Revolution Chemnitz

Revolution Chemnitz was a neo-Nazi group active in the East German city of Chemnitz, which turned to militancy in the aftermath of a series of anti-immigrant protests that engulfed the city between August and early September 2018.

The protests had formed after a fatal stabbing of a Cuban-German in Chemnitz in the early morning of August 26, after a festival celebrating the city's founding. Two Kurdish immigrants, one Iraqi, and one Syrian were named as suspects. On the same day, someone from inside the police had leaked information on the stabbing to the infamous far-right rabble-rouser Lutz Bachmann, leader of the racist anti-Muslim grouping PEGIDA ("Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident"), who shared these details online.1 Within hours a far-right demonstration was organized, in which politicians of the far-right Alternative for Germany were marching side by side with neo-Nazis, hooligans and PEGIDA members. At some point groups of far-right protestors started to chase migrants and leftists, and turned the center of Chemnitz into a veritable battle zone.

Inspired by the violent forces unleashed during the Chemnitz demonstrations, some of the men which had participated in the riots decided to form a militant group, namely Revolution Chemnitz. Most of the group's members are said to be leading heads of the hooligan, skinhead and neo-Nazi scene in the Chemnitz area.

It is not entirely clear when exactly Revolution Chemnitz emerged. There were two Facebook pages called Revolution Chemnitz, one of them going back to at least 2013, according to Miro Dittrich, expert of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation. "Although we do not know at this stage whether the alleged right-wing terrorists were active in this group, it is clear that National Socialist ideology is being propagated there and that the members are longing for a violent revolution," says Dittrich.2 This Facebook group called "Revolution-Chemnitz ANW" advertised with the slogan: "Fighting against state and capital - free, social, national."2

Prosecutors said that the group in its current form found together in the framework of a chat group that was created on September 10, 2018, and immediately started to plan serious crimes, including killing people.3 The group called for violent actions against "leftists, parasites, Merkel zombies, media dictators and their slaves."4

Already on September 14, 2019, Revolution Chemnitz members, together with other neo-Nazis, launched their first attacks on several random young people and foreigners in the city. Armed with glass bottles, quartz gloves and an electrical impulse device, they are said to have attacked and injured several migrants.2 One of them had injured an Iranian man with a bottle neck. 15 people were subsequently detained by police forces in connection with the attack. Because the suspected perpetrators are also said to have checked identity cards of passersby, the police called them a "vigilante group." The Federal Prosecutor's Office assumes that these attacks were just a "trial run" of Revolution Chemnitz members for future assaults.

According to the investigators' findings, Revolution Chemnitz plotted to trigger a revolution "with a symbolic event on Germany's Unity Day" on October 3, 2018. The targets were to be foreign citizens and political dissidents, "representatives of the political parties and members of the so-called social establishment." Security authorities intervened beforehand, and arrested all suspects involved in the plotting on October 1, 2018.5

For over one year eight Revolution Chemnitz members were held in pretrial detention, and the trial against them started in March 2020. On March 25, 2020, five of them were sentenced to prison terms between 27 months and five and a half years for membership in a terrorist organization and breach of the peace. One of them was also for convicted for assault. According to the judges, Christian K. is the ringleader and coordinator of the group; he is the only one to be sentenced for founding a terrorist organization.3 Prosecutors based their charges partly on the use of chat logs found on the defendants' mobile phones.4

Several of the accused had a known violent background, for example Tom W., who already ten years back was convicted for violent actions. He was one of the heads of the right-wing extremist comradeship "Sturm 34", which was banned in 2007. According to police reports, in the first four months of 2007 alone, "Sturm 34" committed around 70 crimes, including bodily injury, threats and incitement. Already back then Tom W. was a member of a vigilante group, the so-called "Patrols for a xenophobic Mittweida" (Streifen für ein ausländerfeindliches Mittweida).2

The alleged leader of Revolution Chemnitz, Christian K., was also a known right-wing extremist. From 2006 onwards, Christian K. was convicted several times for robbery, fraud, sedition and the use of symbols of unconstitutional organizations. While in prison, Christian K. offered his services as an informant to Saxony's domestic intelligence agency.6 In his two-page application letter he referred to his expertise on right-wing extremist structures: he could provide details about the banned "National Socialists Chemnitz" (NSC), the banned association "Sturm 34" and the hooligan group HooNaRa (Hooligans Nazis Racists), far-right fans of the soccer club Chemnitz FC. Meyer-Plath and his colleagues, however, decided against such a cooperation, as K. proved to be "very unreliable" and could only provide outdated information. On the base of police reports, in 2017 Saxony's domestic intelligence agency started to suspect Christian K. of being the initiator of the Facebook page "Revolution Chemnitz ANW."7

According to political scientist Hajo Funke, an expert on right-wing extremism, there has been "a terror-affine network" in Chemnitz for more than 20 years:8

That was the reason why the three hitherto known perpetrators of the "National Socialist underground," Uwe Mundlos, Uwe Böhnhardt and Beate Zschäpe, first went to Chemnitz when they went into hiding. There they were among their peers. This network still exists today, and was only weakened a little here and there, for example when the group "National Socialists Chemnitz" was banned. In Chemnitz, the riots at the end of August and beginning of September 2018 had led to an alliance of the völkisch-nationalist wing of the AfD with extreme right-wing apron organizations, hooligans and neo-Nazis. The right-wing scene felt encouraged by the resentment unleashed.

So did Saxony's AfD, when on 27 August 2018, the AfD faction of the Hochtaunus region had announced the "beginning of a revolution": "At some point in the revolutions known to us, radio stations as well as the press were stormed and the employees were dragged onto the streets."9