BERLIN – The number of far-right crimes committed in Germany rose sharply in 2020 to a two-decade high, the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday.
These crimes “represented 23,064 criminal offenses [in 2020]. That’s more than half… of all politically motivated crimes, ”Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said in presenting the latest crime statistics at a press conference in Berlin.
“This is the highest level since records began in 2001,” Seehofer added, noting a “particularly serious” increase of 18.8% in violent hate crimes – including 11 murders and 13 attempted murders – for a total of 3,365 offenses.
The press conference came hours after German authorities revealed they had arrested a person suspected of being behind a series of threatening letters sent to individuals active in the media and politics. The letters were signed “NSU 2.0” in reference to the National Socialist Underground, a notorious Nazi terrorist group that killed at least 10 people in the 2000s.
Seehofer also spoke on Tuesday of the religiously motivated murder of a gay man in Dresden, a racist terrorist attack in Hanau that left 11 people dead in February last year and the 2019 assassination of Walter Lübcke, a politician who had expressed support for the refugees.
“After the murder of Walter Lübcke and the attack on the synagogue in Halle, Hanau was the third right-wing terrorist attack in a few months,” the minister said, adding that it showed that “right-wing extremism is the greatest threat to security in our country.
Seehofer pointed to a 15.7% increase in anti-Semitic crimes, which he said was “not only disturbing but also deeply shameful in the context of our history”.
The far-right opposition party Alternative for Germany has long argued that the main source of anti-Semitism in Germany are immigrant communities from Arab-majority countries, but Seehofer dismissed such a position as no not being supported by the data.
“Almost all anti-Semitic crimes were motivated by right-wing extremism. This is sometimes contested, but it is clear, ”he said.
Responding to the statistics, Josef Schuster, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said: “The latest figures on violent acts and other crimes committed by extremists, as well as anti-Semitic crimes, are absolutely alarming and a accusation of Germany. “
“Although Germany has been less severely affected by the pandemic and has reacted with less severe restrictions than other European countries, the pandemic appears to have led to a new form of extremism,” added Schuster, referring to a disturbing new alliance between extremists and critics of the lockout. the country.
Seehofer also acknowledged that the close ties between pandemic deniers and right-wing extremists was another issue exposed by the latest crime statistics.
“It is problematic for the security authorities that new coalitions are formed between ordinary protesters and followers of conspiracy ideologies, anti-vaxxers … and extremists,” he said, adding that around 3,500 crimes were attributed to such groups in 2020, including 500 acts of violence.
Seehofer also denounced 260 reported crimes against journalists, including 112 committed as part of anti-lockout protests and almost half involving violence.
“I condemn these acts in the strongest terms,” he said.