Germany's justice minister has reported receiving a mounting number of death threats from right wing extremists. The minister said the scale of "brutality" in the hate mail was unprecedented in his 20 years in politics.
German Justice Minister Heiko Maas told the "Bild" newspaper on Sunday that he had been sent hundreds of threats in recent months, including a bullet casing that was delivered to the postbox of his private apartment.
"What is written and sent is pathetic and full of hate," he said, adding that many of the threats against his life came "with place, date, time."
According to the minister, right wing groups are behind the notes - "primarily PEGIDA, AfD (Alternative for Germany party), NPD (National Democratic Party of Germany) and whatever else exists in the right-wing corner. It is the section of society that otherwise spouts xenophobia and racism," he said.
PEGIDA, a German acronym for "Patriotic Germans Against the Islamization of the West," is a right wing movement that emerged in the eastern city of Dresden in late 2014. It has since spread to other cities, staging marches against immigration across Germany. Maas said the number of death threats spiked after he spoke out against PEGIDA, calling it shameful for Germany and urging political parties to come together to denounce the group.
In his 20 years in politics, Maas said he had never experienced "so much brutality as today," but stressed he did not let the hate mail get to him.
"Much of what comes is so disgusting that I just cannot take it personally. It doesn't affect me any more."
Need for security
Justice Minister Maas isn't the only German politician on the receiving end of such abuse. This week Greens leader Cem Özdemir reported getting a barrage of death threats from Turkish nationalists after he led efforts to get an Armenian genocide motion passed in the Bundestag. The situation prompted a federal review of security measures for Özdemir, who has a Turkish background.
"We are used to the abuse and insults, but receiving such a high number of death threats is something we had never experienced before," Özdemir's office manager Marc Berthold told the "Welt am Sonntag" newspaper.
The Greens spearheaded the resolution to recognize the massacre of up to 1.5 million Armenian Christians by Ottoman Turkish forces during World War I as genocide. It was overwhelmingly adopted by the Bundestag in a vote on Thursday, sparking outrage in Turkey, where the government rejects charges genocide took place.
Police have reportedly boosted their presence around Özdemir's Berlin apartment in the past few days. When asked about the security measures, Özdemir said: "Unfortunately, there is also a Turkish PEGIDA."
"Right-wing extremism isn't a German privilege. Unfortunately it also exists in Turkey and among German Turks."
nm/rc (AFP, epd, dpa)