German lawmaker shocked to be on neo-Nazi hit list

Germans have been shocked this week by news three neo-Nazis had been killing immigrant shopkeepers for years.

Berlin: A German Jewish lawmaker spoke on Friday of the "nightmarish" discovery his name was on a hit-list found in a neo-Nazi hideout, as Germany struggled to come to terms with news a right-wing trio had been killing immigrants.

Jerzy Montag, a Polish-born member of Parliament for the Greens, said he assumed he been put on the neo-Nazi list because of his criticism of right-wing extremism and his work supporting minority groups in Germany and Israel.

"It`s a nightmarish feeling," said Montag, who has been a member of the Bundestag in Berlin since 2002.

"I try not to think about why I was on their list because it`s not going to help me now. But it doesn`t feel good."

Germans have been shocked this week by news three neo-Nazis had been killing immigrant shopkeepers for years and police had failed to connect the murders to the right-wing extremists.

Two of the neo-Nazis committed suicide earlier this month after a botched bank robbery and a third is believed to have set their flat on fire. The three went underground after a bungled attempt to arrest them in 1998.

Police found Montag`s name on a computer stick recovered from the rubble which contained a hit-list of 88 people -- "88" is a neo-Nazi rallying cry for "Heil Hitler" because H is the eighth letter of the alphabet.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has called the existence of the National Socialist Underground cell a disgrace. Its members are suspected of killing at least nine immigrants, eight Turks and a Greek, and a police woman, between 2000 and 2007.

"I`m assuming the right-wing terrorism is made up of more than these three people," said Montag, who is often on German talk shows and speaks with a Polish accent. "I think this whole issue of right-wing extremism is going to stay on the agenda."

Sensitive subject

Germany`s Nazi past makes right-wing militancy a particularly sensitive subject, yet experts have long warned of extremism among disenchanted young people in eastern regions of the country where unemployment is high and job prospects poor.

"I`m not at all surprised that right-wing extremists are killing people," said Bernd Wagner, an expert on the far-right who set up an organisation to help extremists start new lives away from neo-Nazis.

"It`s still shocking to me that this group has operated in this violent way for such a long time. It`s scary. I`m not happy about politicians who remain silent at a time like this."

The existence of the cell only came to light by chance, raising fears the security services had underplayed the threat from the extreme right and may have been distracted by the use of unreliable informants.

Police are reopening all unsolved cases with a possible racist motive since 1998.

Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said on Friday the government wanted to set up a coordination centre to fight neo-Nazism. He said the work of different state and federal agencies would be better coordinated that way.

Several German leaders called on President Christian Wulff to hold a national mourning ceremony for the victims of the far-right. But his spokesman said he would not comment.

Former foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher who led the initiative said: "The German history taught us that we have to fight the beginnings. The country needs to be woken up."

Bureau Report

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