jews has considered leaving Germany.
Two Jews were attacked in separate violent incidents in Berlin in January. In one case, an unknown assailant punched a 30-year-old man in the face while making anti-Semitic insults. In the second, five youths aged 12 to 15 attacked a 68-year-old man on his way to visit the Putlitzbrücke Holocaust memorial in Berlin. According to police investigators, the perpetrators repeatedly called the man “Jew” and grabbed him between the legs.