Hundreds of German neo-Nazis free despite arrest warrants

We need a personnel increase for our police forces,” Pfeiffer said. “We’re always told that more officers are being hired, but many are retiring as well, so that number needs to be rehired and then some.”

The number of outstanding arrest warrants varies from state to state. While there are only seven per 10,000 inhabitants in Germany’s northern-most state of Schleswig-Holstein, there are 23 in Bavaria and 24 in Berlin.

The 467 neo-Nazis at large make up only a small fraction of all outstanding arrest warrants. Of the more than 175,000 warrants, quite a large number are believed to concern minor misdemeanors such as being caught without a ticket on public transport multiple times and refusing to pay your fine.

A spokesperson for Bavaria’s interior ministry stressed that police are looking for all people with an outstanding arrest warrant, but are prioritizing their search according to the severity of the crime.

Bavaria’s police are hard at work searching for suspects and convicted criminals who have a warrant out for their arrest,” the spokesperson told DW. “Arrest warrants linked to rape and homicide are treated with the highest priority.”

Among the more famous cases of German neo-Nazis evading arrest is that of the National Socialist Underground, or NSU. The existence of the neo-Nazi terrorist group was revealed in 2011, when two members were discovered dead in a burning mobile home and the third member of the core trio, Beate Zschäpe, turned herself in.

Before that, the group had been existing underground for more than a decade, with the help of their supporters. Between 2000 and 2007, they murdered nine immigrants and a police officer, robbed numerous banks and carried out three bombings.

A local court in Saxony put out warrants for their arrest as early as 1998, after the trio were linked to bombs left in suitcases painted with swastikas. They managed to evade capture, however, and began their killing spree two years later.

The police don’t have the means to track down every single criminal,” Pfeiffer said. “If they’re not successful and the person at large isn’t presumed immediately dangerous to the rest of the population, officers just wait until the person gets themselves caught.”

In the case of the NSU murders, police suspected for a long time that the perpetrators would be connected or even related to the victims. The escaped neo-Nazis weren’t on their radar at all.

That oversight means the 467 neo-Nazis who currently have warrants out for their arrest are particularly concerning to the general populace.