Politically-motivated crimes in Germany at second-highest level since 2001

"The greatest threat continues to come from right-wing extremism. We have every reason to proceed with the greatest vigilance here," Seehofer told a press conference, during which the report was being presented. EPA-EFE/CLEMENS BILAN [EPA-EFE/CLEMENS BILAN]

Germany’s number of politically-motivated crimes has increased significantly over the past year. Offences perpetrated by both the left and right wing have spiked. For the first time, crimes committed online were also included in the statistics. EURACTIV Germany reports.

The number of politically motivated crimes in Germany in 2019 rose by about 14% compared to the previous year to around 41,000.

This is the result of a report on politically-motivated crime (PMK) presented by German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) last Wednesday (27 May) together with Holger Münch, the president of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA).

This puts politically-motivated crime at its second-highest level since it was introduced to the statistics back in 2001.

Crimes from the right-wing sphere, with some 22,000 offences, account for more than half (54.3%) of the registered offences. Compared to the previous year, the number has risen by almost 10%.

Right- and left-wing violence cannot be equated, says expert

In an interview with EURACTIV Germany, Axel Salheiser, who is conducting research on right-wing extremism at the Institute for Democracy and Civil Society, spoke about the growing incidence of acts of violence by the far-right and the potential dangers of right- and left-wing extremist groups in Germany.

“The greatest threat continues to come from right-wing extremism. We have every reason to proceed with the greatest vigilance here,” Seehofer told reporters.

However, political crimes linked to the left have increased even more significantly. The number of offences in 2019 rose by around 24% to almost 10,000 compared to the previous year.

On the other hand, a significant decrease can be observed in the field of religiously motivated crimes, where the focus continues to be on crimes with an Islamist background.

A sharp increase in anti-Semitism

There has been a significant increase in hate crimes, including xenophobic and anti-Semitic offences. With an increase of 13% over the previous year to now more than 2,000 offences, the number of anti-Semitic crimes last year was at a record high.

According to the statistics, more than 90% of those crimes are classified as being right-wing perpetrated.

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“Anti-Semitism has become commonplace for Jews in Germany,” according to the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster. He demands that “special attention” be paid to growing right-wing extremism.

Schuster notes that the Internet in particular offers a platform for anti-Semitic statements and fears the COVID-19 crisis could further intensify this trend. This assessment is also shared by numerous experts, who point to the possibility of linking conspiracy theories to anti-Semitic thought patterns.

According to the report, about 1,500 online posts were registered as hate crimes, of which three-quarters had political motivations linked to right-wing extremism. This was the first time the report included this statistic.

New law to remedy the situation

The murder of Kassel district president Walter Lübcke, as well as the attacks in Hanau and Halle – which were notable incidents of right-wing extremist violence in Germany last year – have triggered new discussions about the fight against crimes linked to right-wing extremism.

“Above all, the development of politically motivated crime shows us a new dimension in terms of the threat to our democracy,” said Thuringia’s Interior Minister Georg Maier. The constitutional state must counter this with all possible means, he added.

German cabinet adopts new hate speech measures

The German Cabinet has passed new plans to oblige social media giants like Facebook and YouTube to report instances of hate speech to the authorities.

Content that comes under the new measures includes far-right material, violent content including murder and rape …

Germany’s Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) is, therefore, planning to introduce a corresponding law against right-wing extremism and hate crime. The current case figures of the crime statistics would clearly show how urgently necessary such a law is, said Lambrecht after the report was published.

In February, the cabinet had already passed a draft law that not only provides for the expansion of the number of offences but also more effective prosecution.

Besides, providers of large social networks would also be obliged to take action against hate posts online and report certain criminal content to the Federal Criminal Police Office. The bill is to be passed into law by the Bundestag before the summer.

[Edited by Sam Morgan]

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