Italy: Terror on the Right

Bologna, August 2, 1980. It was a hot Saturday morning, the first weekend of Italy’s traditional holiday month, and thousands of vacationers jostled their way to and from the trains in Bologna’s central railroad station. In the midst of that noisy crowd someone stopped midway between the second-class waiting room and the coffee bar, put down a heavy suitcase, and quickly left the station. The suitcase contained over forty pounds of explosives, perhaps stable nitroglycerine, connected to a timer. At exactly 10:25 AM it exploded, ripping through the crowd, tearing apart the reinforced concrete walls, and bringing the roof crashing down on hundreds of bodies and parts of bodies.

In the bloody aftermath, rescue squads worked for over twelve hours to pull the dead and maimed from the rubble. As they labored, a young neofascist entered a telephone booth across town and dialed Bologna’s leading newspaper. “This is the Armed Revolutionary Nuclei,” he said. “We claim responsibility for the explosion in the railway station.” The final toll: eighty-five dead—the eldest an eighty-six-year-old man, the youngest a three-year-old child—and more than two hundred wounded.

Eight weeks later, on the evening of September 26, a young man, Gundolf Koehler, tried to place six pounds of explosives in a refuse can at the entrance to Munich’s Oktoberfest. The bomb went off, killing him and twelve others, wounding 215 people. On Koehler’s body were found documents linking him to the illegal paramilitary Defense Sport Group of the neo-Nazi Karl-Heinz Hoffmann, who styles himself the “spiritual descendant” of Adolf Hitler and who has organized military maneuvers in southern Germany for his followers. Arrested along with twenty-four of his militants, Hoffmann was later released for lack of evidence.

A week later in Paris a twenty-six pound bomb exploded in front of the rue Copernic synagogue, where hundreds of Jews were gathered for sabbath services. The bomb killed four persons and wounded thirteen; if it had gone off twenty minutes later, when services would have ended, it would have killed scores of worshipers leaving the synagogue. The act was claimed by the European National Fasces (FNE), the same group that had machine-gunned five Jewish buildings in Paris a week earlier.

These latest of neofascist massacres have awakened Europeans to what many of them had managed not to see: the maturation over the last five years of what analysts now call Eurofascism—loosely associated but politically aligned neo-Nazi groups, many of them dedicated to terrorism, all of them intent on saving Europe from the twin evils of capitalism and Marxism. While their membership is relatively small, they are well funded and some have access to training camps in Lebanon. In an interview given eight days before the Munich explosion, the PLO leader Abu Ayad revealed that in late 1979 two members of Hoffmann’s group were captured in Lebanon and confessed to him that they and some thirty other European fascists were training at the Falangist camp at Aquru, northeast of Beirut. The Germans told Ayad that their Italian comrades…


This is exclusive content for subscribers only – subscribe at this low introductory rate for immediate access!

Online Subscription

Unlock this article, and thousands more from our complete 55+ year archive, by subscribing at the low introductory rate of just $1 an issue – that’s 10 issues online plus six months of full archive access for just $10.

One-Week Access

Purchase a trial Online Edition subscription and receive unlimited access for one week to all the content on nybooks.com.

If you already subscribe to the Online or Print + Online Edition, please be sure you are logged in to your nybooks.com account.