By FOIA Research
on November 30, 2019 - Last updated: December 30, 2020

Tino Brandt

[This article is in parts based on Tino Brandt's German Wikipedia entry.]

Tino Brandt (born January 30, 1975 in Saalfeld) was an influential German neo-Nazi figure from the 1990s until the early 2010s, when his criminal past finally caught up with him. Large parts of his career he was affiliated with the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), and has built up several right-wing extremist groupings, such as the network "Thuringian Homeland Security" (Thüringer Heimatschutz, THS). The neo-Nazi terrorist group "National Socialist Underground," to which 10 murders have been attributed, had belonged to the THS’s Jena section.

His unmasking as an agent of the Thuringian domestic intelligence service in May 2001 caused a storm of indignation nationwide.1 In December 2014 he was charged with sexual abuse of children and young men, abetting sexual abuse and promoting prostitution in 66 cases, and was convicted to five and a half years imprisonment.2 On August 21, 2019, the Gera Regional Court also found Brandt guilty of large-scale insurance fraud, and sentenced him to a total term of six years and nine months in prison (including the child abuse case).3

1990s

Early neo-Nazi activities

Brought up in Rudolstadt, in the former German Democratic Republic, Tino Brandt became active in the right-wing extremist scene after the German reunification at the beginning of the 1990s, and quickly became one of the most important neo-Nazis in Thuringia. Already as a student he proclaimed "nationally liberated zones" (National befreite Zone), i.e. no-go areas for foreigners and anti-fascists, in his hometown. From 1992 onward, he frequently appeared as co-organizer of and announcer at far-right rallies.

Michael Kühnen (right) and Gary Lauck (left) interviewed by Michael Schmidt in the 1990s.

In May 1993, Brandt moved to Bavaria, first to Landau an der Isar and later to Regensburg, to build a cadre for the neo-Nazi organization "National Block" (Nationaler Block, NB). The NB was the Bavarian offshoot of the "Community of Convictions of the New Front" (Gesinnungemeinschaft der neuen Front), founded by Germany's most well known neo-Nazi in the 1980s and 1990s, Michael Kühnen. The NB was banned almost immediately after Brandt's arrival by the Bavarian Ministry of Interior, on June 7, 1993. Nonetheless, Brandt networked extensively with Bavarian neo-Nazi organizations, and distributed i. a. informational material about the "Circle of Friends Freedom for Germany" (Freundeskreis Freiheit für Deutschland), a far-right organization that was banned shortly after, in August 1993. In this matter, the prosecutor Bochum, North Rhine-Westphalia, opened a preliminary investigation for "incitement to racial hatred" against Brandt.4

In Regensburg, Brandt started an apprenticeship in a supermarket and lived in a dormitory of the Kolping Society. By spreading neo-Nazi propaganda he came into the focus of local Antifa groups, which distributed leaflets denouncing Brandt's far-right background. After Brandt filed a criminal complaint, a libel trial followed, in which two people who had distributed leaflets were sentenced to a fine. Brandt's professional training was interrupted shortly before the trial for unknown reasons.

Almost two decades later, in November 2011, Maria Scharfenberg, a member of the Bavarian parliament, asked the Bavarian state government whether Brandt had worked for the Bavarian domestic intelligence service during his Regensburg period.5 According to the Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Hermann, known for his racist statements,6 Brandt had already been monitored by Bavarian intelligence in the early 1990s, but had not been contacted. However, an exchange of information had taken place between the domestic intelligence services of Thuringia and Bavaria.7

Activity for the Thuringian domestic intelligence service

After the episode in Bavaria, which lasted not even a year, Brandt moved back to Thuringia and was promptly recruited as an informant by the "Thuringian Office for the Protection of the Constitution" (Landesamt für Verfassungsschutz Thüringen, LfVT), Thuringia’s domestic intelligence service. Over the entire period of his employment (1994–2001), Brandt received payments amounting to over DM 200,000 (ca. €100,000) in total.8 Brandt stated to the newspaper Thüringer Allgemeine that he had used the money primarily to finance his right-wing extremist projects.

