A large-scale operation with SEK, police dogs, drones and 500 police officers, a hard blow for the neo-Nazi scene in Thuringia: Last Friday, February 26, 2021, 27 residential and business premises were searched in the German states of Thuringia, Saxony-Anhalt and Hesse with links to the far-right network Turonen/Garde 20, which belong to the Bruderschaft Thüringen. The raids centred around the Thuringian district of Gotha, where the Brotherhood has several properties such as brothels as well as the far-right haunt “The Yellow House” in the town Ballstädt. Ten people were arrested, the searches lasted until Saturday.
A total of 21 people in the orbit of the Turonen/Garde 20 are under investigation, and arrest warrants have already been issued for eight suspects. According to the state broadcaster MDR, the raids had been planned for months (see MDR). The neo-Nazi network is alleged to have engaged in large-scale drug trafficking in Thuringia – including crystal meth. The group are also allegedly involved in arms deals and money laundering, as well as running several brothels and organising far-right rock concerts. The offices of the notorious far-right lawyer Dirk Waldschmidt in Hesse, formerly deputy state leader of the far-right Hessian NPD party and for a short time defence lawyer for the far-right Lübcke murderer Stephan Ernst, were also searched. Waldschmidt is alleged to have been involved in the group’s money laundering scheme.
Since 2019 alone, there have been 32 investigations into members of the Turonen/Garde 20 – for assault, inciting hatred, fraud, receiving stolen goods, forgery of documents and trespassing, as well as other offences. These figures emerged from a parliamentary question by Die Linke (Left Party) in the state of Thuringia. Katharina König-Preuss, a Linke member of the state parliament, has been looking into the far-right group for years. “It is one of the most important, most prominent neo-Nazi structures here in recent years,” König-Preuss told Belltower.News.
The groups Turonen and Garde 20 both belong to the umbrella organisation Bruderschaft Thüringen, which has also on occasion called itself Bruderschaft H8 Thüringen and has been active since 2014. Since 2015, the Brotherhood has been known primarily under the names Turonen and Garde 20, although Bruderschaft Thüringen continues to appear on merchandising of the network. Members of Garde 20 act as supporters of the Turonen leadership structure, who are considered full members. According to the Thuringian state government, about 25 people in total belong to the group as of May 2019. Three members of Garde 20 and seven members of the Turonen have already served prison sentences in Thuringia, some of them several times.
The group is an integral part of the neo-Nazi scene, but also uses symbols of the rocker and biker scene, such as leather cuts (sleeveless jackets). In addition to their narcotics operation, the network is also active in the far-right rock scene: the extreme right-wing bands TreueOrden and Natürliche politische Alternative (N.A.P.O.L.A.) have strong ties to the group: TreueOrden front singer Thomas Wagner is the alleged leader of the Turonen (see Belltower.News). In Switzerland, the Turonen have links to the right-wing terrorist networks Blood & Honour and Combat 18 and organised a concert in Unterwasser in the canton of St. Gallen in October 2016 with 5000 visitors. The gig netted them up to 200,000 euros, which flowed back into the neo-Nazi scene in Thuringia (see WOZ).
The Turonen also played a role in organising the far-right rock festival Rock gegen Überfremdung in Thuringia, which is run by the far-right figurehead Tommy Frenck and was able to mobilise 6000 neo-Nazis at its peak. The Turonen are also well networked internationally: in addition to connections to Blood & Honour and Combat 18 in Switzerland, the Brotherhood also has good connections to the scene in Austria. Members of the Brotherhood were, for example, formerly, in the now-defunct association Objekt 21, known in Austria as the “Neo-Nazi Mafia”.
After the raids last Friday, Thuringia’s Interior Minister, Georg Maier (SPD), spoke of a “hard blow” against the far-right scene (see Spiegel). Although state parliament member König-Preuss welcomes the raids, she remains sceptical about the impact it will have on the Brotherhood: “It wasn’t a raid against the entire network, but only against a part of the Turonen.”
The Brotherhood already has their fair share of run-ins with the law: at the end of May 2017, ten members of the group were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 26 months to three and a half years after they allegedly attacked the party of a fair society in Ballstädt, Thuringia, in 2014, where the group has a stronghold. Ten people were injured, some of them seriously. “They reckoned that some of them would have to go to jail because of this, and so they already set up a backup structure,” König-Preuss explains. Whether this backup structure is also affected by the raids remains unclear. In February 2021, the German Federal Supreme Court in Karlsruhe granted the appeal of the ten accused neo-Nazis – which was due to a formal error in the reasons given for the verdict. Now, three years after the sentencing, the trial is being reopened (see nd).
König-Preuss sees the fact that, with the latest raids and arrests, action is now finally being taken against the Turonen and Garde 20 as positive. “However, the Turonen have been operating very openly in recent years, organizing neo-Nazi concerts and beating people up – Ballstädt is the biggest example, but there are others.” She criticises the fact that the authorities intervened not because of the group’s political activities, but only because of organised crime. “They glorify Nazi ideology, put on events where Hitler salutes and Sieg Heil shouts occur – and there have to be repercussions for that which these structures can actually feel.”