In the wake of a suspected far-right attack on the Passau police chief, DW spoke with the head of the German police union about changes in the neo-Nazi scene.
The far right has a new, confrontational strategy for dealing with police
On Saturday, Dec. 13, the 52-year-old police chief in the Bavarian German city of Passau, Alois Mannichl, was stabbed when he answered his door at home. The attack was alleged to be a reprisal from the neo-Nazi scene; Mannichl had taken a firm stand against far-right supporters in recent years.
Police arrested and then released two suspects. Some are now calling for a ban on Germany's far-right political party, the NPD. Deutsche Welle spoke to Konrad Freiberg, the head of the Union of German Police Officers (GdP) about what the stabbing represents.
Deutsche Welle: Herr Freiberg, you said the attempted murder of the Passau police chief represents a strategy change on the part of the extreme right. Why?
Konrad Freiberg: In the past the violent right-wing activists were respectful to the police. That has changed radically. Now, in demonstrations that include the NPD, the police are frequently targets of physical attacks by the far right. They verbally abuse the police as well. That represents a change.
What do you think accounts for this change?
There is a strategy debate among the far-right wing. Some insist that political means are the way to achieve power, and they want to create change via parliament or local councils. But others say the way is violence, there is no other way. So the anger from this group continues to grow.
How long has this strategic change been going on?
Freiberg said one must examine the causes of far-right extremism
I'd have to say for about a year. We feel it very clearly. There have been a lot of threats against colleagues who took a stand against the extreme right, or whose job description includes responsibility for this area of security. There have been threats and attacks on those people in the private sphere. Things have really changed.
The extreme right is not only a problem in Germany but in other European countries as well. Has anything similar to the Passau attack taken place elsewhere in Europe?
Yes, there have been attacks on the police by the extreme right in other European countries. The right wing is making an effort to build itself up internationally. At many meetings and demonstrations people come from different countries, especially the Netherlands, and also Italy. So there is cooperation.
But we know and must recognize that this attack was a single case, without a doubt, and has no relation to an international plan of any sort.
To what degree is Germany's far-right extremist scene tied to those in other European countries, if indeed that is the case?
There are international meetings. And at large national meetings they try, as often as possible, to have some international participation. At these meetings they all cheer together, saying things like "all Europe is turning brown." That's just the way it is.
That's why we have to watch out that the German extreme right doesn't increase its own strength by drawing strength from the international extreme right.
What should Germany -- and Europe -- do about this?
If you talk about fighting right-wing extremism, you have to look at the causes. Why do people get into it? On top of that you have to look at the living situation and perspectives of those who are involved. But you also have to look at how the democratic parties, and civil society, deals with these people. We can't only count on the police and justice system to fight them, because they can't solve the problem alone.