On May 14, 1994, he organized a concert of right-wing rock music in Rudolstadt, in which about 350 neo-Nazis from all over Germany participated. In the same year he founded the "Anti-Antifa East Thuringia" (Anti-Antifa Ostthüringen, AAO), a short-lived “anti-antifascist” neo-Nazi group. From the Anti-Antifa structure emerged in 1996/1997 a loose alliance of neo-Nazi groups, named “Thuringian Homeland Protection” (Thüringer Heimatschutz, THS), with Brandt as chief organizer. These groups were all from the so-called “Free Comradeship” (Freie Kameradschaften) scene, i.e. autonomous neo-Nazi cells without official member lists, collaborating towards the common aim of a “National Resistance” (Nationaler Widerstand). Brandt was a contact person and, together with Ralf Wohlleben and André Kapke from Jena, co-initiator and co-organizer of Anti-Antifa and THS. Officially, he was the press spokesman for the organization, whose website, set up in 2000, was registered to him. Brandt was considered the head of the network, who contributed decisively to the nationwide networking of the Thuringian neo-Nazi scene.

Several members of the neo-Nazi terrorist group “National Socialist Underground” (Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund, NSU) had belonged to the Jena section of the THS, the Kameradschaft Jena,9 among them the murder trio Uwe Böhnhardt, Uwe Mundlos and Beate Zschäpe, who are blamed of 10 murders between 2000 and 2007.10 The only survivor of the murder trio, Beate Zschäpe, said later that Brandt was at the center of the Jena comradeship scene.9

In Thuringia, the THS served as a link between the militant neo-Nazis scene, the far-right NPD party and its youth wing, the "Young National Democrats." At times, four of the eleven NPD district chairmen were members of the THS and the THS had up to seven seats in the NPD regional association. Between 1999 and 2001, according to estimates by the Thuringian Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the organization comprised a circle of 120 to 170 persons. In the course of the parliamentary inquiry into the NSU murders it transpired that in the 1990s, up to 40 of the 140 THS members were informants of German intelligence services.11

In 1996, Brandt and his companions formed the "German Circle of Friends" (Deutscher Freundeskreis), whose main field of activity was the recruitment and networking of right-wing extremist youth in the area around Saalfeld and Rudolstadt. From the mid-1990s onward, he worked as a commercial clerk for the right-wing extremist publisher Nation Europa Verlag in Coburg, Northern Bavaria, where he subsequently moved to. Besides, he continued to be a correspondent for the neo-Nazi Berlin-Brandenburger Zeitung, edited by Frank Schwerdt, and with the arrival of the internet, extended his recruitment activities in the right-wing extremist "Thule-Netz" mailbox system under the pseudonym “Till Eulenspiegel.”12

During is employment at the far-right publishing house Nation Europa, he continued his activity as organizer of far-right events and the building up of local neo-Nazi cadre structures. He was involved in the organization of a congress of the "Society for Free Journalism" (Gesellschaft für freie Publizistik), Germany's most important far-right think tank. In Coburg, he founded another network, the "Franconian Homeland Security Association" (Fränkischer Heimatschutzbund), modeled on the THS.

In October 1999, a group of 17 people from the orbit of NE and the “Aid Committee South Africa” (Hilfskomitee Südliches Afrika), including Brandt, embarked on a trip to South Africa, where, among other things, they took part in target practice.131

The episode is described in an issue of Zuerst! from 2014:13

On the occasion of the 100th jubilee of the beginning of the second Boer war, a group of 17 visitors from several German cities started their journey to the Kap. The main objective of the visit was a commemorative event at the Voortrekker monument in Pretoria on October 9, 1999.

The group had landed already two days previously in South Africa and had first visited the right-wing extremist publicist Claus Nordbruch, who had emigrated there from Germany, as well as the in the meantime deceased Heinz-Georg Wilhelm Migeod.

