Germany bans far-right "Wolf Brigade 44", finds weapons and Nazi symbols

BERLIN (Reuters) - Police found a crossbow, machete, knives and Nazi symbols in early-morning raids on Tuesday after banning a far-right extremist group called "Wolf Brigade 44" which the government says wants a Nazi state.

Swastikas were among the Nazi symbols uncovered in searches of the homes of 11 members of the group in the states of Hesse, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and North Rhine-Westphalia in the early hours of Tuesday, the interior ministry said in a statement.

"There is no place in our country for a group that sows hate and propagates the re-establishment of a Nazi state," Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said.

Members of the "Wolf Brigade" openly pledge allegiance to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and seek to end the democratic state, while propagating racism and anti-Semitism, the ministry said.

The government also banned the symbols of the group, such as a skull with two grenades marked with the number 44.

In Nazi code, the four stands for the letter D as the fourth letter in the alphabet, the number 44 being an abbreviation for the so-called "Division Dirlewanger".

This alludes to a unit of the Nazi's paramilitary SS during World War Two that was particularly brutal and bore the name of Oskar Dirlewanger, who is accused of ordering massacres against civilians in Belarus in the 1940s.

(Reporting by Sabine Siebold, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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