Far-right extremists carried out over 1,200 attacks in the eastern German states in 2018, revealing a significant increase, according to a new report released on Tuesday.
The report by VBRG, an umbrella group of counseling centers for victims of right-wing violence, warned of growing violence by far-right extremists in Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. “Regrettably, we have witnessed an 8 percent increase in such attacks last year,” VBRG’s Chairman Robert Kusche said at a news conference in Berlin. “Every day, at least three people became victims of right-wing, racist or anti-Semitic acts of violence,” he said.
The VBRG’s centers in the eastern German states reported 1,212 attacks against foreigners, immigrants or political rivals last year, up from 1,123 such attacks in 2017. 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.
Since 2015, the eastern city of Dresden, the state capital of Saxony, has been home to the anti-Islam group Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West. Known by its German acronym PEGIDA, the group has become a magnet for people holding far-right and anti-immigrant views. Far-right crimes have significantly increased in Dresden, potentially triggered by neo-Nazi propaganda and right-wing populist movements that have exploited the refugee crisis and fears of Islam.
Regarding the growth of far-right extremism, the risk of becoming a victim of a hate crime is 10 times higher for immigrants residing in cities in eastern Germany, according to another study. The report, released by the Leibniz Center for European Economic Research, a nonprofit institute based in Mannheim, found that the amount of experience local people share with immigrants is an important factor in understanding growing xenophobia and hate crimes in the country. The number of attacks is “higher in regions with a previously low proportion of foreigners than in regions with an already high proportion of foreigners,” said Horst Entorf and Martin Lange, as reported by Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa). The report suggested politicians work to increase the awareness of local Germans in regions with limited migration experience to prevent hate crimes.
In August 2018, massive far-right rallies rocked the city of Chemnitz, in eastern Germany, where skinheads hounded migrants and performed the illegal Hitler salute. After the violence in Chemnitz, German police detained six men suspected of forming a far-right militant organization that assaulted foreigners in Chemnitz and had also planned attacks on politicians. The men are alleged to have formed a group calling itself Revolution Chemnitz. The arrests once again cast an uncomfortable spotlight on the growing problem of far-right terrorism in Chemnitz, which is a stronghold of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
Muslims, mosques become far-right targetIn recent years, increasingly hostile attitudes toward immigrants and the Muslim community have been reported. The number of attacks on Muslims, mosques and Islamic institutions in Germany has been around 813 in 2018, according to the German Interior Ministry. The previous year, this number was recorded as 950. The report included information that it was estimated that crimes against Muslims were committed by the far-right. It is stated that the recorded cases are crimes such as insults, threats, spreading hate among the public, damage to property and use of Nazi symbols.
Germany, a country of over 81 million people, has the second-largest Muslim population in Western Europe, after France. According to the German regional newspaper Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung, 40 people were injured in attacks in 2018. This marks a significant increase compared to 2017, when 27 were reported in the same period and a total of 32 injured in the year as a whole. In another xenophobic incident in Hamburg, a 31-year-old foreigner was verbally attacked and then beaten and kicked by three Germans, the local police said on Tuesday, as reported by Die Welt daily newspaper.