Tino Brandt on a shooting range east of Johannesburg. Source: Nation Europa 9/2014.

Tino Brandt at a shooting range east of Johannesburg. Source: Nation Europa 9/2014

In 1999 Brandt became first state press spokesman, and in April 2000 deputy state chairman of the Thuringian NPD.14 He had to resign from his post for "technical reasons," since three proceedings against him for "using symbols of unconstitutional organizations" were pending at the Gera Public Prosecutor's Office and several house searches had taken place at his home.

2000s

Contacts to the NSU

In the summer of 2000, Brandt also played a leading role in the founding of the Bavarian chapter of the NPD youth organization, the "Young National Democrats" (Junge Nationaldemokraten, JN). In the same year, an employee of the LfVT gave Brandt DM 2,000, which he was to hand over to an intermediary of the fugitive members of the neo-Nazi terror cell NSU, so that they could obtain false passports.15 The LfVT later justified this move with the lame excuse that they wanted to find out whom they were looking for, while at the same time the donation was intended to strengthen Brandt’s reputation in the neo-Nazi scene. Brandt did not hand the money over directly as planned, but to another intermediary. The NSU members subsequently procured false IDs, although it is not known whether they actually had received the LfVT funds.15

Brandt as well as Nation Europa editor Peter Dehoust had tangible connections to the NSU in the mid-2000s.1 Dehoust had rented out a piece of land to Brandt, who had organized summer camps and midsummer festivities there, and which was also used for target practice.16 Around 20 people regularly hung out at the property, among them NSU core member Uwe Böhnhardt.17 It also transpired that not only Brandt but also NE’s co-editor Peter Dehoust had supported the NSU financially when they were in need of resources for their planned escape abroad. A prominent neo-Nazi from Jena, André Kapke, told a liaison officer of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency that he had been looking for money to help the trio. Hence, André Kapke had turned to Dehoust and was apparently given €1,500 from the cashier of the Nation Europa Verlag.18

Exposure as informant of the Thuringian domestic intelligence service in May 2001

On May 12, 2001, the Thüringer Allgemeine reported that the Thuringian domestic intelligence service LfVT had been running the neo-Nazi Tino Brandt as an informant for several years (1994-2001).19 Journalists of the newspaper had observed a meeting of Brandt with his liaison officer at the Office for the Protection of the Constitution.20 Both Brandt and the NPD initially denied these allegations. Then Interior Minister Christian Köckert (CDU) and the President of the LfVT, Thomas Sippel, also played down the issue. In an article by the magazine Der Spiegel from May 21, 2001, it was revealed that Brandt had worked for the LfVT in Thuringia under the code name "Otto" since 1994.21

The reason for the termination of the cooperation is said to have been an event of the Jena fraternity Jenensia on December 1, 1999, at which the Coburg right-wing extremist Peter Dehoust appeared as a speaker. Back then, Dehoust headed the far-right Nation Europa publishing house, where Brandt had previously worked. At the event that was surveilled by the LfVT, the THS, including Brandt, provided the security service. The scandal surrounding Dehoust's appearance in Jena led to a group of fraternities and "old gentlemen" splitting from the Jenensia fraternity and allegedly founding the right-wing extremist fraternity Normannia zu Jena with Brandt's participation.

Over the entire period of Brandt's employment with the LfVT (1994-2001), Brandt received over DM 200,000 (ca. 100000 Euro), i.e. a weekly fee of around DM 800, for his work.8 He was also reimbursed for traveling expenses and technical equipment, such as telephones and computers.16 Brandt provided information about planned or already committed violent attacks by neo-Nazis on political opponents and among themselves, assessments of demonstrations and marches, identified persons on submitted photos and later provided information about internal comments and decisions of the NPD.  In May 2001 the Thüringer Allgemeine stated that Brandt had used the money primarily to finance right-wing extremist activities.22

