Five people victims of far-right hate crimes in east Germany every day

Counselling centres for victims of far-right violence reported an increase in crime in the five eastern German states and Berlin last year, new figures show.

Five people victims of far-right hate crimes in east Germany every day
Police in Chemnitz monitor the funeral of right extremist in March. Photo: DPA

Far-right extremists carried out 1,212 attacks last year in Berlin, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia, according to data collected by victim counselling centres.

SEE ALSO: Police graves destroyed, sprayed with swastikas in Berlin

That's an increase of about seven percent from the previous year when 1,123 incidents of violence were logged.

The figures were revealed this week by the Association of Counselling Centres for victims of right-wing, racist and anti-Semitic violence (VBRG).

The attacks in 2018 were aimed at a total of 1,789 people, of which more than 250 were children and young people. The VBRG said it amounts to around five people becoming victims of far-right motivated, racist and anti-Semitic terror every day.

Robert Kusche of the VBRG warned that social cohesion was “massively threatened by everyday racism” and organized neo-Nazi terror”.

Highest number of attacks in Saxony

At least 962 people were injured in these attacks and 509 of them had serious injuries. The eastern state of Saxony saw the highest number of violent crimes by right-wing extremists, with 317 attacks recorded last year, up from 229 in 2017.

The Saxon city of Chemnitz was the scene of major far-right riots in August and September last year, where there were reports of people of foreign heritage being hounded. Police also arrested protesters who were caught making the illegal Nazi salute.

Meanwhile, Dresden, Saxony's capital, has been the home to the anti-Islam group Pegida (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West) since 2015. Supporters of this group are known for holding anti-immigrant and far-right views.

Two-thirds of all the attacks recorded across eastern Germany – 793 cases – were racially motivated and were largely against refugees, people from a migrant background and people of colour, the report said.

Another large group of victims were political opponents, where 188 cases were recorded by counselling centres.

SEE ALSO: Neo-nazi terror verdict – Zschäpe found guilty of 10 murders

Fewer attacks on Muslims nationwide, but more injuries

Meanwhile, as The Local reported, there were fewer attacks on Muslims and mosques last year. But the number of injuries increased, indicating a decrease in prevalence but a spike in severity.

SEE ALSO: Attacks against Muslims and mosques in Germany decreasing

In total, 813 Islamophobic and anti-Muslim crimes were recorded last year, down from 950 in 2017.

The figures however showed that injuries as a result of the attacks had risen, with 54 reported in 2018 — an increase on 32 from the previous year.

The numbers were released by the German parliament in response to a request by Die Linke (The Left) political party and reported in the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung.

The new statistics led to calls for a reporting centre to be launched, similar to the one opened in January to tacle anti-Semitism.

Fears of more right-wing crime

Now counselling bosses fear crime could continue to rise as state elections, which could create more division, take place later this year.

“In 2019 we fear an increase in right-wing violence, especially in the context of the state election campaigns in Brandenburg, Saxony and Thuringia,” said Kusche.

SEE ALSO: Crime in Germany at lowest level since reunification

According to the association, their figures only refer to the east because similar organizations in western Germany haven't calculated figures.

“This is only a small part of the true threat of right-wing violence,” said Matthias Quent, Director of the Institute for Democracy and Civil Society in Jena.

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How politically motivated crimes are rising in Germany

Crimes with political motivations have risen in Germany according to police data, with cases of right-wing extremism making up the majority of crimes reported last year.

How politically motivated crimes are rising in Germany

Germany’s Criminal Police Office (BKA) registered 60,028 politically motivated crimes in 2023, the highest number recorded since records of this statistic began in 2001.

That’s almost two percent more politically motivated crimes than were recorded the previous year. But of those, 3,561 cases involved violence, which is approximately 12 percent less compared to 2022.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) presented the statistics this week. “We are seeing a new high in crimes directed against our open and free society,” she said according to Tagesschau. “We must show unequivocally that the rule of law does not accept this violence.”

Majority of political crimes classified as right-wing extremism 

With a total of 28,945 crimes, right-wing extremist-motivated cases made up the largest portion of political crimes in 2023 – up 23 percent from the year before.

There were 714 people recorded as being injured by right-wing extremist violence.

The President of the BKA, Holger Münch has previously emphasised that right-wing extremism remains the greatest threat to free democratic basic order in Germany.  

Although significantly less were recorded, left-wing extremist attacks also increased last year to 7,777 reported incidents.

Religiously motivated crimes increased by the biggest percent

Crimes registered as religiously motivated increased by the biggest proportion, up 203 percent from the previous year according to the BKA figures – to a total of 1,458.

The number of cases related to a foreign ideology also rose.

Anti-Semitic crimes also reached a new high last year with 5,164 offences being recorded (148 of these being acts of violence).

Conflict in the Middle East has certainly had an effect on domestic crime as well, with 4,369 crimes recorded as being connected. That figure is 70 times higher than the previous year, with more than half of them recorded after Hamas’ attack on October 7th. Of those, 1,927 were considered anti-Semitic by the BKA.

Public servants and asylum-seekers face increasing risk

The number of crimes against politicians and political volunteers also increased by 29 percent last year.

In recent weeks, a worrisome spike in both right- and left-wing attacks on politicians has been observed across Germany.

READ ALSO: Why are German politicians facing increasing attacks?

In her comments, Interior Minister Faeser warned that “a climate of violence” is being brought, especially by right-wing fringe groups.

Also motivated by right-wing ideologies were an increase in the number of attacks on asylum-seekers and refugees. Last year saw a significant increase in these attacks including 321 violent acts and 179 crimes against asylum accommodations registered.

Crimes targeting the “state” fell last year by 28 percent compared with 2022.

READ ALSO: Why experts say Germany’s rising crime rate is misleading