Germany recorded a record for crimes committed by far-right supporters in 2020, reaching the highest level since 2001, when authorities began collecting and classifying data on politically motivated crimes.
According to figures released on Tuesday (4) by German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, the 23,064 far-right crimes last year represent a growth of 5.7% compared to what was recorded in 2019.
In addition, the far right was responsible for 52.8% of all crimes of a political or ideological nature, ranging from incitement to racial hatred to Nazi salutes.
“This shows what I have been saying since the start of my administration, which is that right-wing extremism is the greatest security threat in our country, since most racist crimes are committed by people of this spectrum,” said Seehofer.
According to the minister, although politically motivated crimes represent only around 1% of total crimes committed in Germany, the figures released on Tuesday are “very worrying” because they represent the consolidation of a “clear trend towards brutality” in the country.
In this category, 3,365 violent crimes were recorded, including 11 murders and 13 attempted homicides. This number represents an increase of 18.8% over the previous year.
Among these statistics, according to the minister, are the nine killed in a shooting in February 2020 against two bars frequented by immigrants in Hanau. The author, who committed suicide after the crime, was a sniper and had legally purchased weapons. He maintained a website on which he published a sort of manifesto mixing racist ideas and conspiracy theories.
Of the incidents classified as “speech crimes,” which include hate speech and neo-Nazi propaganda, for example, 65% were perpetrated by right-wing extremists, according to the survey. The country also recorded a 15.7% increase in the number of incidents involving hate speech against Jews.
“Anti-Semitic hatred is a central component of far-right ideology. This development in Germany is not only disturbing, but, in the context of our history, deeply shameful,” Seehofer said.
Germany has stepped up efforts to combat these groups, especially after, in October 2019, a gunman killed two people outside a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle. The crime, broadcast live on the internet, occurred on Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest date.
German prosecutors announced on Tuesday the arrest of a 53-year-old man accused of sending letters of threats and hate speech for three years to left-wing politicians, as well as a lawyer of Turkish origin who represented victims of crimes committed by the extreme right.
According to police, the man signed his letters with the acronym “NSU 2.0”, in reference to the neo-Nazi group National Socialist Underground, responsible for the murder of at least ten people between 2000 and 2007.
Minister Seehofer also released statistics on nearly 3,500 crimes – 500 of which were considered violent – associated with the Querdenker movement (something like “lateral thinkers”).
The group, mostly made up of right-wing extremists and anti-vaccine collectives, is known to stage protests against measures to restrict trade and mobility during the coronavirus pandemic. In this context, according to the data, there were at least 1,260 crimes against journalists.
Opposition to Querdenker in the form of simultaneous and antagonistic protests, according to the minister, is one of the main factors which have also led to a 45% increase in the use of violence in crimes committed by the far left. In total, the number of crimes committed by this group increased by 11%
Public safety has become a key political issue in the political debate ahead of national elections scheduled for September, which will define who will succeed Prime Minister Angela Merkel.
In March, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) placed the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), the main opposition group, under surveillance. The decision was taken after two years of investigation into the party’s xenophobic activity. Lawyers and extremism experts analyzed the speeches of AfD politicians and internet publications and concluded that they were suspected of extremism and could pose a risk to German democracy.
German intelligence services fear that far-right activists are trying to exploit public frustration with restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as a means of inciting violence against state institutions.
Civil society organizations have warned of the dangers posed by the resurgence of the far right in a country haunted by its Nazi past. The result is that the threat has been underestimated by the German authorities, who have focused their efforts on combating Islamic extremism and jihadists.