A little later, he resigned from his offices and from the NPD in order to "no longer (burden) the party." Press spokesman Ralf Wohlleben stated that "neither the state executive of the NPD Thuringia nor the party executive were aware of Tino Brandt's activities. Not a single penny from the salary flowed into party coffers either." Brandt confirmed this in a ZDF broadcast and stated that he had used the funds of the agency for his political activities outside the NPD, in particular for the THS. For example, the production of flyers for a broad publicity campaign and other THS advertising efforts had been financed. The NPD lawyer Hans Günter Eisenecker voluntarily resigned a mandate to defend Brandt after his unmasking.23

Parts of the right-wing extremist scene, for example people in the orbit of the internet portal Die Kommenden, attempted in subsequent debates to denounce Brandt as homosexual and thus further discredit him in the predominantly homophobic neo-Nazi scene.

According to Martina Renner, a Member of the Bundestag for the Left Party, Mirko Hesse and Tino Brandt, traveled to the USA in late 2001, to serve as character witnesses in support of the convicted neo-Nazi murderer Hendrik Möbus, who had fled to the US after facing another prison sentence in Germany. Subsequently Möbus was accommodated by William Luther Pierce III in West Virginia, head of the white supremacist National Alliance and author of The Turner Diaries, which have become a kind of bible for US white supremacists. Brandt’s and Hesse’s statements to the US authorities were intended to ensure that Möbus would be granted asylum and thus continue to elude German justice.24

Hesse, founder of a Hammerskins group in Lower Saxony, already knew Möbus, since his own record company, “Hate Records”, had for a short period acted as the parent label of the Möbus brothers’ label, Darker Than Black records.2525

While Brandt was working for the Thuringian domestic intelligence service under the code name “Otto” at the time, Hesse was working as an undercover agent for the federal German domestic intelligence service (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz) under the code name “Strontium.” According to the so-called "Schäfer Report," the expert report on the conduct of the Thuringian authorities and public prosecutors' offices in the prosecution of the NSU core trio prepared by former Presiding Judge at the Federal Court of Justice, Dr. Gerhard Schäfer, and others26:

The BfV [Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, Germany's federal domestic intelligence service] source stated that Mirco Eberlein and Brandt had contacted the Stern editorial office to give an interview for an allegedly exclusive article on the Möbus trial; at the same time, Brandt wanted to report on his trip to the USA, financed by the LfVT.

Crisis in the LfVT

Although, according to his own statements, Brandt had ceased his activities for domestic intelligence in early 2001, after his "shutdown" there were seven follow-up meetings with the LfVT.27 After Brandt’s cooperation with the LfVT ended, and the almost simultaneous exposure of another neo-Nazi informant, Thomas Dienel, the LfVT apparently ran out of sources. That was when Brandt's long-time liaison in the LfVT emphatically campaigned for Brandt's reactivation as an informant, and again almost weekly meetings took place in Coburg.

Brandt’s and Thomas Dienel’s unmasking as informants led to an internal crisis of the Thuringian domestic secret service and to the replacement of its president Helmut Roewer. After the renewed exposure, strong accusations were made against the new head of the office, Thomas Sippel, and Minister of the Interior, Christian Köckert. Sippel had promised after his assumption of office that no leading heads of the neo-Nazi scene would be employed or recruited. It became known, however, that at that time six to seven NPD leaders were still living in Thuringia on funds from the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. The PDS state parliament delegate Carsten Hübner therefore asked what sense the program for domestic intelligenc drop-outs would make if activists also received considerable sums “without leaving the scene and apparently also without providing usable information.”

