The extreme right in Germany is recruiting children, reports Yojana Sharma
VIOLENT German neo-Nazis are targeting children for recruitment and "training", according to an intelligence report.
The report says the extreme-right group "Stahlhelm" - or "steel helmet" - has started a "playgroup" in the state of Lower Saxony for children up to the age of 12 and a "league for boys and girls". This summer Stahlhelm also organised a camp for 30 children at a Baltic Sea resort where shooting practice was one of the activities on offer.
The group has been concentrating for about a year on indoctrinating children. Now Germany's internal intelligence service, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, has unearthed evidence in Lower Saxony that the age of recruits is dropping.
"This is a serious development which we are observing closely," says Rolf Peter Minnier, president of the Lower Saxony OPC.
Neo-Nazi recruits usually come from the ranks of disaffected youth, football fans and the unemployed.
Stahlhelm, which was originally founded by First World World War veterans, folded into the Nazi movement when Hitler came to power. It resurfaced in 1951 and has in recent years drawn neo-Nazis from all over Germany.
In answer to a parliamentary question recently, the Government noted that Stahlhelm was anti-Semitic and one of the groups that claim the Holocaust never happened. It is also militaristic and belligerent.
Children are a priority for Stahlhelm because it fears that "the true Nazis are dying out". "Our Fuhrer's successor must come from our own ranks," states a Stahlhelm newsletter which calls on its members to register their children with its youth group.
Stahlhelm chief Guenter Drueckhammer has 11 grandchildren who he says have "good German names like Adolf and Siegfried". He believes children should be disciplined like soldiers.
The OPC in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate has also been watching Stahlhelm.
Last year authorities there uncovered machine guns, mines, explosives, rifles, grenades and 8,000 rounds of munitions during a raid on premises used by the group. This summer, during a picnic that included women and children, shooting practice was carried out with automatic weapons. "Almost every member is armed," says the OPC.
"There is a danger that violently-inclined right-wing extremists could become right-wing terrorists," the state's interior minister, Walter Zuber, said.
"They rely more on the deathly impact of a single well-aimed bullet than on fisticuffs," said one former Stahlhelm member, interviewed in a German magazine.