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German criminal police chief: far-right crime is endangering democracy

Jill Petzinger
Jill Petzinger, Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
On 09.10.2019, two people were shot dead during an attack by an extreme right-wing perpetrator in front of a synagogue in Halle, Saxony-Anhalt. Credit: Hendrik Schmidt/Getty Images

German authorities say that right-wing extremism is a growing threat to the country, and they are taking measures to identify and root out right-wing groups or individuals, who they say are dangerous and could carry out violent terror acts.

"Right-wing crimes endanger our democracy," said Holger Münch, head of the federal criminal police in Berlin on Tuesday. "The situation is serious."

On Tuesday, the police announced a new package of measures to monitor and combat right-wing speech online and to potentially outlaw hate-spreading groups. The action comes in the wake of a deadly attack in the eastern city of Halle last week, where a gunman tried unsuccessfully to break into a synagogue and then killed two passers-by. Authorities said that the 27-year-old attacker confessed that he had “far-right and anti Semitic motives” for the attack.

There has been an alarming growth in anti-Semitism in Germany and across Europe in recent years.

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights said has observed an increase in “acts of violence against Jews in certain countries," and a survey of Jews across the EU from December 2018 discovered that 85% of Jewish people saw antisemitism as a serious problem.

Jewish leaders in Germany have been warning for years that the community faces multiple threats, from both Muslims as well as the far-right. This summer, after a rise in attacks against Jews, German special commissioner on antisemitism Felix Klein said Jews should think twice about wearing their traditional kippah caps in public. His suggestion caused outrage that the onus was on Jewish community to combat the problem, and not on the government to protect them by taking action against the perpetrators.

Police on Tuesday said they now have 43 right-wing extremists on their radar, whom they believe could be capable of carrying out an attack, with foreigners, Jewish people, liberal politicians, and those in the public eye all potential targets.

Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution puts the number of people in the violent far-right scene at over 12,000.

In July this year, politician Walter Lübke was shot to death at his home by a far-right extremist, who had a former criminal record and ties to extreme right groups in Germany. The man reportedly confessed to being angered by Lübke’s pro-refugee stance.