The worst terrorist attack in West German history suggests that right-wing violence has grown to match leftist anarchist violence as a danger in West Germany.
A bomb that exploded at closing time at Munich's crowded Oktoberfest Sept. 26 left 12 dead and 144 injured.
This is the second lethal attack attributed to right-wing extremists in two months. In early August two Vietnamese refugees were killed in the bombing of a dormitory for foreigners in Hamburg. Six radical rightists were subsequently arrested on suspicion of complicity in the attack or of membership in an illegal terrorist group.
The August violence was the first lethal terrorism attributed to rightists in West Germany ever and the first lethal terrorism of either right or left since the fall of 1977.
In the latest case police are maintaining a news blackout and have not confirmed suspicion of rightist perpetrators. But the Munich press has reported that a young member of a neo-Nazi organization, the Hoffmann Military Sports Group, was among the dead of Munich and is suspected by police of having planted the high-explosive device.
The press has also reported that police have searched the home of Karl-Heinz Hoffmann, leader of the group, and that a number of the organization's members have been apprehended as they tried to cross the border into Austria after the bomb went off.
The nature of the bombing -- an explosion in a crowded public place -- also fits rightist, rather than leftist, terrorist patterson. It recalls the August Bologna train-station bombing and killing of more than 80 victims, allegedly by Italian neo-fascists.
West German leftist anarchists and their associates have not attacked the general public in this fashion (except in the case of a 1977 plane hijacking in an unsuccessful attempt to strengthen the terrorists' bargaining position after the kidnapping of industrialist Hanns-Martin Schleyer). Instead they have focused their violence by assassinating and abducting key political and business leaders.
Neither rightist nor leftist terrorists have any political following to speak of in West Germany. At least since the resounding electoral defeat of the right-wing National Democratic Party in 1972 and the indiscriminate violence of the Schleyer kidnapping and the Lufthansa hijacking in 1977, there has been no Italian-style sympathy for political violence or political extremism in any significant stratum of West German society.
Extreme right-wing organizations, according to the West German Interior Ministry, declined in membership from a late 1960s high point to only 17,300 in 1979 -- and are mostly peaceful. The hard core of those yearning for violence, however, has grown to an estimated 1,400 mostly young people in various splintered militant neo-Nazi groups.