The 1990s: Racist alliance and attack on the right to asylum

In the first few years after German reunification, there were massive racist riots in several eastern and western German cities. Neo-Nazis bombed or set fire to refugee shelters and immigrants’ homes across the country, sometimes covertly, but often in full view of the public. Some of the attacks, however, were carried out by people who did not identify with the extreme right-wing scene.

It was their actions that fuelled the increasingly racist debate on immigration, and led to a considerable restriction of the right to asylum and a lack of prosecution for racist offences. Neo-Nazis from the Hamburg scene helped establish extreme right-wing structures in the new states in the east and acted as inspiration. In 1992, a group in Hamburg distributed the brochure "A Movement in Weapons", with instructions on how to build incendiary and explosive bombs, and called for acts of terrorism "after hours". In addition, Hamburg neo-Nazis published "Anti-Antifa" lists – an indirect call for violence against the anti-fascists named.

The Senate responded with a ban on neo-Nazi events and organisations. Hamburg neo-Nazis countered by developing the concept of Freie Kameradschaften [Free Comradeships], loosely organised autonomous cells with no formal membership, such as the Hamburger Sturm. As such they were more difficult for government agencies to locate and prosecute. In 1994, there were also increasing reports of racially motivated acts of violence committed by members of the Hamburg police force. The extent of the attacks led to the resignation of Hamburg's Senator of the Interior, Werner Hackmann.