The attacker who carried out the deadly 1980 Oktoberfest bombing in Munich was motivated by far-right ideology, federal prosecutors said Tuesday following a years-long probe, according to German media.
Gundolf Köhler was among the 13 killed when his bomb exploded in a rubbish bin at the entrance to the beer festival, injuring more than 200 others.
Initially, investigators presumed personal reasons — including depression, relationship problems, and exam stress —according to German news outlets.
Further revelations linking Köhler’s with far-right extremism led prosecutors to reopen the investigation in 2014 and to explore whether he acted alone.
Marwa El-Sherbini, a pharmacist who lived with her husband and son in Dresden, was killed in Dresden’s district court on July 1, 2009. She was stabbed by a 28-year-old Russian-German man shortly after testifying against him in a verbal abuse case. He’d previously called her a “terrorist” and “Islamist.” El-Sherbini is considered to be the first murder victim of an Islamophobic attack in Germany.
Right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in two lone-wolf terror attacks on July 22, 2011. He first set off a bomb in the government district in Oslo before killing young people attending a summer camp on the island of Utoya. Prior to the attack, Breivik published a manifesto where he decried multiculturalism and the “Islamization of Europe.”
Three university students — Deah Barakat, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, and her sister Razan Abu-Salha — were shot dead by their 46-year-old neighbor on February 10, 2015. The shooter described himself as an opponent of organized religion and reportedly repeatedly threatened and harassed the victims. The killings sparked outrage online, with millions of tweets using the hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter.
On June 17, 2015, a white supremacist opened fire at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Nine African-American worshipers were killed, including a pastor at the church, which is one of the oldest black congregations in the United States. The 21-year-old suspect was convicted of a federal hate crime and sentenced to death.
A mass shooting at a shopping mall in Munich on July 22, 2016 wounded some 36 people and killed 10 — including the 18-year-old shooter. The perpetrator, a German of Iranian descent, made xenophobic and racist comments and idolized school shooters, according to police. He also suffered from depression, was frequently bullied and wanted to take revenge on people with immigrant backgrounds.
On June 19, 2017, a 47-year-old man killed one person and wounded another 10 after driving a van into a group of pedestrians near the Finsbury Park mosque in north London. All of the victims were Muslims who were on their way to take part in special night prayers during Ramadan. The perpetrator later stated that he was motivated by a “hatred of Islam” and was sentenced to life in prison.
One woman was killed and dozens were wounded when a white nationalist drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017. The counterprotesters had been demonstrating against the Unite the Right rally, a gathering of white supremacists, white nationalists and neo-Nazis. The suspect was sentenced to life in prison.
A gunman opened fire on worshipers at the Islamic Cultural Center in Quebec City in late January 2017, killing six people and wounding over a dozen. The shooting took place during evening prayers. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the shooting as “a terrorist attack on Muslims in a center of worship and refuge.”
On October 27, 2018, a 46-year-old gunman opened fire at a synagogue in the US city of Pittsburgh, killing 11 people and wounding seven. He reportedly shouted anti-Semitic slurs during the attack and previously posted conspiracy theories online. It was the deadliest attack on Jewish people in US history.
Shortly after midnight as people were out celebrating, a 50-year-old man carried out targeted attacks on immigrants in the western German cities of Bottrop and Essen — injuring eight people, one seriously. He deliberately drove his car at two Syrian and Afghan families who were out celebrating with their children in Bottrop. German authorities said “he had a clear intent to kill foreigners.”
At least 50 people were killed and dozens others were injured in twin terror attacks at mosques in Christchurch. Officials called it a “right-wing extremist attack” and the deadliest shooting in New Zealand’s history. One of the gunmen livestreamed the attack and posted a racist manifesto online before the attack. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called it “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”
“Gundolf Köhler wanted to influence the 1980 parliamentary election. He strived for a dictatorial state in the image of national socialism,” reported the Süddeutsche Zeitung, quoting a senior investigator.
The federal prosecutors reached the conclusion after interviewing 1008 witnesses and victims, reviewing over 888 clues and 300,000 documents from national authorities.
Picture of Hitler
Federal prosecutors found that Köhler trained with the banned neo-Nazi militia group “Wehrsportgruppe Hoffmann,” whose members had frequently been accused of far-right violence. He also had a picture of former Nazi leader Hitler hanging above his bed.
However, there was “no sufficient evidence” that Köhler had accomplices.
“There weren’t sufficient indications for the involvement of other people either as accomplices, instigators or helpers,” the Tagesspiegel daily quoted the federal prosecutors’ office as saying.
Read more: Why are German neo-Nazis training in Russia?
Downplaying right-wing extremism?
The end of the investigation comes as German authorities have been accused of downplaying the danger posed by far-right extremism in the country, following a spate of high-profile attacks in Halle and Hanau.
A known neo-Nazi is also on trial and accused of shooting dead pro-refugee politician Walter Lübcke last year.
The German military has also faced accusations that it tolerates right-wing extremism.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has since declared far-right extremism the “biggest security threat facing Germany.”