That was a tough year for Germany, and not just because of the virus. A serious right-wing extremist attack in Hanau, increasingly violent protests by the corona deniers, conspiracy theories spread like a conflagration, a deadly Islamist attack in Dresden, militant left-wing extremists radicalizing themselves in the direction of terror: the dangers are becoming more diverse and often even more difficult to calculate. “There is absolutely no reason to give the all-clear,” says the head of the North Rhine-Westphalian Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Burkhard Freier. And he doesn’t think 2021 will be any easier. But he sees the greatest danger for Germany “as before in right-wing extremism”. An overview.
Messenger of political madness
On February 19, the racist Tobias Rathjen shot specifically at visitors to shisha bars in Hanau. Nine people from immigrant families die. Rathjen drives home, kills his mother and himself. The crime shocks the republic. It even surpasses the right-wing extremist attacks of 2019, when the neo-Nazi Stephan Ernst killed the Kassel regional president Walter Lübcke with a head shot and the anti-Semite Stephan Balliet shot two people in Halle after he had unsuccessfully attacked the fully occupied synagogue.
The perpetrator from Hanau also acts, it seems today, like a messenger of the political madness that breaks through the country from spring onwards with the rapid radicalization of the corona deniers.
“The potential is increasing”
The mentally unstable Rathjen combines right-wing extremist fantasies of annihilation with conspiracy theories that later circulated among corona protestors. Before the act, Rathjen spreads on the Internet that secret societies are killing children in underground camps in the USA. So also whispers the QAnon movement, which docks from America with bloodthirsty conspiracy myths with corona deniers.
“Conspiracy ideologies create a justification for attacks,” says Freier, chief of the protection of the constitution. “Then sometimes only a spark is missing that perpetrators acting alone will strike.” Freier avoids the term “individual perpetrators” because such people are “ideologically never alone”. This type is currently the greatest danger. Mostly radicalized via social networks and difficult to detect for the security authorities. “The potential is great,” warns Freier. “And it still swells depending on the occasion.”
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Dangerous corona protest
The protection of the constitution emphasizes that “the right-wing extremist, alone acting perpetrator is currently even more dangerous in Germany than the alone acting Islamist perpetrator”. That could change again, but in 2020 the right-wing terrorist risk increased further due to the increasing mixing of neo-Nazis, Reich citizens, corona deniers and radical anti-vaccination groups.
The end-time mood fueled by right-wing extremists and the longing for “Day X”, the beginning of a civil war and the great settlement with all opponents, connect the milieus in the ghost. Freier warns, “the apocalyptic of the conspiracy myths is combined with right-wing extremism”. Especially with corona deniers, this could “lead to terror as a consequence”. And there are warning signs.
Incendiary bottles and an explosive device
In October, suspected corona deniers throw incendiary devices on the building of the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin. Only hours later, an explosive device exploded in the Mitte district near the headquarters of the Leibniz Association. The community is a network of research institutes, several of which deal with Corona.
At the scene of the crime, the police found a letter of confession with wild slogans. All state restrictions due to Corona would have to be discontinued, the federal government would have to resign, new elections would have to be held. In November, on the sidelines of the “lateral thinkers” demonstration during the debate in the Bundestag on the Infection Protection Act, a barbecue lighter burned on the tire of a police vehicle near the Brandenburg Gate. If witnesses hadn’t alerted emergency services, the car would have gone up in flames.
155 acts of violence against the state
A paper by the federal government documents how political conflicts heat up during the corona crisis. From March to the end of November, the state police reported 297 violent crimes “in connection with the corona pandemic” to the Federal Criminal Police Office, according to a response to a request from the left-wing parliamentary group. Most of the crimes, a total of 160, are attributed to left-wing offenders, while 48 offenses are attributed to right-wing perpetrators. 89 crimes cannot yet be precisely assigned.
In 155 acts of violence, the state was the target. A somewhat bulky information testifies to the right-wing extremist terror risk in the corona crisis. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the “Joint Extremism and Terrorism Defense Center for Combating Right-Wing Extremism / Terrorism (GETZ-R) has dealt with 28 issues”. The GETZ, founded in 2012 in response to the NSU shock, is an information platform for 40 security authorities. The subject was obviously the attacks on the Robert Koch Institute and near the Leibniz Association in Berlin.
The Hamburg Office for the Protection of the Constitution warns in mid-December that protagonists of the right-wing AfD association “Der Flügel” are “taking a radical role in the protests against state measures to combat the corona pandemic”. A wing supporter advertises violence on social networks.
