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NCJ Number: 222527 Find in a Library
Title: German Underworld and the Ringvereine From the 1890s Through the 1950s
Journal: Global Crime  Volume:9  Issue:1-2  Dated:February-May 2008  Pages:108-135
Author(s): Arthur Hartmann; Klaus von Lampe
Date Published: February 2008
Page Count: 28
Type: Historical Overview
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Using data from various contemporary publications and a review of journalistic and law-enforcement accounts, this study examined the structure, function, geographical scope, membership, ties to legitimate institutions, and historical turning points for Germany's Ringvereine, a criminal organization.
Abstract: "Ringvereine" is the term that was applied to officially chartered associations of ex-convicts whose stated public mission was to provide mutual aid and cultural activities for their members. Their visible social activities, however, have masked their promotion of members' criminal activities. Individual associations formed umbrella organizations, so-called rings, from which the term Ringvereine is derived. One author claims that by 1933 Ringvereine could be found in every major German city, although the highest number of individual clubs was apparently concentrated in Berlin. Only men were allowed to join, and candidates for membership had to be 21 or 24 years old, according to conflicting information sources. The types of crimes in which members were involved included prostitution, extortion, illegal gambling, drug trafficking, receiving stolen goods, illegal labor brokerage, burglary, arms smuggling, currency counterfeiting, and sophisticated forms of begging. Ringvereine have also been linked to protection extortion of businesses in the night-time economy. Convicted murderers and sex offenders, however, could not be members. The fact that the Ringvereine have survived and prospered virtually unabated for more than four decades of dramatic transitions in German history can best be explained by their gradual transformation from effective mutual aid societies to a powerful institution within an underworld that has adapted its operations to the criminal opportunities that have existed in every era of German history. Corrupt ties to law enforcement and the relative invisibility of Ringvereine's criminal activities to mainstream German society has assisted in its survival. 209 notes
Main Term(s): Germany; Organized crime
Index Term(s): Crime in foreign countries; Criminology; Organized crime causes; Political influences; Social conditions
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