Political violence is booming – also because of Corona

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New high for politically and religiously motivated crimes in Germany. Fire accelerators were “lateral thinkers” protests. A scene that not only gives prosecutors headaches.

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More politically motivated crimes

While the number of corona infections in Germany is currently falling sharply, has the pandemic indirectly triggered a boom in the statistics on politically motivated crime (PMK) 2021 presented in Berlin on Tuesday (May 10, 2022). A large proportion of the crimes recorded are related to protests against state corona measures – from property damage to violations of the right of assembly to murder.

A mask refuser becomes a murderer

Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser describes the murder of a 20-year-old gas station employee in Idar-Oberstein (Rhineland-Palatinate) as a “terrible highlight”. The alleged perpetrator shot the young man because he had been informed of the mask requirement. The social democrat describes the PMK balance sheet as a “gauge for the intensity of social conflicts”.

The 55,048 offenses registered by the police mean an increase of 23 percent within one year and are also an all-time high for the statistics introduced in 2001. The number of criminal offenses recorded by the leading Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) in the category “cannot be assigned” has particularly increased. In other words, all acts that the investigators do not rate as left-wing, right-wing or motivated by a foreign or religious ideology. The increase here is almost 150 percent: from a good 8,600 to more than 21,000. Around 7,000 cases are related to the corona pandemic and to federal and state elections.

BKA boss considers “lateral thinkers” to be a “heterogeneous mixed scene”

BKA President Holger Münch describes the milieus, which are often difficult to assess from the police point of view, as a “heterogeneous mixed scene”. What she is, is largely a “state-critical to anti-state attitude”. With a view to the corona demonstrations, which are now waning, the “lateral thinking” movement should be mentioned in particular. The right-wing scene tried to exploit protests for their own purposes “and to establish a connection to the civil-democratic middle of society”.

Hard work for the police when the mood changes; meanwhile the Corona protest is abating

However, it was not possible to exert influence to a “significant, formative extent”. Irrespective of this, the head of the BKA and the German interior minister share what they consider to be the most important finding: “Right-wing extremism is currently the greatest threat to our free, democratic society.” Even if the number of cases in this area is declining slightly, at 40 percent they still make up the largest proportion of all crimes.

Nancy Faeser on anti-Semitism: “Shame on our country”

Nancy Faeser is “most worried” about anti-Jewish crimes, which have increased by 29 percent to a new high of over 3,000. It is a “shame for our country” how much anti-Semitic hate speech and contempt for human beings is still being spread today. And shameful “how the genocide of the European Jews was played down by some Corona deniers who pin a yellow star on”.

With the word “unvaccinated” on the yellow Jewish star of the Nazis, those who downplayed Corona stylized themselves as victims

Criticism of the high number of crimes that cannot be assigned comes from parts of civil society. The classification of politically motivated violence is not just a question of statistics, says right-wing extremism expert Pia Lamberty. The milieu of the Corona deniers have become “strongly radicalized” and show a “clear willingness to use violence,” says the managing director of the Center for Monitoring, Analysis and Strategy.   

Sluggish investigation after the assassination in Hanau 2020

The social psychologist recognizes numerous references to right-wing extremism in the Corona protest. Under the impression of the massive increase in anti-Jewish crimes, she says: “An ideological conspiracy worldview is closely interwoven with racist and anti-Semitic elements.” All of this endangers people “who are identified as enemies”.

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Hanau attack: fight against oblivion

Etris Hashemi experienced what it means to be targeted by racists. As a survivor and relative of the attack on February 19, 2020 in Hanau (Hesse), he often misses the “insight into the mistakes” of the police and politicians. A committee of inquiry in the Hessian state parliament is now dealing with the open questions.

Criminal offenses as a result of the Ukraine war

Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, who was a member of parliament in Hesse before moving to Berlin, also campaigned for this. “I think we can achieve a lot with Nancy Faeser,” says Etris Hashemi, referring to the fight against racism. Above all, he has high hopes for the action plan against right-wing extremism that the politician has launched. />

Etris Hashemi survived the assassination attempt in Hanau in 2020 and is committed to fighting racism

Meanwhile, the Minister of the Interior and the security authorities have to deal with a new phenomenon of possibly politically motivated violence that has its origins in Russia's war against Ukraine. In response, the Federal Criminal Police Office also registers criminal offenses in Germany. In the beginning there were around 270 per week, most of which were directed against people of Russian origin, says BKA President Münch. It is now well below 200. “The emotional curve has weakened.” However, this can change at any time.