“HooNaRa”: Football Clubs in (East)Germany and their problems with right-wing extremism

Photo by Harry Härtel

On March 9th, before the German 4th division football match between Chemnitzer FC (CFC) and VSG Altglienicke, supporters of the CFC were holding a moment of silence including a pyrotechnical display for Thomas Haller, the former chief of the notorious hooligan gang “HooNaRa” (Hooligans Nazis Rassisten, or Hooligans, Nazis, Racists), who died the day before. The mourning ceremony in the stadium was in collaboration with the club officials, who later stated that they were forced to voice their approval, despite defending the official character of the mourning ceremony in the immediate aftermath.

Haller’s funeral ceremony on March 18th was attended by more than 1,000 people, including well-known right-wing extremists Michael “Lunikoff” Regener (former singer of the famous German White Power Music band “Landser”), Yves Rahmel (owner of the largest White Power Music label “PC Records”, located in Chemnitz) and Siegfried Däbritz (vice chief of PEGIDA, Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes, or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident), as well as hooligans from Cottbus, Magdeburg, Berlin, and Dresden, and other key players of the local and national right-wing movement.

This event was just the tip of the iceberg in Chemnitz and its long history of the ignorance, denial & downplay-strategy towards networks of football hooligans, right-wing extremists, martial artists, free comradeships, White Power musicians and security companies. It dates back to the early 1990s when Haller formed “HooNaRa” in order “to show Germany and Europe that Saxony exists”. This resulted in approximately 50 men touring throughout Europe for arranged fights with other hooligans, which was branded as a success. In and around Chemnitz, all those who were perceived as “different” were threatened with street terror. In 1999, Patrick Thürmer, belonging to the punk scene, was murdered by three right-wing extremists, one of them an active member of “HooNaRa”, while the role of Haller could not be clearly determined.

Around the time of the establishment of “HooNaRa”, Haller had lost his job as a butcher. He founded his own security company, “Haller Security”, which rapidly gained influence in Chemnitz. The company provided security services for the CFC in and outside the stadium, the annual city fest, press events of the biggest regional newspaper (“Freie Presse”, or Free Press), and also White Power Music concerts, organized by Blood & Honour” and “Skinheads Chemnitz/CC 88.With the (partly forced) consent of the city’s authorities and club officials of the CFC, Haller was able to expand and continue his business until 2007, when he gave an interview where he talked quite openly about the history, actions, political opinions and the network of “HooNaRa”. Additionally, he discredited and insulted the club officials of the CFC. Trouble with the police was a consequence of this interview next to a loss of customers and financial turmoil. As a result of waning activities and the intermediate change of leadership to Rico Malt, a professional MMA fighter, “HooNaRa” officially dissolved in 2007.

But this did not lead to an immediate disappearance of the group itself and Haller’s company, as Haller stated in December 2006: “Technically ‘HooNaRa’ does not exist anymore, but nonetheless we’re there in half an hour [, if it is ‘necessary’].” The former role of “HooNaRa” was taken over by the “NS-Boys” (New Society-Boys) and “Kaotic Chemnitz”. Both groups were formed shortly before “HooNaRa” dissolved. Their members were younger hooligans that shared the ideological and strategic goals of “HooNaRa”, as well as some old members.

What Haller meant with his statement on “HooNaRa” could be observed during the violent rallies in Chemnitz in autumn 2018. Evoked by the death of a young German-Cuban, who was allegedly stabbed by a Syrian refugee, approximately 6,000 people went to the streets to protest against refugees, the politics of the Federal Government and to enunciate massive political discontent. These rallies were dominated and lead by hooligans from the (former) “HooNaRa” network (especially “Kaotic Chemnitz”) who were able to mobilize a few hundred fellow hooligans from other German cities (particularly from Cottbus, Dresden and Berlin) within hours, but also politicians of Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), high-ranking representatives of PEGIDA, and other right-wing organizations.

The reaction of the city authorities and the club officials in both cases were very similar and followed the same patterns that shaped the local and regional debate since the early 1990s. Normally there is no initial reaction, then, after public criticism from parts of civil society and the press, the corresponding representatives try to defend their actions and downplay the proceedings. If the public interest does not decrease after these measures, some symbolic actions are carried out and short-termed interventions are implemented, but no long-ranging action plans are set up.

Chemnitz is not a solitary case. In Cottbus, the reaction to the expressions of mourning of the death of Haller and to some hooligans of the Brandenburg based club FC Energie Cottbus (Inferno Cottbus 99) celebrating the promotion to the 3rd division in Ku-Klux-Klan robes, holding a banner with the “Blood Drop Cross” and the ambiguous phrase “Aufstieg des Bösen” (Rise of Evil) was nearly the same as in Chemnitz. Comparable networks can be found in Dresden (Faust des Ostens”; “Hooligans Elbflorenz) and Dortmund (Borussenfront”; “Riot 0231), but the reactions in these cities are different. Dresden and Dortmund, on the other hand, show some alternative reactionary approaches. While both clubs still have problems with some of their right-wing supporters, the club officials have started to take a clear stance and long-term counter-measures were implemented, even though both clubs also needed some time to recognize and accept their problems.

These few exemplary cases show that some clubs try to tackle the problem but also unveil that right-wing networks are well established in the fan scenes. The multiple outbursts of political violence and mobilizations for xenophobic demonstrations in Chemnitz reveal how interwoven scenes of hooligans and right-wing extremists can dominate and even occupy the (local) public sphere in order to create “Nationalbefreite Zonen” (national liberated zones, i.e. no-go areas for foreigners/non-whites). These networks start to expand their range and threaten single (leftist) activists, civil society as a whole and target the democratic institutions by sending their representatives to local parliaments. These developments clearly show that an alliance ranging from the AfD, through PEGIDA and the NPD to violent right-wing extremist and hooligans has gained ground in (East)Germany and shows no sign of cutting back.

Mr Maximilian Kreter is a Doctoral Fellow at CARR and Doctoral candidate at the Hannah Arendt Institute for Research on Totalitarianism at University of Technology Dresden. His profile can be found here:

© Maximilian Kreter. Views expressed on this website are individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect that of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR). We are pleased to share previously unpublished materials with the community under creative commons license 4.0 (Attribution-NoDerivatives).