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Germany introduces plan to combat anti-Semitic violence

October 18, 2019

Interior officials have presented measures to fight extremism following last week's synagogue shooting. Proposed measures included extra protection for synagogues and fast-tracking investigations of anti-Semitic crime.

Police at a synagogue
Image: Getty Images/AFP/M. Tantussi

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and his 16 state-level counterparts have agreed to measures aiming to prevent attacks like the October 9 shooting outside a synagogue in the city of Halle. Seehofer underscored the necessity of making it more difficult for people who exhibit extremist tendencies to obtain firearms because of the rampant violence in far-right communities.

"Policy must address this," the interior minister emphasized on Friday. The country could deny weapons permits to people identified as extremists, as well as cancel existing permissions, he said.

A 27-year-old failed to shoot his way into a synagogue packed with worshippers on Judaism's holiest day, Yom Kippur, while livestreaming a rant about Jews via a gaming website. He killed two people before being arrested and confessing to police of being motivated by anti-Semitism.

Read more: Berlin: 10,000 march against anti-Semitism

Interior ministers' plan

Seehofer and his colleagues released a 10-point plan for addressing extremism on Friday.

  • Identify networks, individuals: Coordinate federal and state intelligence and develop a strategy for observing and addressing potential far-right terror cells online and offline.
  • Expand cooperation: Allow police and intelligence to work more closely to share arrest information and coordinate activities as part of a task force against right-wing extremism.
  • Protect synagogues: Have officials liaise with Jewish representatives to secure places of worship, including posting officers outside, as is the case in many cities across Germany.
  • Utilize bans on associations: Enforce existing prohibitions on organizations whose philosophies and/or actions run contrary to German law, and identify new groups to target with such measures.
  • Prohibit extremist events: Identify sporting gatherings, concerts and cultural affairs that are primarily cover for far-right and anti-Semitic networking and celebration, and prevent them from occurring.
  • Legal flexibility: Adapt laws to monitor and disrupt extremist communications; require networks and platforms to delete illegal content and host servers in the EU; evaluate hate speech and weapons prohibitions.
  • Ensure adequate resources: Federal and state governments should allocate all within their means to law enforcement and intelligence to prevent further anti-Semitic attacks.
  • Expedite cases: Handle investigations of anti-Semitic crime as quickly as possible, and initiate without delay a requirement for platforms to report prohibited content.
  • Targeted prevention: Launch de-radicalization programs developed in cooperation with Jewish groups.
  • No extremism in public service: Identify far-right members of government agencies, as well as intelligence, law enforcement and the military.

Addressing criticism

Following the attack in Halle, Germany's federal and state governments were widely criticized as having overlooked the rising levels of anti-Semitism and extreme-right threats despite ample evidence.

Only in 2018 did Germany appoint an anti-Semitism commissioner, after decades of calls to that effect. In March 2019, the city-state of Berlin adopted a state plan to combat anti-Semitism, but Friday's announcement was the first comprehensive federal plan to combat right-wing extremism that included measures specifically addressed at targeting violence toward Jewish people and institutions.

mkg/msh (Reuters, AFP, KNA, epd, dpa, AP)

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