Moreover, it became known that both Köckert and Sippel had lied. Köckert claimed that Brandt had already been "shut down" in 2000, i.e. still under Roewer, and that he, as employer, had no knowledge of the neo-Nazi as an unofficial employee. However, in an official supervisory complaint of June 2000, written by a domestic intelligence division head to a senior official in the Ministry of the Interior, this case was expressly named, and that after the secret service's dealings with Dienel had been discovered. Bodo Ramelow (PDS), member of the state parliament, was also able to prove that Köckert had been aware of Brandt's services as informant since Roewer's leave of absence. Moreover, Roewer had actually dropped Brandt, but the then incumbent domestic intelligence President and soon to be Vice President, Peter Nocken, de facto reactivated Brandt after consultation with the Erfurt State Secretary of the Interior Georg Brüggen, who later became head of the state chancellery in Saxony.27

Roewer's successor Thomas Sippel, on the other hand, had assured that he had finally terminated the cooperation with Brandt at the end of January 2001, while not mentioning the seven conspiratorial "aftercare meetings" he had with Brandt.27 Furthermore, the suspicion was expressed that Nocken had passed on information to a Blood and Honour activist, who was also active as an informant, about an imminent house search, since according to the domestic intelligence officers the house was found “clinically clean.”28

In 2007, a recording of a conversation between Brandt and the militant neo-Nazi Thorsten Heise was found during a house search. In the course of the conversation, Brandt speaks openly about his activities as an undercover agent. However, the tape was not analyzed until 2012.29

2010s

Conviction for child abuse and related offences

The public prosecutor's office had come across Brandt's sexual offenses while investigating him for insurance fraud (see below).30 In December 2014, Brandt was sentenced to five and a half years in prison by the Gera Regional Court for sexual abuse of children and adolescents, aiding and abetting sexual abuse and promoting prostitution in 66 cases in the period from mid-2011 to mid-2014.31 In a further 91 suspected cases, the trial was dropped because the court focused on the more serious suspected cases. Brandt admitted in court that he had committed offenses against one child and several adolescent males under the age of 18. Brandt appeared also as a hustler, and had since 2011 demanded from the victims "commissions" of up to 60 percent of their earnings. In addition, he is said to have provided the boys with several apartments, including in Rudolstadt and Bad Blankenburg.32 Brandt had established and cultivated friendly relations with the victims, who came from precarious circumstances.2 Brandt had partly driven the abuse victims himself in his car to the appointments with the clients, and charged them fees up to €450.2

The investigating authorities had also identified seven clients to whom Brandt has mediated children and adolescents.2 Next to Brandt there were three other neo-Nazi cadre which have been accused of child abuse and even murder, according to the Left party politician Katharina König.9 Brandt served his prison sentence in the Tonna correctional facility.33

Prosecution for fraud offenses

The March 2012 answer to a parliamentary question by Martina Renner of the Thuringian state parliamentary group Die Linke reveals that Brandt has been investigated 35 times since 1994 for incitement of the people, breach of the peace, damage to property, fraud and the formation of criminal associations, among other charges. The majority of the cases have been dropped. Eight times Brandt was charged, but ultimately not convicted.34

In September 2012, Brandt filed for private insolvency, with creditors' claims totaling a seven-figure sum, according to a report in the Thüringer Allgemeine. In addition, following a house search in March 2012, the public prosecutor's office is investigating Brandt and 13 people from his entourage for fraud committed as a members of a criminal gang. They are alleged to have procured money via insurance fraud with fictitious industrial accidents in their company. According to a report by the Saalfeld police, this allegedly resulted in damages of around 1.86 million euros. Several defendants made confessions and stated that Brandt had been the "organizer and mastermind" and had taken large parts of the money for himself.33

In April 2018, Brandt and the 13 codefendants were set to go on trial for large-scale insurance fraud and attempted fraud.16 “The charges stem from information gathered by authorities in raids conducted on houses and offices in Rudolstadt in Thuringia and Leipzig in neighboring Saxony. A number of weapons were also discovered during the raids,” according to a Deutsche Welle article.16

In August 2019, the Gera regional court convicted Brandt of commercial fraud. According to information provided to CORRECTIV by the Gera regional court, Brandt was sentenced at the time to a total prison term of six years and nine months for both offenses.3 He was released from custody on January 16, 2020, as the custody from the insurance fraud proceedings had been served. The verdict in the child abuse proceedings had been appealed in the meantime.3

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