“The time of peaceful resistance is over,” writes the AfD member, “if you have an opponent who has a submachine gun, there is no point in working against it with a bow and arrow (…) Either we have the crowd, or we just have to make other tactics, yes guerrilla tactics like that (…) Everyone can think about what to do there. And then just take advantage of the system wherever you can. ”That is the language of extremist militancy. A sound like that of Islamists and other fanatics.
Dresden, Paris, Nice, Vienna
The series of Islamist attacks frightened the security authorities. For a long time it had remained reasonably quiet in Western Europe, the terrorist militia “Islamic State” seemed paralyzed after its defeats in Syria and Iraq. But the terror broke out again. At first without the obvious involvement of IS, then specifically fueled by it.
In Dresden on October 4th, a young Syrian stabbed a gay tourist to death out of hatred for homosexuals. The perpetrator is a supporter of IS, but acts on his own. Twelve days later, in a suburb of Paris, a young Chechen beheaded the teacher Samuel Paty, who was speaking in class about the controversial Muhammad cartoons.
On October 29, a young Tunisian storms into a church in Nice with a knife, killing three people. Four days later, a young Austrian-born Islamist shoots people in Vienna who are sitting in street cafes shortly before the lockdown. Four dead, 23 injured. The IS is committed to this attack.
The IS wants to rebuild structures in the EU countries
“Vienna” causes constitutional protectors suitors even greater concern than the other Islamist attacks. The act shows “that the IS wants to rebuild structures in the countries of the European Union”. The terrorist militia influenced the attack, and the perpetrator may have been involved in an apparently newly revived ISIS Balkan connection. “A long-term strategy can be seen here,” says Freier, “that increases the risk of further attacks by the terrorist militia – and the risk that imitators will strike as the sole perpetrators.”
Salafists and Muslim Brotherhood form networks
IS recruits its supporters from the Salafist scene. They are the most fanatical Islamists, more than 1,000 from Germany alone once traveled to Syria to join the terrorist militia. But the military decline of IS and association bans in the Federal Republic have forced the local scene on the defensive. According to Freier, however, it is by no means less dangerous. Even if it is currently not growing any further.
The number of Salafists has remained at around 12,200, says Freier. But the scene continues to solidify, “through old and new networks, including Salafist women”. There are “ideology training courses and fundraising campaigns”. In addition, the Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) continued to grow closer. The oldest Islamist association in the Arab world, founded in 1928, appears in Germany to be extremely peaceful and ready for integration.
“They give the impression that they could help in the fight against terror,” says Freier. But internally the fight against Israel is preached. The Palestinian terrorist movement Hamas, which is allied with the Brotherhood, continues to be supported. This makes the MB attractive to Salafists who are more radical. “We observe that Salafists go to mosques of the Muslim Brotherhood,” says Freier. “This is how new networks are created.”
Left-wing extremists almost like the RAF
In addition to the militancy of the right and Islamists, the security authorities are concerned about the growing aggressiveness of part of the left-wing extremist scene. Especially in the stronghold of Leipzig. The year 2020 begins with violent riots in the trendy Connewitz district, but rioting on the street is apparently only part of the problem. At the beginning of November the police arrested the student Lina E. in Leipzig. The federal prosecutor’s office accuses the young woman of having directed a criminal organization.
The left-wing extremist group, at least a dozen people, is said to have attacked a restaurant in Eisenach (Thuringia) in 2019, where right-wing extremists meet. Several people were injured in the massive attack. According to the federal prosecutor’s office, there was then an attack on the operator of the restaurant. In June 2020, Lina E. and her people are said to have spied out the home address of a right-wing extremist in Leipzig in order to assassinate him.
The protection of the constitution, Freier, warns, “here it is important to remain vigilant and to take consistent countermeasures in order to identify and prevent developments at an early stage, such as those that individual groups went through in Germany in the early 1970s”. A minority in the left-wing extremist scene is becoming more radical, left-wing extremist acts are becoming more professional, “the threshold for serious violent crimes is falling and the acts are directed directly against individuals”. That sounds like the early phase of the RAF.
Seehofer demonstrates severity with prohibitions
With terrorist groups, the authorities are more likely than with individual perpetrators to obtain information in good time. In February the gang around the right-wing extremist Werner S. is exposed. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office accuses the eleven men of trying to bring about “civil war-like conditions” with attacks on mosques and political opponents. In April, an IS terrorist cell was excavated in North Rhine-Westphalia. The five Tajiks wanted to attack US facilities and kill a critic of Islam.
Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) is also tough. It bans the militant right-wing groups Combat 18, Nordadler and Sturmbrigade 44, the imperial citizens’ group “United German Peoples and Tribes” and the offshoot of the Lebanese-Shiite terrorist organization Hezbollah. No interior minister has dealt so many blows in one year.