German mayor sued for refusing handshake with neo-Nazi politician

Katja Wolf, mayor of the town of Eisenach in the central German state of Thuringia, has been sued by a member of her city council for refusing to shake his hand.

German mayor sued for refusing handshake with neo-Nazi politician
Picture alliance/Jens Kalaene/ZB/dpa

Patrick Wieschke, a member of the far-right NPD who has been convicted of neo-Nazi activities, has taken Wolf to court. But instead of agitating for her dismissal or pushing for financial compensation,  Wieschke is arguing that the mayor should be forced to shake his hand. 

Wieschke has a history of violence, including being convicted of bombing a kebab shop as well as being detained on suspicion of child sexual abuse. 

Wieschke remains an influential politician in the region, having received 4600 votes in the May election – around 10 percent of the total vote. 

Wolf, a member of the left-wing Die Linke party, says she is confident that the law is on her side. Wolf told Der Spiegel that to force someone to shake the hand of someone with Wieschke’s beliefs would be unconstitutional. 

“With every fibre of his being, Mr. Wieschke is a racist, anti-constitutional right-wing radical,” she said. 

“Why should I have physical contact with someone like that? I would like to decide for myself whom to congratulate with a handshake.

“Before the local elections five and a half years ago, it became clear to me that I had personal limits 

“I do not want to touch certain people, especially not in an official context. I have therefore never given Mr Wieschke my hand – and I hope that no court will force me to do so.”

A video of Wolf refusing the handshake has been viewed over 70,000 times on social media. 



The German Constitution guarantees “inviolable human dignity” to everyone, although the municipal laws for the state of Thuringia require that all members of the city council must “conscientiously fulfil their duties by handshake”. 

Wolf first refused to shake hands with representatives of the NPD back in 2014, refusing again in 2019. Wieschke previously challenged Wolf’s refusal in 2014, however his case was thrown out of the Meiningen Administrative Court as an example of a “fundamental difference of opinion”. 

This time however the court in Weimar held that there was a “clear and unmistakable” legal obligation to shake hands, prompting Wolf to appeal to the Federal Administrative Court. 

Wolf said that she – along with all other Germans – had a responsibility not to obey unjust laws and to normalise the neo-Nazi presence on the council, or anywhere else in society. 

“The Weimar Republic did not fail because of the right-wing radical minority. It was the silent democratic majority,” she said. 

“That is why there must be no normality with enemies of the constitution – and that is also why I call for the abolition of this outdated handshake rule.”


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‘Biggest threat to our country’: Germany records post-war all-time high in far-right crime

The number of crimes committed by right-wing extremists in post-war Germany jumped to its highest level ever recorded in 2020, according to official figures released on Tuesday.

'Biggest threat to our country': Germany records post-war all-time high in far-right crime
A rally in February 2021 to remember the victims of the racist attacks in Hanau. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Andreas Arnold

Police recorded 23,604 crimes of a far-right nature last year, a jump of over five percent on the previous year, and the highest figure since records began in 2001.

“Right-wing extremism remains the biggest threat to our country,” said Interior Minister Horst Seehofer as he presented the figures at a press conference on Tuesday.

He added that right-wing violence had left a “trail of blood” through Germany in recent years, citing deadly far-right crimes such as the murder of pro-refugee politician Walter Lübcke in 2019 and the 2020 racist attack in Hanau which killed nine people.

The 2020 figure just exceeds the previous high of 23,555, recorded at the height of the refugee crisis in 2016, while the total number of politically motivated crimes also reached a new all-time high of 44,692.

READ ALSO: German police arrest ‘NSU.2’ suspect over neo-Nazi threats

Noting that there had also been a sharp rise in the numbers of left-wing extremist and Islamist crimes, Seehofer said the figures showed a “brutalisation of our society”.

“They are unsettling, above all because they show that the trend of recent years is continuing,” he said.

The number of politically motivated crimes was a “yardstick for the mood in society”, and especially so in a year in which “the pandemic has caused further polarisation”, he added.

German police have recorded “politically motivated crimes” since 2001.

Those categorised as right-wing extremist range from giving a forbidden Nazi salute to murderous attacks.

The latest figures come amid growing concerns in Germany over the rise of violent right-wing extremism.

READ ALSO: What is Germany doing to combat the far-right after Hanau attacks?

A survey carried out in eight of Germany’s 16 states showed that three to four people were targeted by right-wing extremist attacks per day, victims’ association VBRG said Tuesday.

The attacks mainly targeted refugees, migrants and black Germans, said VBRG chair Judith Porath, adding that anti-Asian violence had also increased since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.