BERLIN, Germany — The German government has agreed to pay compensation to relatives of the people killed by a violent neo-Nazi gang that went apparently unnoticed by the authorities for years.
There will also be an official memorial service to commemorate the gang's 10 known victims, Deutsche Welle reported, following discussions between German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Christian Wullf and members of parliament.
It was recently revealed that a group of far-right extremists calling themselves the National Socialist Underground (NSU) claimed to have killed eight Turkish and one Greek immigrant and one German policewoman between 2000 and 2007.
They are also suspected of carrying out several other hitherto unsolved attacks on immigrants in Germany, including a nail bombing in Cologne in 2004.
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The German authorities have faced criticism in the wake of the revelations, which came about only when two of the suspects botched a robbery attempt and committed suicide, and a third handed herself in to police.
The domestic intelligence service then admitted that an undercover intelligence agent had been present at at least one of the murder scenes. The agent was known to have rightwing views and was even previously nicknamed "Little Adolf," the Guardian reported.
The decision to award compensation could be taken as an admission of failings on the part of the authorities, though Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger was careful not use those terms when she announced the measure Sunday:
"Even if financial help cannot undo the suffering, I will attempt to give the victims' families a sign of our solidarity with compensation from my budget. I fear that at the end of the investigation, we will uncover more victims of xenophobia than we are aware of today."
Chancellor Merkel has called for a full investigation into the the case, including possible errors made by the police and intelligence services.
The Interior Ministry has also proposed creating a national database of far-right extremists, similar as that set up for Islamist extremists in the wake of September 11, the BBC said.
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There were an estimated 25,000 rightwing extremists in Germany at the end of 2010, according to intelligence service figures cited by Der Spiegel. Of these, some 9,500 were considered "prone to violence."
Yet more worrying than this small percentage of known fringe extremists is the wider majority of "latent racists," said the Spiegel's Stefan Kuzmany, referring to the fact that the killings quickly became known as the "doner kebab murders" despite only two of them taking place in kebab shops:
By calling the murder spree "doner killings," the victims are condescendingly dehumanized, as if they had no names or occupations. Imagine if it had been a series of murders involving primarily Italian victims. Would we have then called them the "spaghetti murders"? [...]
It provided distance, allowing Germans to sit comfortably and be creeped out by reports they read in the newspaper about the series of gruesome murders.
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