Germany sees an increase in right-wing crime and warns that extremists are “the biggest threat to our country.”
Germany has announced a spike in far-right crime and warned that political extremists are “the greatest threat to our country.”
The Interior Ministry again reported an annual increase in anti-Semitic crimes, up from 15.7 percent in 2020, with a total of 2,351 incidents – 94.6% of which were committed by a far-right suspect.
Of the total, 62 were acts of violence, while the majority were anti-Semitic hate speech and other related crimes, often on social media.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said: “This development in Germany is not only disturbing, but also very shameful given our history.”
A protester with an Iron Cross draped over his back outside the Reichstag during a far-right demonstration against lockdown over the summer. The symbol harks back to imperial Germany and was reappropriated by the Nazis under Adolf Hitler
Right-wing crime is up by 5.65 percent in 2020, accounting for more than half of all politically motivated crime.
Seehofer said, “This shows again that right-wing extremism is the greatest threat to our country.”
It comes as Berlin police arrested a 53-year-old man on Tuesday on suspicion of sending dozens of threatening neo-Nazi letters to politicians, lawyers and journalists.
The suspect, whose name has not been released for privacy reasons, has previous convictions for “ numerous crimes, including crimes motivated by a right-wing ideology, ” said Frankfurt prosecutors hearing the case.
The letters were signed with ‘NSU 2.0’. A German group called the National Socialist Underground was responsible for a series of violent crimes between 1998 and 2011, including the racially motivated murder of nine men from immigrant backgrounds and a police officer.
The group’s name is derived from the full name of the Nazi or National Socialist Party.
Police believe the suspect has sent nearly 100 letters to dozens of people and organizations in Germany and Austria since 2018.
The German news agency dpa reported that investigators believe the suspect may have obtained personal data about the people he was targeted from official archives or Darknet forums.
German security forces warned of the growing threat of violent right-wing extremism.
In July 2019, a regional politician from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party was murdered by a neo-Nazi; three months later, a gunman tried to force his way into a synagogue on Yom Kippur, killing two people.
Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said the German figures revealed today by the Interior Ministry reveal a broader issue.
“This is a wake-up call, not just for Germany, but for the whole world,” he said. ‘These figures should ring alarm bells, because we see similar trends in the Western world.’
In 2020, Germany registered a 72.4% increase in anti-immigrant crimes, to 5,298 total cases over 3,073 in 2019, Seehofer said.
A bullet strikes the street in Hanau in February 2020, after a right-wing terrorist shoots nine people before pointing the gun at himself
Forensic officers are investigating in Hanau after the February 2020 shooting of immigrants
In the most deadly incident in February, nine people with an immigrant background in Hanau, near Frankfurt, were shot dead by a gunman who had called for genocide.
Authorities have expressed concern about the role the Alternative for Germany party allegedly played in fueling a climate of resentment towards immigrants and the government.
The party, which finished in third place in the 2017 German elections, has steadily shifted to the right in recent years and is gaining increasing attention from the country’s domestic intelligence service.
On Tuesday, the Alternative for Germany branch in Berlin condemned a member who appeared to regret that there were no attacks on Merkel.
The news website Business Insider reported that the former AfD chairman in Berlin, Guenter Brinker, had sent a message saying that “either that piece of dirt is so well protected that no one can get to her, or the Germans have no balls?”
Brinker later said that he accidentally forwarded the message and regretted it, and that he rejected “all forms of hatred and violence.”
Many in the AfD have expressed support for and participated in the regular protests in Germany against lockdown measures organized by the so-called Querdenker movement.
Home Secretary Horst Seehofer (pictured Tuesday) said: “This (anti-Semitic) development in Germany is not only disturbing, but also very shameful given our history.”
The demonstrations have become increasingly violent, and the country’s domestic intelligence said late last month that it had placed some members of the loose Querdenker movement under observation.
The protests have brought together a wide range of protesters, including people who are against vaccinations, others who deny the existence of the coronavirus, mask opponents, conspiracy theorists and others.
Seehofer said the protests have also attracted neo-Nazis and other right-wing extremists and turned violent on a regular basis.
“At these gatherings, organized by the so-called Querdenker movement, attacks are aimed at police officers and the press,” Seehofer said.
“Of the 260 reported crimes against journalists, 112 were related to corona protests,” he said. “I want to say very clearly here: these acts of violence are no longer about exercising a constitutional right (to demonstrate), but about acts of criminal nature that I condemn in the strongest possible terms.”