Germany is facing a terrifying rise in far-right threats
First came the confession.
On Wednesday, a man with extensive neo-Nazi ties confessed to assassinating Walter Lübcke, a popular, pro-migrant politician from the central German city of Kassel.
Lübcke was murdered at his home on June 2. Authorities said he died after being shot in the head at close range.
The case, which is the first political assassination in Germany in more than half a century, has gripped the country. Last week, German police arrested Lübcke’s killer, a 45-year-old man active in far-right circles who had a string of convictions — including an attempted pipe bombing of an asylum shelter in 1993 and an assault at a neo-Nazi march in Dortmund in 2009.
Germany’s interior minister, Horst Seehofer, has since labeled the attack a “political murder.”
Then, on Friday, Germany authorities indicted eight members of a neo-Nazi terror group named “Revolution Chemnitz.” The men were arrested last October in the wake of a series of violent, far-right rallies in the eastern German city of Chemnitz.
According to German media, the eight men — who were between the ages of 21 and 31 and had ties to skinhead and hooligan groups within the city — were planning an attack in Berlin which they then hoped would be blamed on leftist groups, thus ratcheting up political tension between the groups.
The same day, it was reported that another far-right group, known as Nordkreuz (Northern Cross) had compiled a “deathlist” of prominent leftist and pro-refugee targets. The group, which German authorities had been reportedly investigating since 2017, was made up of 30 members, including at least one member of SEK, an elite German police tactical unit.
The group reportedly had access to weapons, over 10,000 rounds of ammunition, and had ordered more than 200 bodybags and quicklime, a substance that helps dissolve bodies quickly. The group had also reportedly used their law enforcement connections to access police records, and collected 25,000 address in order to draw up their “hit list.”
A similar incident occurred during the Chemnitz riots last August, when a prison officer admitted to leaking an arrest warrant for an Iraqi man to right-wing groups. The right-wing groups in turn rampaged through the city, reportedly attacking anyone who did not look German.
Together, these incidents highlight the dangerous surge in far-right extremism which Germany is currently facing. That point is further backed up by a report published by the German domestic security agency Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV) on Friday: the report stated that, while the number of right-wing extremists in the country had remained relatively stable from 2017 to 2018, the number of acts of extreme violence had risen sharply from 28 in 2017 to 48 in 2018.
The report added that nearly 13,000 individuals classified as right-wing extremists had been deemed “violence-orientated.”
According to BfV officials, the increased presence of the far right has in turn led to a rise in anti-Semitic incidents. Chancellor Angela Merkel noted this in an interview with CNN in May, after anti-Semitism commissioner Felix Klein said German Jews should avoid wearing kippahs in some parts of the country.
“There is to this day not a single synagogue, not a single daycare center for Jewish children, not a single school for Jewish children that does not need to be guarded by German policemen,” Merkel said. “We have to tell our young people what history has brought over us and others.”
The rise in far-right activity and attacks in a country with Germany’s history is worrying enough. But making matters worse is the lingering fear that the security services have not taken this threat seriously in the past.
Between 2000 and 2007 for instance, the neo-Nazi group known as the National Socialist Underground murdered 10 people, mostly immigrants. A parliamentary review found that authorities had repeatedly bungled the investigation, and that documents and evidence were lost once it became clear the suspects were right-wing extremists.