Germany’s ARD television channel made the allegations in a documentary about Amazon’s treatment of more than 5,000 temporary staff from across Europe to work at its German packing and distribution centres.
The film showed omnipresent guards from a company named HESS Security wearing black uniforms, boots and with military haircuts. They were employed to keep order at hostels and budget hotels where foreign workers stayed. “Many of the workers are afraid,” the programme-makers said.
My problem with this story is that I am having trouble finding corroborating sources.
I am unfortunately hampered by not being conversant in German, so I can't speak for the contents of the video. But when I sat down to write this story today I first checked the German language publishing industry and bookselling blogs I follow (Google Translate is my friend).
The 2 sites I checked had not covered this story yet, nor have they made any mention in the past about allegations Amazon having neo-Nazi guards. What's more, Spiegel has not covered this story now or in the past, and a friend on Twitter can't find any coverage in 3 major German newspapers (thanks, Victor).
This is such an inflammatory story that I have to wonder why it's getting so much more coverage outside of Germany than inside. Could it be that the local journalists (who are not hampered by a language barrier) don't find the story credible?
And given the inflammatory nature of this story, do you really believe it is likely that the story wasn't broken by photos posted to Twitter and Facebook? Seriously, no one had a smartphone and took a picture of Amazon's neo-Nazi guards? Wouldn't those photos have made the rounds, including getting press coverage?
I don't mean to deny that there could be some truth to the story, but it feels to me like some details had to have been blown out of proportion. Sure, the working conditions and pay aren't as good as the union reps interviewed in the video might like, but guards dressed up as neo-Nazis?
Furthermore do you really think that a security firm in Germany that dressed up like neo-Nazis (no matter whether they actually had ties to neo-Nazis as the film alleged) wouldn't have gotten a lot of hostile press attention?
It might be the filmmakers or it might be the original reporting in English that introduced the inaccuracies (though I think The Independent would be careful to get the details correct). I don't know. In any case, I am holding this story as an unverified allegation while I wait for more local coverage.
Update: And now I have it.
Hess Security has denied a number of the details in the story (uniforms, staffing, and neo-Nazi connections and or political leanings) and says that other details (room searches, incident with filmmakers) are being misreported. According to HESS, 30% of their staff is from other parts of Europe, and includes Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists. BTW, the company's full name is Hensel European Security Service and it is owned by a Patrick Hensel.
Update 2: A number of readers have found new info on this story and pointed out that when a security firm has a name that resembles a notorious Nazi, includes SS (Security Service) in the company name, and where the owner is photographed in a black shirt with the company name in red and white, it looks more than a little like the security firm has Neo-Nazi ties.